With the NFL "Concussion" scandal beginning to fade from public consciousness, it's easy to forget that traumatic brain injuries are still a serious problem. A traumatic or acquired brain injury can change your life in an instant - whether you're playing pro football, fall off a ladder or get injured on the job. People with brain injuries know first-hand - life is different post-injury.
In the interest of raising awareness, we're using this blog to highlight celebrities who have survived traumatic brain injuries and what they've taken from the experience. If you have survived a TBI, we encourage you to share your story - and what you've taken from the experience - at the end of this post.
Gary Busey suffered a TBI in 1998. Best known for his roles in Lethal Weapon, Point Break and Predator 2, he crashed his motorcycle while not wearing a helmet. Busey fractured his skull and spent two months in the hospital. In an interview one year after the accident on The Tonight Show with David Lettermen he discusses how the accident changed his personal life, shifted his perspective on the world and informed his philanthropic endeavors. He has worked to raise $400,000 for muscular dystrophy and advocated for a skill tests that could result in required helmet use on motorcycles. Busey readily admits that his TBI caused him to act impulsively and has significantly lowered his "mental filters." Letterman even jokes "you're funnier now."
Busey has remained active professionally, maintained a populated filmography and capitalized on his well-known, unique demeanor. Despite his TBI, he was able to continue his acting career, raise a son and even become a major proponent for Brain Injury Awareness. He won $40,000 on the Celebrity Apprentice in 2011 and donated all of it to the Center of Head Injury Services in Missouri.
Steve Young was the San Francisco 49er's quarterback from 1987 to 1999. He suffered a minimum of 6 concussions over the course of his career. He retired early after a tackle by Aeneas Williams left him unconscious on the field for several minutes. Since then he's been an advocate for concussion awareness, prevention and protection. Young even created a collaborative infotainment page on YouTube discussing the prevalence of concussive risk for every player in every sport, the symptoms of a concussion, the risks of returning to the field while concussed, the effect age has on concussion recovery and severity, and what to do if you've been concussed. The mantra of the video is "When in doubt, sit it out."
On June 7th, 2014, A Wal-Mart semi-truck crashed into six cars, putting Tracy Morgan in a coma for eight days and killing his long-time friend James McNair. His recovery was long and arduous. Months later he still required a wheelchair for taking more than "some steps." In September 2015 he made a surprise appearance at the Emmy's, where he shared his first-hand TBI experiences. Using comedy and emotion, he told us that he was starting to feel like himself again. Backstage he shared that he "couldn't walk" and had to relearn "how to stand up and sit down again." Unfortunately, despite improving by leaps and bounds, "Tracy will never fully be himself again" and his therapy has no end date.
Tracy has since returned to showbiz. He's been welcomed back by Saturday Night Live, appeared in three films and has released a new standup special, "Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive." He is an active philanthropist supporting causes like Drug Abuse, HIV/AIDS and disaster relief.
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona House Representative from 2007 to 2012, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury from an attempt on her life at a public speaking event at a Safeway near Tucson. The gunman shot her in the head at point blank range and then opened fire on the crowd. Thirteen people were injured and six people were killed including Federal Judge John Roll, and nine-year-old girl Christina-Taylor Green. Here is the NBC report from the day of the incident.
A year into recovery, Giffords resigned from her seat in the house of representatives to dedicate herself to rehabilitation. Here is her resignation letter. In the years following, she championed gun control, founded "American's for Responsible Solutions," which is now known as Giffords. They campaign in congress and have worked to pass legislation that takes guns out of the hands of high-risk individuals.
Mark Kelly, Gabrielle's husband, put it best when he addressed the would-be assassin: "Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you have not put a dent in her spirit and her ability to do good."
In 2017 she became the third living woman to see have a Navy Warship named in her honor. She fights the good fight and in spite of her injury she is an American hero.
A helmet saved Kevin Pearce's life, but the incident still left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury. He was a professional snowboarder and had his accident while practicing a maneuver called the "cab double cork" on a half pipe. He was preparing to compete against Shaun White for a spot on the US Olympic Snowboarding team. His injury was very severe and cost him his independence, his voice, career and ability to walk.
