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10 Ways Occupational Therapy Can Help With Brain Injury

Man with a brain injury

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How occupational therapy can help with brain injury?

A brain injury can alter a person’s life in unimaginable ways. Brain damage can make a person unable to take care of themselves. It takes away their ability to perform daily tasks. Living with it can be very difficult. However, it can be made easier with therapy like occupational therapy. In order to understand how they can be treated, we must first look at their causes. An injury to the brain can incapacitate the most self-sufficient of individuals.

Let us take the case of thirty-one-year-old Brian. Brian worked at a managerial post at a corporate law firm in the city. An active man, his schedule was always up-to-date and he is rarely late. Punctual and active, he made sure to take care of his health and his routine. His work made him travel a lot, but he made sure to take care of himself. Once his company took their employees for a canoeing retreat. During the retreat, Brian slipped, causing him to hit his head on a rock outcropping.

The injury caused him to faint. He spent two weeks in a coma. After he regained consciousness, it took him more than a year of physical rehabilitation to regain proper motor functions. He was irritable and distracted, often losing his train of thought. He required constant supervision and assistance. His older sister Miranda was advised by a family friend to consider occupational therapy.

What is occupational therapy?

Different from physical therapy, occupational therapy is part of complete rehabilitation. Physical therapy ensures that a person is able to regain movement in their body. Occupational therapy is used in cases where the person needs to learn how to perform certain tasks. Or when they need to re-learn how to perform a certain task. In Brian’s case, his brain was unable to ‘connect-the-dots’ anymore.

Seemingly mindless tasks like lifting a spoon to your mouth or taking a shower can be made difficult because of the damage caused to the cerebral area. Occupational therapy can assist in re-learning those patterns. Ahead are ten ways occupational therapy can help.

1. Occupational therapy helps someone perform daily tasks.

People have a set of activities that they do mindlessly. This means that they do not have to think about the action. This includes tasks like eating, showering or grooming yourself. These are known as activities of daily living (ADLs). A brain injury prevents a person from doing this subconsciously. It takes a lot of mental effort to have a glass of water.

2. It can help re-learn other activities.

Furthermore, occupational therapy can be used to re-learn other instrumental activities. These include cooking, reading, as well as writing. Patients suffering from brain injuries can re-learn to even play an instrument. Generally, it all depends on the proper therapy technique. Occupational therapy assists in all the realms. These are the physical, the cognitive and the emotional.

3. It can improve concentration

A brain injury often results in scattered thought patterns. As a result, this can often make a person appear distracted or vague. In fact, even a minor injury like a concussion can be problematic. An occupational therapist can help in making your attention span longer and develop compensatory approaches to compensate for cognitive challenges such as memory loss. Remedial strategies are also used to help improve cognitive functioning, which is designed after thorough assessment and cognitive testing.

4. It helps a patient regain functional independence.

The most traumatizing factor is how it incapacitates you. Not only does occupational therapy help you regain independence but it also allows you to be able to do tasks on your own. Dependency can cause a lot of stress. Occupational therapy helps you regain trust in your own abilities and develop new ways to do things, or help modify the task or environment to make things easier while you are recovering.

5. It helps improve quality of life of a person suffering from this injury.

Part of an occupational therapist’s job is to make life more meaningful for their patients. In this regard, re-learning how to make your body listen to you is a huge part of that. Overall, it allows a person to re-attain parts of their social life and build other aspects to their life where they get enjoyment.

6. It helps in finding more channels of activity and learning

Occupational therapy can help a victim of severe brain damage find a niche for themselves. Often this comes in the way of providing them an avenue they had not thought of before. Rather than being frustrated about being unable to perform a certain task, they can find another meaningful task they might not have thought of earlier.

7. It improves emotional and psychological health

Occupational therapy makes victims of brain injuries feel happier along with making them feel more comfortable in their own skin. Treatment may include various strategies from incorporating mindfulness meditation, restorative yoga, anxiety management or HeartMath techniques to help control emotions.

8. It de-stigmatizes the injury

For a lot of people, it becomes hard to see past their condition. Occupational therapy helps the patient look past it. Furthermore, it makes them realize that it does not need to hinder them in their social lives.

9. It improves cognitive skills

Occupational therapy can help with patients suffering from communication problems as well as cognitive disabilities after a traumatic accident. Often times, cognition is impacted after a concussion due to ocular motor dysfunction or impairment with vestibular ocular reflex, which after appropriate assessment can improve quickly with appropriate intervention.

10. Occupational therapy can help patients with sleep

Brain damage often leads to bouts of insomnia or hypersomnia. This can further cause irritability. Sleep is a very important part of our daily lives. So, occupational therapy can help them sleep using relaxation techniques and reviewing sleep hygene.

The prevalence of brain injury

According to a study, 1.5 million Canadians live with a brain injury. 100,000 Canadians suffer from brain injuries every year. In addition, they take up a large amount of money spent for medical reasons. Brain injuries are more prevalent than multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injuries and breast cancer combined. Concussions make up a large part of these brain injuries. Majority of these are related to sports or motor accidents.

At Pillars of Wellness, Brian was brought in to see our expert occupational therapists. He came in disheartened, but after a few months of rehabilitation, he started to regain hope. He has now returned to professional life, made stronger by the trial as well as the therapy. All in all, occupational therapy is an important part of complete rehabilitation after a traumatic accident. It restores people’s faith in themselves. Furthermore, it allows them a safe channel back into independent life.

Laurent Pinci
Laurent Pinci
Pillars of Wellness is a truly Integrated Healthcare Centre providing a high degree of collaboration and communication among health providers.