Going to work after a brain injury

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Going back to work following a traumatic brain injury is usually one of the main goals of the brain injury survivor. It is a life scale that will decrease the risk of depression and other emotional instability that can happen following a dramatic brain injury. Unfortunately, those who suffer from a traumatic brain injury, whether it is mild, moderate or severe, will often experience cognitive difficulties and behavioral and emotional disabilities following the injury.

Individuals who have the option of returning to the workplace will have to work through the cognitive, emotional and behavioral challenges in a way that is satisfactory to their employer and to themselves. Skills that are needed in order to enter the workplace, but which are often impaired individuals who have suffered from a brain injury, our attention and concentration, language skills, spatial abilities and memory. Individuals who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury may also experience restlessness and agitation, emotional irritability and diminished insight. Coupled with poor initiative, depression, anxiety and impulsivity the individual who has suffered a TBI is at a distinct this advantage when attempting to return to their old job.

While going back to work successfully can have a significant positive effect on the emotional stability and overall well-being of an individual the opposite is also true. Going back unsuccessfully can have a negative effect which will be felt for months to come. However, following a few simple steps a brain injury survivor can balance the scales on the side of success and increase their ability to function appropriately in the workplace.

Brain injury survivors are often described as not “being the same” as they were prior to the injury. This description is often depressing to both the survivor and the families. However, it is essential that the survivor and family focused not on what has been lost but online the future. And, in order to achieve this milestone they must first grieve for what has been lost.

Once the brain injury survivor and family are ready to tackle the job of reentering the workplace they may start with a vocational counselor. A vocational counselor is often a part of the rehabilitation team, whether on an inpatient or outpatient basis. The goal of the team is to bring these survivor to a place where they are able to function at the highest level possible considering their injury and damage.

A vocational counselor will work with other members of the team to ascertain an adequate history and determine any cognitive disabilities, physical impairments or emotional challenges that may negatively impact the individual in a job placement. The counselor will also assess the skills, interests and capabilities of the individual by testing that person personally. Using all of this information they come up with suitable work options which may or may not include the previous job or career at the individual health prior to the event.

The vocational counselor will also help the family and brain injury survivor to deal with their limitations and learned to compensate for their challenges. By concentrating on their current strengths and not their weaknesses individuals will be able to determine specific skills they currently hold which would be an asset to an employer.

Brain injury survivors will often have fears about reentering the workforce. These fears may stem from a fear of failure but, with support from friends and family as well as employers many brain injury survivors are able to successfully reenter the workforce and maintain a productive employment status. Support from family, friends and employers is necessary for the success of their reentry program.

If the survivor returns to his previous employment it’s important for the employer to recognize that they will not function at the same level as they did prior to the injury. The employer is encouraged to see this individual as a new employee and nods depend upon them in the same fashion as they did prior to the trauma. Care should be given to developing strategies using the vocational counselor, with both these survivor and potentially the employer.

Compensatory strategies, such as changing certain aspects of the work environment to accommodate a physical disability, may be necessary in order to successfully integrate the individual back into the workplace. The employer isn’t being asked to work with an individual who is unable to provide any positive benefit to the company but rather to support an individual who still has the ability to effectively perform service on the job.

Another option is a job coach who will provide training and support outside of the rehabilitation process and will work with the employer to meet the needs of both the employer and the employee.

By providing the brain injury survivor the right amount of support and options employers and families can make the difference between success in the reentry process and failure.

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