Pearce's rehabilitation was extensive and he had the support of his family and friends, but he attributes his successful and ongoing recovery to his competitive nature. He will never compete again, but has been able to safely return to recreational snowboarding. He also co-founded a non-profit called Love Your Brain dedicated to raising awareness and improving the quality of life for people with brain injuries and those with Down Syndrome people.
Kevin is very active in the world of brain injury and works very hard to educate and inspire people. Here he is leading a TED talk about TBIs, and this is his website if you'd like to know more about him and his causes.
Kevin Pearce said it best in his TEDx Talk, "a brain injury is like a fingerprint, no two are the same." Evidenced here through these wonderful stories is the fact that TBIs are the hardest thing a person can experience, but that also, to an extent, many of these injuries can be overcome. Their accomplishments are inspiring, and are proof that a new best self can be reached.
Do you have a personal story of surviving a brain injury? We welcome you to share those stories with us below.
Imagine that you wake up one morning to discover that you are in a foreign country. Everyone – including your friends and family – speaks a different language. Their language is as incomprehensible to you as yours is to them.
Now imagine that you just enjoyed a dinner with friends and had one too many drinks. You wake up in the morning and realize that not only did you fail to sober up – you never will. You will continue to be disoriented, dizzy and off-balance; impulsivity and dis-inhibition will define your behavior; your affect will alternate between inappropriately jovial and incongruously aggressive. Absent your normal inhibitions, you say and do things with no insight into your own behavior.
Take a moment to mentally fuse both scenarios. Now picture this state lasting for a minimum of two years. Or even for the rest of your life. Your loved ones may attempt to care for you, but it isn’t long before your behavior alienates both family and friends. Maybe even your children. You can no more hold a job than you could wish yourself better. You find yourself isolated, inconsolable and without immediate access to your usual emotions, memories and coping skills.
This may sound like a nightmare, but the reality is that there is a very real possibility of a head injury turning into a lifelong disability. How often have you heard the phrase, “I never thought it could happen to me?” I hear it dozens of times each week. As long as you drive a motor vehicle, you and your loved ones stand a chance of becoming victims.
You don’t have to suffer a catastrophic accident to acquire a brain injury. Experiencing rapid deceleration can cause your brain to slam into the front and back of your skull – this is called a contrecoup event and is one of the most common injuries resulting from an auto accident. Even minor injuries can damage billions of neurons and effect large parts of your brain. Unlike most physical injuries, a trauma to the brain is invisible – which makes it extremely unlikely that you will be afforded any sympathy for the behaviors we discussed earlier.
Instead, you will be held responsible for your behavior. You will become a victim of your brain’s inability to function properly. You may become a pariah, a social outcast unable to relate and unable to have other people relate to you. Soon, you enter into a world of pervasive loneliness. What’s more, the brain does not heal in a predictable fashion. Symptoms may vanish within six months or last a lifetime. The severity of a brain injury bears no correlation to the length of recovery time. Even a minor fender bender or fall with no visible physical injury can result in behavioral and cognitive deficits that have profound social and occupational consequences.
I was taught that the best moral compass for compassionate care was to treat patients as I would members of my own family. When we’re able to step into the shoes of a survivor, some things become very clear. People with brain injuries want:
· The basic respect afforded to anyone
· To be treated like an individual, not an injury or constellation of
· The dignity of being allowed input into a treatment plan
· Acknowledgement that they still have goals and ambitions
· To socialize with family, friends and to meet others
· A chance to be happy, fulfilled and find purpose
· A chance to realize true independence
We should all do our best to acknowledge their humanity, as well as their wants and needs.
The Pain Self-Management Program: Learn to Control Chronic Pain and Re-Discover Your Life by Drew Bufalini
I’ve had chronic pain for twelve years. I’ll spare you the grisly details. Suffice it to say that after years struggling to be “normal,” I lost everything, nearly everyone and wound up on disability living with my parents.
Today, despite the fact that my health conditions have gotten worse, I’ve moved out of my folk’s place, have a very fulfilling (and accommodating) job; a wonderful (and understanding) girlfriend; and even a smidgeon of a social life (yes, I’m counting visits to sick relatives and work functions).
I became an expert on pain. I devoured every book I could find on the subject. I scavenged the web. I interviewed doctors and fellow patients. I endeavored to exercise. I altered my diet numerous times. I learned to meditate. I volunteered to build up my endurance so I could return to work. I even launched a support group at my local hospital with the help of the American Chronic Pain Association.
