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Treating Physical and Emotional Symptoms Before Cognitive Issues in TBI Survivors

by John Gomez | Last Updated: September 27, 2019

Brain injury survivors may battle with a host of cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms. While many types of treatments can take place at the same time, your clients’ treaters will often seek to treat the physical and emotional symptoms before working on the survivor’s cognitive issues.

There are two primary reasons for this: 1) the survivor’s physical pain and psychological injuries may inhibit cognitive therapy, and 2) some of the survivor’s perceived cognitive issues may actually be caused or exacerbated by the physical pain and psychological problems.

We regularly get questions from survivors and attorneys alike confused why cognitive therapy is not started immediately. Understanding that recovery is a process is vital for both attorneys and the survivors they represent. Attorneys must understand that brain injury treatment is often a multi-specialty endeavor. For clients with cognitive symptoms, cognitive rehabilitation programs, speech language therapy and occupational therapy may be part of the treatment regimen. However, it is also highly likely the survivor will also need psychological counseling, psychiatric medication management, physical therapy, pain management, neuropsychological testing and treatment, vision therapy and additional other treatments depending on the injury. If cognitive issues exist, it is important to determine what role – if any – these other physical and emotional factors might play in triggering the cognitive issues.

It is key for attorneys and survivors to understand that brain injury treatment may be multi-faceted and lengthy. In our dedicated brain injury practice, we often spend significant time at the outset of a case explaining to clients and their family members that treatment can take years. We discuss with clients and their families that recovery from a brain injury requires patience and support. However, we also take time with survivors and their families to help them understand that the success of treatment is often dependent on the support from family members.

Additionally, we work with survivors to understand how to take their medical care into their own hands – meaning that their doctors need to fully understand what the survivor is going through in order to treat. We do everything we can to map out for survivors and their families what the next months or years of treatment will look like. Often, treatment is inhibited by fear, exhaustion, or hopelessness on the part of a survivor. But, a good attorney’s help by giving the survivor a full understanding of the different treatment types and how they work can give the survivor confidence in moving forward with medical care. Attorneys can thus have a positive influence on their client’s recovery.

One of the biggest issues we see repeatedly with survivors who come to us for help, or from other attorneys bringing us cases, is that they fail to follow up with additional specialists outside of primary care physicians and neurologists. It is vital for survivors attempting to recover from brain injury to be treated by the correct physicians, counselors and therapists. Often when survivors have not fully accepted their “new normal” it is imperative that the survivor’s family, friends and even attorneys help them to find the treaters they need. It is also important to understand that the recovery process may be slow and that there may be periods of regression.

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