Employment After Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Finding and keeping a job after experiencing traumatic brain injury can be difficult for many reasons. First and foremost, after a traumatic brain injury, people may suffer from a host of physical, mental and emotional problems that complicate their ability to function in social and work-related arenas.

For example, while some may be overcome with depression and anxiety that impedes their ability to focus, others may experience crippling physical disabilities that severely limit the type of work they can do.

Consequently, for those who can work (usually the mild to moderate traumatic brain injury patients), understanding your barriers to employment, as well as where you can turn for help, is key to finding and maintaining employment after TBI.

Barriers to Employment After TBI

Although the complications of TBI are one of the main factors that can make getting and keeping employment after TBI difficult, there are other barriers to employment after TBI. Lack of knowledge and acceptance of traumatic brain injury can prevent employers from hiring, placing or properly training people suffering from TBI.

Another barrier to employment for TBI patients is ironically caused by one of the very organizations meant to help them, the Department of Rehabilitation. This state-run organization is charged with aiding the disabled, including those with traumatic brain injury, in finding employment and living independently.

However, because many of those with mild to moderate TBI have, by nature of the condition, subtle mental or emotional disorders, caseworkers at the Department of Rehabilitation often underestimate TBI patients' disabilities, turning them away and refusing to help them find work.

Left on their own, TBI patients may find jobs but, in most cases, have trouble keeping them. In fact, a study performed by the National Data Center found that over half of TBI patients who return to work end up unemployed within a year. The resulting economic cost of this turnover (including the cost of lost productivity, unearned income and continued healthcare) is about 22 billion dollars each year.

Overcoming Barriers with TBI Education
The fundamental way of overcoming the barriers to employment and helping functional TBI patients be a productive part of the workforce is through education. Once people understand the special needs of traumatic brain injury patients, they will be able to appropriately respond to them.

Education should cover every facet of this condition, including:

• causes of TBI
• symptoms of traumatic brain injury
• diagnosing TBI
• traumatic brain injury complications
• TBI treatments and support

Teaching people about traumatic brain injury will help them:

• be more accepting of and patient with TBI patients
• identify the signs and symptoms of TBI
• teach others about TBI
• understand how to interact with and teach TBI patients
• ultimately enrich the lives of those with traumatic brain injury

Help Finding Employment for TBI Patients

Luckily, TBI patients seeking employment do have options and resources, including:

• neuropsychologists: If a state's Department of Rehabilitation denies a valid TBI patient services for lack of proof of his disability, TBI patients can get evaluated by neuropsychologists to prove the severity of their condition. With proof of impairment from trained medical professionals, the Department of Rehabilitation will take on a TBI patient.

• Department of Rehabilitation: While the Department of Rehabilitation does occasionally make mistakes, it is also a tremendous resource for TBI patients once they get accepted into the program. Caseworkers maintain long-term relationships with TBI patients to help them get and keep work, find housing and live independently.

• support groups: Talking with others living with TBI can not only provide patients with emotional support, but it can also help them learn about local businesses, programs and organizations dedicated to helping TBI patients find employment.