To one degree or another, it took each of those efforts working in concert for me to overcome pain and live a purposeful, functional life again. Anyone who knows me will tell you, my pain is far from gone. But it no longer controls my life.
Today, I’m proud to announce that Life Skills Village - the company that first took a chance on me as a volunteer and then again to lead its marketing department – is launching a holistic, chronic pain self-management program. The goal is to turn patients into pain experts and provide the tools to self-manage their chronic pain (beyond simply taking medication).
The curriculum, developed by Dr. Bryan Weinstein (neuropsychiatrist) and Dr. David Cowan (neuropsychologist), is designed to augment any pain physician’s care.
Our psychologists and occupational therapists concentrate on skills pain patients can use every day – like developing a flare-up plan, adaptive exercise, mindfulness, meditation, using biofeedback, improving sleep, managing pain behaviors and improving relationships to name a few.
None of this is as easy as it sounds. Not with chronic pain. To control pain means understanding and accepting it as well as having the courage to tackle it head on. It means keeping an open mind to the therapies introduced. It means managing expectations. Because even though the program meets only once a week for twelve weeks, this will take time. Give yourself permission to try the pain self-management program because it beats the hell out of spending life stuck in a recliner.
The truth about chronic pain is that it will not go away on its own. Nobody wakes up one day magically cured, ambulatory and cheerful. Pain robs what little control we have in our lives and leaves us dangling over a terrifying abyss of uncertainty. Isolating yourself at home will not help you feel better. Self-medication only lengthens the road to recovery. The only way out of the pain labyrinth is to make a daily effort (no matter how small). We can help you take those first steps beyond chronic pain.
Chronic pain may force us to become victims, but we don’t have to stay that way. The Pain Self-Management Program starts in September. Contact me to get started.
Note: Life Skills Village happily accepts clients and other people of all religions and political persuasions. We encourage others to live well and to help each other - regardless or race, creed, color or sex - as Brother Williams suggests here:
I kneel to pray when the day was done and prayed ‘Oh, Lord bless everyone’
Lift from each heart the pain, and let the sick be well again
And then I woke one day, and carelessly I went on my way
But the whole day long, I did not try, to wipe a tear from anyone’s eye
I did not even try to share the load of my brothers or sisters there on the road
I did not even go to see, the sick man just next door to me
But yet once again, when the day was done I kneeled and prayed ‘Oh Lord bless everyone’
But as I prayed, to my ears it came, a voice whispering clear
The voice told me, precious hypocrite before you pray, whom have you tried to bless today?
God’s sweetest blessing it always go by hand we serve Jesus here below
And then I hid my face and cried, I said, “Forgive me, Lord, for I have lied.’
Let me but live another day and I will live the way that I pray.
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
If this quote from Booker T. Washington is to be taken at face value (and I believe it should), then traumatic brain injury survivors are some of the most successful people on the planet. Think about it: there is literally no bigger potential obstacle than having to rebuild your life while your brain slowly reconstructs itself. From the agony of physical therapy to the agonizingly slow pace of neuro rehabilitation, people with brain injuries know they can either accept the challenge or settle into a new, lonely and depressing existence. Assuming that you’re either the former or a caregiver to the former, we have compiled this list of books and links with you in mind.
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D.
