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- Winter 2013
Brain Injury Creates a Unique Challenge
For most disabilities, improved medical care causes a decrease in the number of people with that specific disability. Because of the tremendous advances in medical technology and emergency acute care, the numbers of persons who survive a brain injury continues to increase. This produces a large, and growing new disability group. People with brain injuries are becoming the single largest disability group in our nation.
Brain injury is a life-long disability. It does not go away with time and there is no cure. In this way, brain injury is similar to mental illness and mental retardation. However, a person with a brain injury differs from these other populations in significant ways and treatment should always remain separate. Grouping people with brain injuries with these other two groups is detrimental to the treatment and rehabilitation of people with brain injuries. One of the tendencies of brain injury is for individuals to "absorb" the behaviors exhibited by those around them. Traditional psychiatric behavior modification drugs will often have an adverse effect on a person with a brain injury. These factors are counter-productive to effective recovery and independence.
The first large group of people to survive severe brain injuries has been young people, beginning during the late 1960’s. Some of these people (plus many other older survivors) are now approaching their mid-life. This means that their parents (often the primary caretakers) are also aging. This raises the question of who will care for this population as elderly caretakers start passing away? The basic philosophy from which to address brain injury concerns is an effort to increase independence which decreases the number of overall costs of services.
A tremendous number of individuals sustain brain injuries as a result of violence. The majority of these people are not participating in support groups (BIAK, 1996 Report of the Office of Community Relations) and possibly because of the absence of adequate insurance settlements do not receive lengthy therapies or follow-up services. According to a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, more individuals now sustain traumatic brain injury through violence than from motor vehicle crashes. If people who sustain their injuries from violence are untreated, there may be a net increase in revenge acts of violence committed by people with brain injuries within this population.
Brain injury is costly. A severe brain injury is estimated to cost between $4 - 7 million dollars over the lifetime of the individual. The more severe the injury, the more it costs (ultimately the taxpayer). The financial savings alone for one person who does not receive an injury would provide an array of services for those with mild and moderate services.
Source: 1997 Residential Concerns Task Force Report