One in 40 Australians live with an acquired brain injury (ABI) and for those whose everyday lives are affected by such an injury, Brain Injury Awareness Week is an opportunity to talk about their experiences.
The awareness week runs from 16-22 August this year and has the theme ‘Every brain injury is different’, with the term ‘injury’ covering all neurological disorders occurring to an individual’s brain after birth.
Throughout this week people living with brain injury, medical experts and service providers are attending events - or joining online - to discuss the major issues around the country and spread the word about how people with brain injury live.
Adjunct Associate Professor Jennifer Cullen is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Synapse, Australia’s peak brain injury support organisation, and says it is important to remember brain injuries can occur from causes as different as car crashes or sports injuries to degenerative conditions.
“We use the term brain injury to refer to any type of brain disorder or neurological disruption, which is sustained after a child is born rather than developmental,” she says.
“There are a wide range of causes, and the long-term effects differ for each person.”
The causes of brain injury can include but are by no means limited to:
Degenerative conditions such as dementia
Hypoxia or Anoxia (lack of oxygen)
Infection or disease
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Misuse or abuse of alcohol or drugs
Sharing awareness of the varying causes of brain injury, Assoc Prof Cullen says, will help the community to better understand that the effects of a brain injury are different for each person and each individual needs different support in their everyday life.
“Following a brain injury, the person impacted can develop medical difficulties, altered sensory abilities such as impaired vision, touch and smell, impaired physical abilities as well as significant memory loss, cognitive fatigue and concentration problems,” Assoc Prof Cullen explains.
“And one of the biggest changes most will experience is a change to their behaviour and personality.
“They can become short tempered, lethargic, flat or depressed - taking their frustration out on their loved ones or primary carers.”
The Brain Injury Association of Tasmania is also using the awareness week to launch a new personalised National Assistance Card which will be available to all people living with a brain injury in Australia to help them navigate everyday life.
Offering the National Assistance Card to all Australians will involve the rebadging and expanding of the existing Tasmanian ABI ID card service which has been running for 20 years.
The national card will include information about the impacts of the person’s brain injury and the details of the person’s nominated emergency contact, as well as an optional QR Code which can be scanned to access more information about the person’s injury, disability or health condition and suggestions of how members of the community can assist them.
The association says the aim of the card is to give people with brain injury more confidence in social situations, reduce the need for them to constantly explain how their brain injury affects them and increase understanding in the community of brain injury.
For more information about the National Assistance Card visit https://www.nationalassistancecard.com.au/
To read more about Synapse’s Brain Injury Awareness Week events and services visit https://synapse.org.au/