The concept of "neuroplasticity" is quickly becoming gospel in brain injury rehabilitation circles. Basically, it means that the brain can rewire itself after a trauma. To borrow an analogy: neuroplasticity is “muscle memory” for your brain. In this fresh look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed. Click here to purchase
Falling Away from You: One Family's Journey Through Traumatic Brain Injury by Nicole Vinson Bingaman
This is the story of Taylor Bingaman and his journey through the world of traumatic brain injury. Authored by Taylor’s mother, Nicole, this book recounts the events following Taylor’s devastating fall down the stairs. She brings to life what happened in his accident and the rehab process that followed in a very personal and candid way. She reminds readers that each day is a precious and irreplaceable gift and that it can take a village to heal a brain injury survivor. Click here to purchase
Over My Head: A Doctor's Own Story of Head Injury from the Inside Looking Out by Claudia L. Osborn
This is an inspiring story of how one woman comes to terms with the loss of her identity and the courageous steps she takes while learning to rebuild her life. The author, a 45-year-old doctor and clinical professor of medicine, describes the aftermath of a brain injury that stripped her of her beloved profession. For years she was deprived of her intellectual companionship and the ability to handle the simplest undertakings like shopping for groceries or sorting the mail. Her progression from confusion, dysfunction and alienation to a full, happy life is told with great style, and considerable humor. Click here to purchase
Mindstorms: Living with Traumatic Brain Injury by John W. Cassidy
Navigating your way through the morass of doctors, medical jargon and the healthcare system can be daunting, especially when you only want what's best for the person you love. Dr. John Cassidy has devoted the past twenty-five years to helping families cope with traumatic brain injury. Mindstorms is his compassionate, comprehensive manual to demystifying this often frightening and life-changing condition. Click here to purchase
Traumatic Brain Injury: A Caregiver's Journey by Lydia Greear
Many family members are not prepared to deal with the drama of life after a traumatic brain injury. Greear provides a day-by-day account of her son’s journey from injury through rehabilitation. This book is written from the family member’s perspective and includes written accounts published by former patients, doctors and doctors who were patients. This book is a passionate account of the author’s journey as caregiver and guardian for her adult son following a traumatic brain injury. Click here to purchase
An Insider's Guide to the Injured Brain: A Workbook for Survivors and Those Who Support Them by Ruth Curran MS and Mary Lanzavechhia
Co-authored by two brain-injury survivors “The Insider’s Guide” provides insight and practical suggestions for survivors and their support systems. Generous in personal narrative and community sharing, “The Insider’s Guide” acknowledges the hidden world of brain injuries, validates the pain of the process and pushes you to work through it all. With an empathy that can only come from experience, “The Insider’s Guide to the Injured Brain” invites you to fumble, practice, work and ultimately grow your way into a new normal that feels sustainable, supported and full of life.
Click here to purchase
League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru
“PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS DO NOT SUSTAIN FREQUENT REPETITIVE BLOWS TO THE BRAIN ON A REGULAR BASIS.” So concluded the National Football League in a December 2005 scientific paper on concussions in America’s most popular sport. That judgment, implausible even to a casual fan, also contradicted the opinion of a growing cadre of neuroscientists who worked in vain to convince the NFL that it was facing a deadly new scourge: a chronic brain disease that was driving an alarming number of players - including some of the all-time greats - to madness. Click here to purchase
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
An award-winning memoir and instant bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity. While the author did not sustain a traumatic brain injury, her experience with encephalitis has much in common with that of a TBI survivor. In her breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. Brain on Fire is a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic. Click here to purchase
The Day My Brain Exploded: A True Story by Ashok Rajamani
Following a brain bleed at the age of twenty-five, Ashok Rajamani, a first-generation Indian American, had to relearn everything: how to eat, how to walk and to speak, even things as basic as his sexual orientation. With humor and insight, he describes the events of that day (his brain exploded just before his brother’s wedding!), as well as the long, difficult recovery period. Irreverent, angry, at times shocking, but always revelatory, his memoir takes the reader into new territory. That he lived to tell the story is miraculous; that he tells it with such aplomb is simply remarkable. Click here to purchase
After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook by Barbara Stahura and Susan B. Schuster
This workbook guides TBI and blast injury survivors through the cathartic experience of telling their own stories with simple journaling techniques. By writing short journal entries, survivors explore the challenges, losses, changes, emotions, adjustments, stresses and milestones as they rebuild their lives. Journaling after brain injury helps written and verbal communication skills as well as provides cognitive retraining for following instructions. It helps promote self-awareness as well as recognition of strengths and difficulties after brain injury. It is a tool for planning for the future and discussions with family members.
Click here to purchase
Beyond the books we compiled for this list, there are literally hundreds of texts written by and for brain injury survivors, their loved ones and caregivers….which ones would you recommend to the world?
My name is Dr. Bryan Weinstein. I am a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in the pharmacological and rehabilitative treatment of people with traumatic brain injuries. I see over 100 brain-injured patients every week and am privy to the tragic details and consequences of their injuries.
After an injury, my patients tell me that the world looks different to them – and sees them differently too. Allow me to employ a mental exercise to share their perspective with you:
Imagine that you wake up one morning to discover that you are in a foreign country. Everyone – including your friends and family – speaks a different language. Their language is as incomprehensible to you as yours is to them. Beyond learning the language, you now have to become culturally competent in your new home country.
