After Brain Injury: Focusing on the "Able" Not the "Dis" of "Disabled"

Dr. Jordan Grafman talks about the many ways caregivers and society as a whole can help people with brain injury more successfully reintegrate into their families and communities.

See more videos with Dr. Jordan Grafman.

The larger issue becomes how society helps integrate people back into the families. What is society--through legislation, through insurance issues--how are we going to advocate--as a group, as a social group--how are we going to advocate for better integration of the person after the brain injury back into the community? And the best way family members do that is to get involved in advocacy organizations. You know--it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and there's no way around it. You may think your situation is obvious to other people, but there's hundreds and thousands of other people clamoring for change and for attention to their own causes. And the only way you get change is by fighting for it. And that requires effort in itself, but in the end the benefits of that effort far outweigh the costs of everything you have to put into it to help that advocacy be successful. So, that's another piece of what you can do if you feel frustrated by the situation you're in, maybe you feel that the health care community isn't doing as much as it should for you. Well get out there and fight for what you believe in, and cause change that you think will be effective. And that's a real important message that caregivers need to hear. And if we--we also in the process, change society's attitudes about people who are different than us. And I think that the best societies accomodate that difference. It's big enough, and the rules are clear enough that they allow us not to shun people like that, or put them in closets, or away from us; they allow us to keep people like that in the streets, not house them; whether it be older people in nursing homes, or younger children with severe disabilities, or adults who have had traumatic brain injuries. They are all part of the larger social community, and the ease with which we recognize that and the comfort that we can bring to our own personalities, and how we deal with that is only going to improve the situation for people after a traumatic brain injury. And--as I mentioned before--many of our vets, even with fairly large lesions, were very successful in their lives, and I think there are a lot of myths that persist about the effects of brain injury and how it disables a person. But in fact, we tend to focus more on the able part of disable, not the dis part. And I think family members have to keep that in mind, the patient has to remember that, and the society at large has to accept that. And when that happens, it'll also be a lot easier to rehabilitate people and to have better outcomes.
Posted on BrainLine February 12, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.