Nfld. & Labrador

Brain Basics program aims to help caregivers of people with brain injuries

The Brain Basics program is intended to help front-line caregivers provide the best possible care for people living with brain injuries.

'It's very intimidating, it's a very complex injury'

The Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association is raising funds to bring a new brain injury awareness program to the province. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association is hoping to bring a new program to the province aimed at helping caregivers of people with brain injuries.

"It takes particular skills and training to bring brain injury people to a quality of life that we know that they deserve," Tom Lush, the current director and former president of the NLBIA, told CBC's On The Go.

The Brain Basics program was originally developed by the Ontario Brain Injury Association and is used to educate caregivers about how to improve the quality of life for people affected by brain injuries. 

A learning curve

Marina White first became involved with the NLBIA in 2001, after her son Randy sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident.

He went out one night as Randy White and came back another person.- Marina White

She knows difficulties of learning how to care for a loved one with a brain injury all too well.

"He went out one night as Randy White and came back another person," said White.

Adjusting to the reality of the situation is no easy task according to White. It's a process that not everyone can deal with.

"It's a learning curve for everyone, for your friends, your family. Some people give up and just walk away from you," said White

White says the inability of the injured party to express their needs can be frustrating to both the individual affected and the caregiver.

Brain injuries need complex care. (CBC)

She said the Brain Basics program can help people anticipate these needs, and teach them to foster not just stability but improvement where there is potential.

White's own son — whose case was considered hopeless — has benefited from the sort of techniques and practices expressed in the program, she said, noting that his progress was noteworthy enough to warrant inclusion in medical literature.

A very complex injury

Lush's son, Stephen, suffered a brain injury after a plane he was co-piloting went down in a freezing rain storm in Winnipeg in 1997.

Lush says that caregivers unfamiliar with brain injuries are at a loss when it comes to finding resources on how to best provide care at home.

"It's very intimidating, it's a very complex injury. You know very little about it," Lush said.

Lush said most of the widely-distributed knowledge tends to focus on basic needs of the patient — food, hygiene, comfort — and there's little focus on advancing the potential for improvement.

"This is what we want people, our workers, to understand ... That we just don't leave them. They're just not vegetables. That we can bring them to a level of enjoyment in life and probably even back to work again," Lush said.

He said the NLBIA hopes to have the Brain Basics program up and running before the end of the year.

With files from Zach Goudie

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