Now imagine that you just enjoyed a dinner with friends and had one too many drinks. You stumble into an Uber and are chauffeured home. You wake up in the morning and realize that not only did you fail to sober up – you never will. You will continue to be disoriented, dizzy, off-balance; impulsivity and dis-inhibition will define your behavior; your affect will alternate between inappropriately jovial and incongruously aggressive. Absent your normal inhibitions, you say and do things with no insight into your own behavior (Let alone the ability to regulate that behavior!).
Take a moment to mentally fuse both scenarios. Now picture this state lasting for a minimum of two years. Or even the rest of your life. Your loved ones may attempt to care for you, but it isn’t long before your behavior alienates both family and friends. Maybe even your children. You can no more hold a job than you could wish yourself better. You find yourself isolated, inconsolable and without immediate access to your usual emotions, memories and coping skills.
This may sound like a nightmare, but the reality is that there is a very real possibility of a head injury turning into a lifelong disability.
Every day, we casually enter a nearly 5,000 pound vehicle and drive between 40 and 80 miles per hour while talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio or simply pondering the events of the day. We share the road with thousands of other drivers caught in these same moments of distraction. On some roads, oncoming traffic is separated by a single yellow line – when a vehicle strays across it, tragedy ensues.
You may think the potential for a crash is low, but how often have you heard the phrase, “I never thought it could happen to me?” I hear it dozens of times each week. As long as you drive a motor vehicle, you and your loved ones stand a chance of becoming victims.
You don’t have to suffer a catastrophic accident to acquire a brain injury. Experiencing rapid deceleration can cause your brain to slam into the front and back of your skull – this is called a contrecoup event and is one of the most common injuries resulting from an auto accident. Even minor injuries can damage billions of neurons and effect large parts of your brain.
A bruise to your brain can have devastating implications. Unlike most physical injuries, a trauma to the brain is invisible – which makes it extremely unlikely that you will be afforded any sympathy for the behaviors we discussed earlier. Instead, you will be held responsible for your behavior. You will become a victim of your brain’s inability to function properly. You may become a pariah, a social outcast unable to relate and unable to have other people relate to you. Soon, you enter into a world of pervasive loneliness.
That’s more, the brain does not heal in a predictable fashion. Symptoms may vanish within six months or last a lifetime. The severity of a brain injury bears no correlation to the length of recovery time. Even a minor fender bender with no visible physical injury can result in behavioral and cognitive deficits that have profound social and occupational consequences.
As a medical student, I was taught that the best moral compass for compassionate patient care was to treat patients as I would members of my own family. It’s no easy feat for any of us to understand what a person is feeling after a traumatic brain injury. However, it is incumbent upon all of us – whether a medical provider or loved one – to at least make the attempt. When we’re able to step into the shoes of a survivor, some things certainly do become clear. People with brain injuries want:
Note: This content was updated in February 2017. Some of the apps from the original post are still listed; however, we’ve found many more that can be extremely helpful…
We know what you’re thinking: don’t people with a traumatic brain injury have enough to relearn without training in new smart phone technology? Our answer: Yes and no. Yes, absolutely, which is why the apps we recommend are meant to complement existing therapies and programming. No, because the more frequently the mind is exercised, the greater the possibility of neuroplasticity rewiring the brain to be more functional in the future.
Technology today is working harder than ever to improve our lives. There are literally hundreds of apps for people with brain injuries and similar problems. We have selected these apps because they build on the day-to-day needs of an individual living with a TBI. We focused our research on these areas:
Specifically, these apps help clients work on the following: short-term memory loss, communication/socialization problems, anxiety, behavioral and organization issues.
Free with $1.99 Upgrade Available (iOS)
(Android Counterpart: Lists Alarmed!)
Alarmed augments short-term memory while the user is rebuilding his or her own. A productivity app for the masses, people with traumatic brain injuries can use Alarmed to create multiple reminders with unique, memorable tones for each task. Reminders can be customized with a “To Do” list and send multiple email reminders/updates. This app also comes with a timer to assist in programming.
