Our last two posts have focused on the expensive services that are necessary to treat traumatic brain injuries. Because insurance companies in New York are not required to cover any long-term rehabilitation, many individuals who suffer from brain injuries return to their homes after a two-week hospital stay and leave any further recovery up to chance.
Because the brain is so complex, it is impossible to accurately predict how a traumatic brain injury (TBI) will impact any given person. Researchers know the brain governs your heart, breathing, intellect, memory, balance, personality, language and social skills. According to brain experts, people who suffer from a traumatic brain injury may have an altered personality in addition to physical or mental disabilities.
Although scientists have yet to discover a way to return the brain to the way it was before an injury, they can effectively retrain the brain. One neurosurgeon at the treatment center where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is in therapy said they have “documented evidence that an area of the brain that wasn’t doing something, like speech, can learn to do it.”
Yet providing the therapy needed to retrain the brain is complex. Physical therapists work with patients to get them on their feet and rebuild or maintain the range of motion in their legs. Occupational therapists focus on strengthening the arms and rebuilding fine motor control. Speech pathologists work with patients to help them develop cognitive tasks, such as talking and understanding speech. In some cases, patients may even undergo neurologic music therapy, which uses dance to help people walk.
Despite the success rehabilitation programs have, many insurance companies still refuse to cover the treatment. One of the biggest reasons that there is not enough concrete data is because of the lack of funding available for research. Since 2007, the Defense Department has received about $500 million for brain-trauma research, and the National Institutes of Health funded about $71 million worth of research. Hopefully that trend will continue, and comprehensive data, treatment and insurance coverage will all be available.
Source: USA Today, “For brain injuries, a treatment gap,” Steve Sternberg, 2 March 2011