Long-term brain injury care lacking, say advocates
Those who support and treat brain-injured Nova Scotians are calling on the province to fill gaps in their treatment.
Few dispute those with brain injuries receive excellent care immediately after their injury and during rehabilitation, but after that, some say there's a huge void.
Joe Lively suffered a brain injury during an accident on the job 23 years ago.
"I started to get really frustrated and then I started having temper outbursts. I set the lawn on fire, smashed windows out of the house, drove knives through the cupboards," said Lively.
But Lively, who is now president of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia, was able to get the help he needed.
Not everyone does.
Dr. Brenda Joyce treats the brain injured at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre.
"We're saving people and we're saving people that we didn't before with brain injuries. And I think if we're going to do that we have a responsibility to care for them and provide for them adequate services," said Joyce.
"We have to provide them with a quality of life that makes their life worth living."
Care after rehabilitation is available in other provinces and badly needed in Nova Scotia, said Joyce. That includes structured programming and support.
Lively is proof rehabilitation can make a huge difference and he knows he's one of the lucky ones.
"I've heard survivors say, 'Why did they keep me alive?'" said Lively.
While numbers aren't tracked, the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia estimates about 2,000 people suffer a serious brain injury in Nova Scotia every year.
While there are two homes for brain injured people in Nova Scotia, they can only accommodate a small number of people leaving thousands of families to struggle on their own with loved ones who are living in, what Lively calls, hell.