Cozi Family Organizer
Free (iOS & Android)
Families can stay in sync on multiple platforms using this app that combines a shared calendar, shopping and “To Do” lists. With everyone on the same page, organizational skills are enhanced and frustration diminished.
Free (iOS & Android)
EverNote helps improve memory, organizational skills and even creativity by syncing ideas on multiple devices. The user can take notes, capture photos, create “To Do” lists and record voice reminders. The searchability function can be a tremendous boon for those with short-term memory loss.
Productive Habits and Daily Goals Tracker
Free with In-App Purchases (iOS)
(Android Counterpart: Habitizer)
This app helps users develop positive habits in their lives by keeping them organized, tracking their progress and maintaining motivation. It allows users to set the habits they want to develop and receive reminders when tasks are to be completed. Users can color code these based on the priority or category of the habit. This app can also allow a therapist or caregiver to set priority levels for each task.
Free with In-App Purchases (iOS)
(Android Counterpart: Luminosity)
Brain HQ tailors a training program for each persons’ unique mind. Therapeutic exercises are personalized based on performance and can help improve cognitive skills. Exercises are designed to improve attention, memory, people skills and navigation.
Brainscape - Smart Flashcards
Free to $9.99 with In-App Purchases (iOS & Android)
Pick a subject from geography to vocabulary-building and Brainscape has a set of smart digital flashcards. What makes these flashcards so smart? Besides being color-coded to aid recall, users are asked to indicate prior knowledge of the answers. Questions the user did not understand or answer correctly are repeated more frequently than those answered correctly.
Free for 30 Days (iOS & Android)
Constant Therapy is a speech therapy app for individuals who are looking to increase their cognitive abilities. This app is scientifically proven to improve speech, memory, cognition and comprehension skills. While this app can’t take the place of therapy, it is a great way to augment existing treatment by completing progressively challenging tasks right from your very own phone.
Spaced Retrieval TherAppy
(Android Counterpart: Spaced Retrieval)
Spaced Retrieval is a scientifically-proven way of improving recall of names, facts, the routines of several people and more. People with brain injuries can rehearse memory skills by recalling an answer over expanding intervals of time (1, 2, 4 or 8 minutes) that helps to cement the information in their memories. Please note: this app is not intended for use without therapy.
$1.99 (iOS & Android)
For non-verbal clients, this app utilizes two large, color-coded buttons, green for “Yes” and red for “No”. When either button is pressed, the app vocalizes the client’s decision. This is a wonderful tool to help those with a brain injury or speech problem communicate without a struggle.
Free (iOS &Android)
Audible is for individuals who love a good book but are having difficulty reading, retaining information or who simply enjoy closing their eyes and having a good book read to them. With Audible, users do not have to give up their literary passions, they just have to listen. This app is also compatible with Amazon, so books can be downloaded right from your account.
Clear Record Premium
Price ranges from $.99 to $1.99 (iOS) depending on upgrades
(Android Counterpart: AndRecord)
This audio recording app allows the user to record conversations in practically any environment and play it back at the speed and volume of their choosing. Unlike many other voice-recording apps, Clear Record Premium filters out ambient sound to ensure pitch and clear voices.
Free (iOS & Android)
Speak and this app will recognize the users voice and transcribe what they say into text messages, emails and even update social media. Dragon Dictation is a perfect mass media communication tool for anyone with a physical limitation.
Type ‘n Talk
(Android Counterpart: Type and Speak)
This app is incredibly useful for non-verbal individuals and other individuals who have difficulty with speech due to physical limitations. Type ‘n Talk allows the user to type what they need to say and their verbalized audio will play through whatever device is being used. This app also allows the user to copy text from websites and messages and provides a variety of languages.
Pocket Verbal Ability
Free (iOS & Android)
Users can increase their vocabulary with this user-friendly vocabulary app. Pocket Verbal Ability asks questions that will help prepare for job interviews, exams, and day-to-day life.
(Android Counterpart: Talkingtiles)
This app includes the most common topics in the functional social skills system for people with brain injuries to model for appropriateness. Topics include the following: meeting/greeting people, taking responsibility, being polite, joining others in groups, apologizing/excusing self, following directions and handling criticism. Users watch a brief video of a person performing the correct behavior for the social situation and can then pattern their own behavior accordingly.
