Wholeness in Healing: Body, Mind & Spirit in Brain Injury Recovery

February 1, 2024 > News

When you think about recovery from brain injury and stroke, what comes to mind? You might immediately think about the physical and/or sensory challenges. If you have ever visited ARBI, you will have noticed the range of equipment in our gyms that support regaining physical mobility, from the recently acquired Xcite2 machine to the stair-climbing apparatus, walking aids, gait trainers and gross motor tools, to name just a few. However, recovery isn’t only about fixing only the body; it’s also about healing the mind and spirit. Consequently, one of the vital pillars of healing at ARBI focuses on providing psycho-social support to our clients. 

Following the trauma and stress of a brain injury, many individuals and their loved ones benefit from guidance to process the emotions triggered by the injury. Amid dealing with the physical challenges, they might now need to identify the gaps and access to resources required for recovery.  

The individual or their family members may experience a loss of emotional connection when a person’s physical or emotional presence remains, but a physical connection is lost. Often, there isn’t a sense of closure. Additionally, there are losses of independence, job, finances, relationships, and the regular support system. Feelings of sadness, frustration, and anger at the scope of adjustments and a perceived or real pressure to “get better” are often triggered by these losses. 

In a culture that places high value on our occupation, identity in the workplace, and productivity, anxiety about making progress in recovery can also be freshly released by discharge from the hospital. When the rehabilitation and recovery program ends there, new issues may rush in to take their place. Finances, housing, accessibility, and relationships: where everything once seemed settled and predictable, now they are surrounded by big question marks. Where will I go for physical rehab, and how will I pay for it? How will I work on my goals? What resources are out there for me? How will I spend my time now that I’m no longer going to my job? Where are my friends now that I’m not able to go with them? 

Neurorehabilitation highlights physiotherapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and speech-language pathology (SLP); however, integrating back into the community can add additional challenges. The stress of loss of mobility, speech, or other gross motor functions can lead to insecurity, a loss of confidence, grief, and depression. Family members and loved ones may also be impacted by losing support from their networks and the lifestyle they once enjoyed on their own or as a family. 

Brain injury impacts not only the individual, but those who love and live with them. Family members may also have these difficult feelings and feel guilty for having them. Caregivers are often placed in a position to support and advocate for their loved ones, acting in many ways as frontline workers in care. However, while it’s often a labour of love, the caregiver is also impacted by loss and change.  

The range of responses to the change can have the client, as well as loved ones, cycling through stages of anger, grief, and overwhelm. The intent of psycho-social counselling and assistance is to assist the family in answering the question “What next?” and move forward into other, more helpful, stages on the path to recovery. 

Sometimes, the support required is to deal with the mundane everyday life “admin” tasks we take for granted. These tasks can feel overwhelming to someone living with a brain injury: researching what other resources are available, how to access them, filling out the required paperwork, and making appointments.  

Supplementing one-to-one counselling, ARBI offers group sessions, including Wellness 101, Mindfulness for Caregivers, Caregivers Peer Connect, Caregivers Support Group, and Community Connect. While working on personal goals, groups provide a safe and supportive environment to experience belonging in the community again and forge new friendships with others experiencing similar challenges. 

The groups are designed to provide education, build skills for coping with chronic stress, and cope with barriers presented by brain injury for clients, family members and caretakers. The PT, OT, and SLP teams work closely with the psycho-social work team to address underlying issues or challenges that might arise and impede the ability to work toward goals. 

For the person impacted by a brain injury, along with their loved ones, it may seem like there’s no pause on the road to healing. ARBI’s mission is to guide individuals and their caretakers through the intricate recovery process, helping them create manageable plans that pave the way for progress. We understand the emotional toll and offer steadfast support, instilling confidence that they can navigate this intricate path. In our commitment to their well-being, we strive to be the reassuring presence that signifies that, despite the difficulties, there is a way forward, and they are not alone in their journey.