Rehabilitation After a Brain Injury - The Steps You Can Take

Rehabilitation after catastrophic brain injury is required to help the individual – and their loved ones – adapt to the new situation in their lives. Brain injury patients may have to re-learn everyday skills including walking, speech, conversation and personal care, requiring a multi-disciplinary team of doctors and therapists to help the patient return to their daily life as much as possible.

First steps to recovering from brain injury

Many families worry about how long it might take their loved one to begin to recover during brain injury rehabilitation, which in itself can be challenging. Medical professionals generally consider that the first six months after brain injury will give an indication of how quickly or completely a brain injury patient will recover – but slow recovery from brain injury does not mean that progress will not continue to be made, as different therapies suit different individuals and each case of brain injury is unique. 

A year after the brain injury is perhaps the best time to begin thinking about the future and what further rehabilitation might be needed to help the patient continue their recovery. The emotional and psychological trauma of brain injury can take much longer to overcome – and progress may be linked to how well the patient is able to deal with what has happened to them.

Some experts say that after two years following a brain injury, the picture will be clearer regarding recovery – but there are no hard and fast rules or time limits to brain injury rehabilitation and a new breakthrough can occur at any time.

Rehabilitation after hospital for brain injury patients

Some patients may be able to return home after a stay in hospital for brain injury, while others may be eligible for Intermediate Care, which can be offered at home or in a brain injury care unit and usually consists of around six weeks of rehabilitation to help the patient back into their normal daily routine after brain injury.

The options for catastrophic brain injury rehabilitation include NHS or private residential brain injury rehabilitation units. Patients entitled to long-term NHS nursing care – as opposed to those requiring rehabilitation services only – will be funded under NHS Continuing Care.

Rehabilitation may sometimes span several years and can seem like a constant process of adjustment. The decision about where a brain injury patient will continue their rehabilitation will be influenced by the patient and their family, together with the medical team treating them.

During the process of rehabilitation, loved ones and carers will be instructed in how to best care for the person with brain injury – and as part of the rehabilitation process, family and friends can often provide therapists with valuable information about an individual’s responses or progress, as they know their loved one better than the professionals. 

The rehabilitation unit will also assess the patient before admission to make sure the appropriate services are in place for their rehabilitation, as another brain injury unit may offer more appropriate care and therapies. A referral will be needed before a place can be offered in a rehabilitation unit for brain injury and funding must also be in place eg NHS funding, local authority funding or private funding through medical insurance or other source such as a brain injury compensation settlement. The NHS can fund places in private brain injury rehabilitation units, as well as NHS-run units.

However, funding for long-term NHS care in a residential brain injury rehabilitation unit will be means tested, so some patients and their families may have to contribute financially towards the cost of residential care. Residential rehabilitation units for brain injury should always be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which sets standards for the level of care. 

In some cases, brain injury patients will be cared for as outpatients at home (known as domiciliary care) or will attend a day care centre for neurological patients, which will continue to offer therapies and support to help continued recovery. Some community rehabilitation services for brain injury patients also take place in the home.

Inpatient care provides a more intensive rehabilitation programme involving the patient in a daily regime.

Physical recovery from brain injury

The physical process of recovering from brain injury involves the brain re-adjusting to the injury and “re-wiring” itself so that it can re-learn lost skills.This re-wiring process is known as plasticity or neuroplasticity – children naturally learn new information and skills as a result of their brains being able to make connections easily. As we get older or following brain injury this ability to make new connections in the brain can be impaired.

After brain injury, gradually a different part of the brain may take over some of the former functionality of the injured part – or new connections will be made and skills recovered. As recovery from brain injury is an ongoing process, arranging rehabilitation is always advisable, even if the patient is discharged from hospital without further therapy being arranged – the first stage is to discuss possible rehabilitation options with your GP or the neurological consultant involved.

Organisations like Headway (www.headway.org.uk) can also advise on finding rehabilitation services for a loved one with brain injury.

Adapting a home after brain injury

It may also be necessary to adapt your home to accommodate a loved one with brain injury – items like entry ramps, hand rails, lifting equipment, stair lifts, disabled bed and baths and specially adapted computers or TV equipment are now all available. Lighting and heating controls and systems can also be adapted – and doors can be widened or layout changed to help improve mobility round the home.

The local authority will advise on adapting a home for those with brain injury and can arrange for an occupational therapist to assess the home. Sometimes funding is provided to cover adaptions to a home for disabled use under the Disabled Facilities Grant, which is means-tested and available in the UK – Scotland has its own funding system under the local authorities, however.

There are now private providers of equipment for adapting a home for use after brain injury and compensation settlements for brain injury will usually include a sum to cover any adaptions to the home, especially after catastrophic brain injury. 

If you or a loved one has suffered brain injury in an accident, a specialist brain injury solicitor will be able to advise on obtaining compensation and any funding available to help with rehabilitation or adapting your home.


<p>Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis. Leo also has particular interests in politics, law and health.<span id="pastemarkerend"><br>

Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis. Leo also has particular interests in politics, law and health.


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