Free (iOS & Android)
For anyone who could use a time out to relax, Breathe2Relax has been proven to help mood stabilization and control anger and anxiety. Users should simply indicate their level of stress and follow the audio instructions to breathe their way back to serenity. Essentially, this app provides on-site audio diaphragmatic breathing exercises.
Free (iOS & Android)
WeFeel is a mental health app that users can use to track their emotions and monitor how they change over time. This app can help manage emotions by allowing the user to visualize their anger, fear, stress, etc and then offer coping strategies. With a subscription, a counselor, therapist or caregiver will be able to monitor the users recorded emotions in real time from their own smart phone.
In Case of Emergency
$1.99 (iOS & Android)
This app allows people to store their medical information in a single location that is convenient for medical personnel in the event of any urgent situation. This app can also use to locate the nearest hospital.
All apps labeled iOS can be found at the Amazon.com: Apps & Games. Apps for Android can be found at either Google Play or the Amazon App Store for Android.
Since this is by no means an exhaustive list, we are always working to improve and add to it. We would love to hear from individuals with a traumatic brain injury and their physicians and caregivers about which apps they use.
Since the NFL concussion scandal broke three years ago, public awareness of traumatic brain injury has increased exponentially. The long search for efficacious treatments is becoming public knowledge as TBI awareness reaches new audiences. From how kids play soccer and football to treating co-occurring disorders to new diagnosis methods and dietary considerations, 2016 has been an important year in the brain injury field.
Below is our list (including references) of 25 facts we’ve learned about traumatic brain injuries in the past year:
There are certainly other facts that have been introduced into the body of traumatic brain injury knowledge this year…feel free to share them below.
Traumatic brain injuries can happen to anyone, but when they affect an older individual, the effects can be life-altering. Caused by car accidents, violent injuries, falls, or blows to the head, traumatic brain injuries don’t always leave visible scars and could therefore go untreated for a period of time. However, they can cause memory loss, physical and cognitive changes, and mood and concentration, meaning behavior can drastically change as well.
It’s important to take very good care of yourself following a brain injury, and while there are obvious activities you should avoid, there may be some that you haven’t considered. Taking precautions and treating your body well will ensure that you cope with the injury effectively and learn to live with it day to day, which is necessary in some instances where the injury presents itself long-term.
Here are some of the best wellness tips for living with a traumatic brain injury.
It may seem like a small thing, but taking care of yourself will go a long way towards healing. That means getting enough sleep every night, eating well-balanced meals, and getting (gentle) exercise daily. Ask your doctor when you can expect to engage in physical activity before starting any fitness routines and make sure that when you’re ready, you start gradually rather than jumping in. Even if you feel energized, it’s not a good idea to go too fast following a brain injury. Do not engage in exercise that includes contact sports, as this can lead to further injury.
Because drugs and alcohol affect the brain in different ways, it’s best not to drink or consume any drugs other than your prescribed medication while you’re recovering. Even a glass of wine with dinner could be harmful to your healing. If you enjoy drinking socially, ask your doctor when you might be able to continue doing so. Be careful even with your prescribed medications and don’t take them more than instructed. Addiction is very legitimate threat to seniors, particularly for pain medications.
Ask for help
You might be eager to prove to everyone that you can take care of all the things you once did, especially if you had a long recovery in the hospital. However, it’s best to refrain from doing physically demanding chores, such as cleaning the house or gardening, or engaging in activities that require a lot of focus. These things can do more harm than good and can slow down the healing process.
Keep a journal
Some victims of traumatic brain injury report that they have trouble remembering things or focusing on more than one task. Do not try to multi-task; rather, engage in one thing at a time and go slowly if you need to. Keeping a journal, or even a small notebook on the kitchen counter or next to your favorite chair, will help your memory if you use it to write down to-do lists and phone numbers.
Remember to reach out to friends or family if you feel overwhelmed. You may think that asking for help makes you burdensome, but for the people who love you, it’s a simple thing to drop what they’re doing and give you assistance.
Thanks to ElderAction.org for writing this post. ElderAction.org is a website that Caroline James and her husband put together to help elderly caregivers like themselves do better in making our beloveds enjoy life.
