senior man rehabilitation exercisesRecovery after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) starts in the hospital before treatment moves to a separate medical center or short-term rehabilitation facility.

Healing involves training the brain to relearn familiar processes and strengthening specific pathways to streamline the return to an independent lifestyle with minimal assistance.

These sessions might also involve addressing changes caused by the TBI that now require patients to compensate or adapt certain activities of daily living. For yourself or a loved one, understand what to expect during TBI recovery.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury involves sudden force applied to the skull and brain. There are two common types:

  • A closed head injury, when the brain gets shaken around but the exterior of the skull remains intact
  • A penetrating head injury, which involves damage to the exterior of the skull and potentially an object that passes through to the brain

TBIs are known to change personalities and affect overall functioning. In the case of a closed head injury, these effects may not be observed for months.

A loved one may have experienced a TBI if they display a combination of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness 
  • Confusion
  • Declining coordination
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Twitching and convulsions
  • Sudden personality changes

Falls are a common cause of TBIs in both children and older adults. The injury may also result from a car accident or another sudden trauma.

Rehabilitation for a TBI

Patients will undergo physical and occupational therapy to regain their lost abilities. Speech therapy, social support and psychiatric assistance may also be part of the recovery process.

As the effects of a TBI can vary among patients, personalized plans are developed involving:

  • Acute Rehabilitation: In a hospital’s trauma or rehabilitation unit, acute care assists the patient in regaining and performing as many activities of daily living as possible.
  • Post-Acute Rehabilitation: Following the hospital stay, treatment begins in a short-term facility to help the patient become as independent as possible.
  • Sub-Acute Rehabilitation: Recommended for patients who need less-rigorous therapy or following post-acute care to continue making progress.
  • Day Rehabilitation: Following post-acute or sub-acute care, patients attend rehabilitation sessions at a facility for part of the day, then return home.
  • Outpatient Care: After more intensive rehabilitation, outpatient care helps a patient maintain their abilities.

Before the transition to a short-term facility or back home, a patient will be expected to:

  • Perform exercises to reduce risks for muscle shortening
  • Practice moving their position
  • Sitting up and transferring from a bed to a table
  • Work on improving coordination and how the brain communicates with the body

Patients may be asked to wear a sling to help strengthen the connection between the brain and the affected arm or leg. During rehabilitation, therapists assess their abilities and progress involving:

  • Speech and swallowing
  • Physical strength and coordination
  • Focus and language comprehension
  • Bowel and bladder control
  • Mental health
  • Understanding social expectations and adjusting behaviors

How Rehabilitation Helps TBI Patients

Rehabilitation benefits TBI patients in the following ways:

  • Tailored to each patient. Rehabilitation often starts with identifying the type and degree of damage the brain has experienced, and how these changes affect one’s ability to function. A customized program helps them recover their physical abilities, as well as focuses on cognitive and mental health factors impacting quality of life.
  • Recovering brain function. If a patient experienced a head injury that did not destroy brain tissue, recovery can take anywhere from six months to several years. Rehab speeds up this timeline, helping patients relearn skills at a faster rate and become independent sooner.
  • Rewiring the brain. If the brain has experienced some tissue damage, rehabilitation helps the parts with healthy tissue take over and compensate for any deficiencies.
  • Reducing complications. TBI patients undergoing rehabilitation are less likely to experience contractures, weakened or atrophied muscles, blood clots, pain, pneumonia, breathing issues and pressure ulcers. They also tend to have better control of their bladder function.
  • Improving independence. Rehabilitation helps TBI patients access most, if not all of their former independence, and develop the mental strength to continue with their recovery and resume relationships.

Does your loved one require short-term rehabilitation following a traumatic brain injury? West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center can help guide their TBI recovery. To learn more, contact us today.