2277 Highway 36 West, Suite 200 Roseville, MN 55113-3830
Toll Free: 1-800-669-6442
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Brain Injury Diagnosis/Assessment
If you believe you've had a brain injury, but have not received a medical diagnosis, a neuropsychologist can perform an assessment to provide the necessary medical documentation. If a person was hospitalized for brain injury, there was likely a neuropsychological assessment done, at least an abbreviated one. If you are certain a neuropsychological assessment was never conducted, having your medical records of acute brain injury will help you get a referral for a neuropsychological assessment from your primary care doctor. A neuropsychological assessment consists of four to six hours of testing to determine the changes brain injury has caused. A person preparing for an assessment should get plenty of rest prior to this test.
Having one brain injury increases a person's chance of having another brain injury. It is often recommended that someone be seen by his or her rehabilitation team, or that their neuropsychological testing be repeated, after sustaining another concussion. If a person with a brain injury notices significant changes in functioning, it is important they communicate this to their primary doctor and rehabilitation team.
Many times a person with brain injury may be prescribed medication after a brain injury; since some of these medications may impact cognition, it is important to speak to doctors about balancing the need for the medication with the side effects. If medications are stopped all at once it can be very dangerous. Changes to your medications should be made only after appointments or communication with your doctor or psychiatrist.
Working with your Doctor
A good patient-doctor relationship is more of a partnership. You and your doctor should work as a team, along with nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers, to solve your medical problems and keep you healthy.
It is critical to have a primary care doctor that you know and trust. This doctor must have all copies of medical records from brain injury rehabilitation in order to understand their patient. Ensure all releases are signed, so the doctor has access to all medical records. Open communication between you and your doctor and medical team is extremely important to maintaining health. It can be important to write notes or bring a friend or family member to appointments to support you with understanding and clarification.
Ask questions if the doctor's explanations or instructions are unclear; bring up problems even if the doctor doesn’t ask; and, let the doctor know if you have concerns about a particular treatment or change in your daily life. It can be very helpful to keep a health journal to keep track of all symptoms you are having (i.e headaches, intensity and duration) so that when you have an appointment you are prepared with your concerns and current health status.
Many people report relief of symptoms by seeking care from alternative therapies or holistic therapies. Many hospitals in Minnesota now have an integrative medicine department as part of the rehabilitation department. If you are currently working with such a provider it is critical that you tell your doctor so they are fully informed of all health services you are currently receiving.
People who use chemicals (alcohol or non-prescribed drugs) can be more prone to take risks; risk-taking behavior can lead to an increased risk of brain injury. Currently, chemical dependency is referred to as Substance Use Disorders (SUD). If someone had a diagnosis of SUD prior to a brain injury, cognitive changes can make treatment more challenging. When someone has sustained a brain injury they are more sensitive to chemicals and doctors typically recommend abstinence from chemicals. Drinking alcohol has been known to trigger seizures in people who have had a brain injury.
People suspected of needing SUD treatment will be assessed through a Rule 25 Assessment which is an assessment that establishes the need for rehabilitation and may provide funding for the treating.
Mental and Behavioral Health
Many individuals find that a brain injury can impact a person's outlook on life, mood and coping mechanisms. The situation related to how someone was hurt or sustained their brain injury often includes a traumatic event that may leave emotional wounds. After brain injury, most people go through a period of emotional recovery. During this period many people find it is helpful to be diligent in their self-care, seek out support groups or even attend counseling with a trusted professional. Some people find stress reduction strategies effective through yoga, exercise or meditation. Supports may also come from family and friends. A person may find their needs exceed the resources of their natural support network. People have shared this is often a time when professional help has been very useful.
Mental Health Professionals
A counselor or mental health professional can assist with emotional adjustment issues, help a person accept their new self, and address self-esteem issues. People may need to explore questions of meaning and spirituality in order to identify the new role he or she plays in their family or community. There are many types of professionals who deal with mental health and the emotional issues related to brain injury, including psychologists, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Workers (LICSWs), Licensed Family and Marriage Counselors (LMFT), and religious leaders.
Problem behaviors are those that interfere with a person's ability to be independent, relate to others or get back to the life they want to have. The most common forms of behavior changes in people who have sustained brain injury involve social skills and the ways in which people interact. Other less frequent, but more difficult behavior issues include elopement (wandering off or leaving against medical advice), aggression, self-injury, property destruction, verbal abusiveness, tantrums and lack of awareness.
Several types of professionals can be helpful in treating behavior issues, such as behavior professionals, behavior analysts, neuropsychologists, pediatricians, neurologists and psychiatrists. Behavior analysts have been effective in using positive programs to treat changes in behavior. Neuropsychologists can also be very helpful in identifying neurological factors that are critical in the design of effective behavioral treatment programs.
People with brain injury can benefit from many different types of assistive technology from very low-tech and inexpensive to very high-tech and expensive. It is best to start with the simplest strategies because as a person heals from their brain injury their memory may lead to forgetting or misplacing expensive technology. Strategies to prevent losing or damaging the equipment can be put into place. Speech therapists, occupational therapists, vocational therapists and school staff can make recommendations for products. Sometimes a person is able to try out technologies before purchases are made so the best product is matched up with the individual. Assistive technology may be covered under health insurance programs.