Imagine that your work day has just ended. You leave the office feeling good. In your car, you roll down the windows and let the sun warm your face. The next thing you know, you wake up in a hospital bed…and a month has passed. The doctor at your bedside cautiously explains that you received a traumatic brain injury in an auto accident. You try to ask a question, but the words won’t come out of your mouth. After several attempts at communication, you’re exhausted and fade in a restless sleep. The months that follow are filled with what seems like every type of therapy in the book – you have to learn to speak, walk, eat and organize your thoughts all over again. Your life is upside down. You still feel the weight of your responsibilities. You want to work and support yourself (and your loved ones) again. Your desire for independence rules your thoughts, visions of life before your accident haunt your dreams.
Everyone agrees: life after a brain injury can be as traumatic as the injury itself. Many people choose to isolate themselves. Others do their best to pretend that nothing has changed, that they are still the same person post-accident. Still others seek out solution after solution until they find an accommodating neuro rehab program. In these ways and many others, the brain-injured people are expressing the one thing they all have in common: they want to be productive members of society again. And that means working.
So what sort of employment is available for someone with a brain injury? (Or for anyone else with a disability, for that matter?) The answer depends on the severity of the injury. Our goal at Life Skills Village is to help our clients reach their maximum level of functionality in every area of life – including the vocational. We offer several levels of vocational rehabilitation for our clients:
A sheltered workshop is a safe environment where, people with brain injuries can work without fear of losing their job for health or behavioral reasons. Clients are paid to perform simple tasks such as stuffing envelopes or washing clothes. Life Skills Village takes an altruistic approach to the Sheltered Workshop. Everything our clients do benefits the southeast Michigan community. Whether it’s collecting, washing and sorting clothes before we donate them to a veteran’s organization or assembling hygiene kits and distributing them to the homeless – we believe our clients should see the good they are capable of doing for others.
This may be the best employment option for someone with entrenched behavioral problems following the head injury.
Supported employment or, as we call it at Life Skills Village, the Work Re-Entry Program, is for people with brain injuries who have expressed employment as one of their highest priorities. Our therapists work with the client to prepare a resume, learn and rehearse interview skills, dress for success and will even attend the interview. We also work directly with the employer to coach them on ways to work with someone who has a head injury. Very often, a job coach accompanies the client to work. The coaches stay on as long as the client and employer feel that their presence is necessary.
What kind of work can people with brain injuries perform? Depending on their level of function, people with a TBI can do anything, including but not limited to:
Employers have every incentive to participate in our Work Re-Entry Program, including limiting the cost of hiring a new employee and helping disabled people rejoin the community.
This is a relatively new concept that we’ve been developing at Life Skills Village. We define a micro-business as a business than can be operated by one or two people. For example, we recently launched “Good Brains Packaging,” which weighs, bags and labels coffee that is then purchased for distribution by marketing companies. We have another client who plans to launch a T-Shirt company that promotes a positive image of people with brain injuries. Most of these micro-businesses are housed in the “Nine-to-Five” room (we also refer to it as the “voc room” or the “microbusiness incubator) at Life Skills Village.
Competitive employment happens when a client is paid directly by the employer and no longer require a job coach. However, brain injuries are capricious and can cause debilitating symptoms even years later. That’s why Life Skills Village offers “The Academy.” This post-discharge support program means a client can return to our program to speak to a therapist for advice on overcoming a challenge on the job (or any other problem).
Life Skills Village offers a Sheltered Workshop, Supported Employment Program and Micro-Business Development programs to our clients. Just in case you aren’t within driving distance of Oak Park, Michigan – we have included several useful websites below that are designed to help people with disabilities work from home. You can find our current list below or periodically check for updates on our Resource Links page.
Job/Resume Assistance for disabled
ADA & IT Technical Assistance Program (ADATA) - Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
APSE: The Network on Employment
Formerly the Association for Persons in Supported Employment
Big Tent Jobs.com
Specialize in jobs for people with hidden and visible disabilities.
Customer Service and Transcription Jobs
Digital Marketing Jobs
Freedom to Work Web Site
Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
IT Career Guide
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs - Michigan Rehabilitation Services
Michigan Department of Career Development
Michigan Employment/Disability Resources
Michigan Rehab Services
Occupational Outlook Handbook – Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Riley Guide
Social Security Employment
Social Security program for people on disability who want to return to work without losing Medicare benefits.
Specializes in legitimate work from home opportunities
Traumatic Brain Injury Facts: Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services
VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports and Job Retention
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.