Rehabilitation Traumatic Brain Injury – Treatment Team
Due to the complexity of brain injury, the medical rehabilitation treatment team for a TBI patient often includes a large cast of specialists from different disciplines. Here are some of the professionals who are most typically involved in the rehabilitation program for TBI patients.
Physiatrist is a doctor of physical medicine rehabilitation. The physiatrist will most often be the leader for the rehabilitation treatment team and makes referrals to the various specialists as needed. The physiatrist works with the rehabilitation team, the person with a brain injury, and the family to design and implement an overall treatment plan that is best suited to the TBI patient’s needs.
Physical Therapists evaluate and treat a person’s ability to move the body. The physical therapist primary concern is to improve physical function by improving muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and coordination. The key goals of physical therapy include increasing the patient’s ability to walk without assistance, getting in and out of bed, on and off a toilet, or in and out of a bathtub. Physical therapists provide instruction and training in the use of devices such as canes or walkers as may be nec. Physical therapists can also use physical modalities, treatments of heat, cold, and water to assist with pain relief and muscle movement.
Occupational Therapists focus on using purposeful activities as a means of preventing, reducing, or overcoming physical and emotional challenges to ensure the highest level of independent functioning in meaningful daily living. Areas addressed by occupational therapists include: feeding; swallowing; grooming; bathing; dressing; toileting; mobilizing the body on and off the toilet, bed, chair, bathtub; thinking skills; vision; sensation; driving; homemaking; money management; fine motor (movement of small body muscles, such as in the hands); wheelchair positioning and mobility; home evaluation; durable medical equipment assessment and training (such as, use of a raised toilet seat to assist with getting on and off the toilet easier). The occupational therapist also fabricates splints and casts to reduce deformities and optimize muscle functioning.
Speech/Language Pathologists evaluates a person’s ability to express oneself (speech, written, or otherwise expressed) and comprehend what is seen or heard. A speech/language pathologist trains a person to use assistive technology as an alternative form of communication if the person is unable to verbalize. The speech/language pathologist focuses on the muscles in the face, mouth, and throat. They also address swallowing issues.
Rehabilitation Nurses monitor all body systems. A rehabilitation nurse attempts to maintain the person’s medical status, anticipate potential complications, and work on goals to restore a person’s functioning. A rehabilitation nurse is responsible for the assessment, implementation, and evaluation of each individual patient’s nursing care and educational needs based on specific problems as well as coordinating with physicians and other team members to move the patient from a dependent to an independent role.
Case Managers/Social Workers
Case Managers/Social Workers are responsible for assuring appropriate and cost-effective treatment and the facilitation of discharge planning. Maintains regular contact with the patient’s insurance carrier, family, and referring physician to assure that treatment goals are understood and achieved.
Recreational Therapists provide activities to improve and enhance self-esteem, social skills, motor skills, coordination, endurance, cognitive skills, and leisure skills. Recreational therapists plan community outings to allow the person to directly apply learned skills in the community. Additional programs provided by recreational therapists may include pet therapy, leisure education, wheelchair sports, gardening, special social functions or holiday functions for persons and their family.
Neuropsychologists focus on thinking skills, behavior, and emotional processing. Neuropsychologists provide services to reduce the impact of setbacks and to help the person return to a full productive life. The neuropsychologist’s evaluations provide valuable information to assist with school, community, or employment re-entry.
Aquatic Therapists are occupational therapists, physical therapists, or recreational therapists with specialized training to provide therapy in a heated water pool. Aquatic therapists assist a person to increase strength, coordination, ambulation skills, endurance, muscle movement, and reduce pain. The ultimate goal is to increase the person’s functional ability with activities of daily living.