Virginia Commonwealth University’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center is studying a new therapy that is designed to help patients and their families cope with the acute phase of their recovery from a traumatic brain injury.
The First Steps Acute Neurobehavioral and Cognitive Intervention (FANCI) program is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health-NICHHD, and is a randomized controlled trial. Janet Niemeier, Ph.D. and William Walker, M.D. are hoping that this study will show FANCI’s ability to address post-injury challenges such as dealing with impaired cognitive function, community re-entry, and family acceptance and understanding.
The program includes 10 sessions that focus on these and other important issues.
We are interested to see how this trial pans out, as issues such as family inclusion, understanding, and support are common and often under-addressed. The emotional and mental changes that result from traumatic brain injuries can confuse and alienate those around the patient, even those who are closest, and the stress of caring for a family member with a brain injury can be substantial and on-going.
A recent publication by the Brain Injury Resource Foundation highlights some of these issues. Reactions such as shock, disbelief, anxiety, denial, and frustration experienced by family caregivers have a strong affect on the patient’s recovery and need to be acknowledged and attended to. Not only for the patient’s well being, but for the caregiver’s as well.
Social worker’s and therapists, if trained to help with brain injury patients and their caregivers, can provide guidance through these challenges. Family members face the difficulty of adjusting to and clearly defining their new roles, and with training such as the FANCI study is providing, a difficult time can be made more bearable.
The Brain Injury Association of America has some beneficial links to support resources. Also, the Family Caregiver Alliance offers articles, research, and a list of support groups for “families nationwide caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions”, and the Life Raft Group has a variety of information on dealing with caregiver-specific challenges.
We need to remember that while a brain injury changes the patients life, it also affects everyone close to them. For optimal recovery, everyone involved in the process needs to have their needs met, their stress reduced, and their challenges acknowledged.