Notes from the President:
March marks National Brain Injury Awareness Month. The impact of brain injuries has received a lot of attention in recent years and with good reason. Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a brain injury, with particularly high rates among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of traumatic brain injuries, or damage to the brain that occurs due to sudden injury but we must remember that brains can suffer injuries due to internal events as well, such as stroke, blood clot, or even the presence of a brain tumor. Other kinds of brain injury can exist from birth such as in cases of cerebral palsy. Brain injuries can result in a multitude of disabilities ranging from the cognitive and emotional to physical limitations.
The vast majority of brain injuries are, fortunately, mild and come with a good prognosis for recovery. We know a great deal now about concussions, which are especially prevalent among children ages 0-4 and among older teens ages 15-19. We also see concussions among adults ages 65 and older, who are prone to falls. With proper care, a person can recover from a concussion with little to no long term effects.
For children with serious brain injuries, Easter Seals is there with early intervention services to assess a child’s needs and build a plan for helping them reach their full potential. Whether that’s occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical therapy, Easter Seals has decades of experience helping children and families. Our child development centers offer an integrated, person-centered approach, with therapists coming to the classroom to work with the children on-site. This gives the children continuity in their day – all kinds of learning take place in the same environment – and gives busy parents the knowledge that their child can get all the help he or she needs in one place, rather than having to neglect work or other family obligations to run from appointment to appointment. You may recall my blog post a few months ago about Mikey, a child who was resuscitated at birth and has exceeded his parent’s expectations with Easter Seals’ help.
At Easter Seals, we’re also working with veterans and their families to address the results of brain injuries and provide them with community based services to help them and their families thrive. One such example is Kevin, a veteran of Afghanistan who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving. When he returned home, he was searching for services to help his recovery and came to Easter Seals, where he learned about our Veteran Staffing Network. The VSN was able to help Kevin move back into the workforce, giving him the means to support his family over the long term.
Earlier this month, the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Easterseals participated in National Intrepid Center of Excellences’ Brain Injury Awareness Month Resource Fair at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It was a very well attended event and we were able to connect with many patients as well as service providers to share information about our mental health services for veterans and military family members.
The programs we offer to veterans and their families include clinical and social services. Not only do we have highly skilled clinicians equipped to treat the symptoms of brain injuries and manage the emotional needs of the veterans, we can offer support and care to their families as well. The caregivers of injured veterans are in particular need of support services and respite care services so that they can care for themselves as well. This whole-family approach keeps families together and gives them a path forward for the rest of their lives.
Perhaps a time is coming when treatment for brain injuries will be as simple as a surgery or a medication but until that time, Easter Seals is working for families to give them the services they need to care for their loved ones.