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Recovery and Rehabilitation

The First Few Weeks

​​The person may be in a coma. This means he is unconsciousness, and doesn’t seem to respond to things like sound, touch, and light. The eyes stay closed and he may not show signs that he’s aware of what’s going on around him.

As brain function improves, he may open his eyes, follow sleep-awake cycles, follow commands, respond to people, and speak. It’s common for the person to be confused and disoriented. You may find that he has trouble paying attention and learning or that he seems agitated or restless. He may not sleep well.

Some days will be better than others. For example, the person may follow a command (like squeezing your finger), then not do it again for a while. Try not to become too anxious about the ups and downs—they are normal.

You can help by keeping the person’s space calm and quiet. Examples include limiting the number of people in the room, turning off the TV, or turning down the lights.

Be sure to speak with the healthcare team if you have questions or concerns.

Treating the Brain Injury

Depending on the injury or their overall condition, some people begin their recovery in an intensive care unit (ICU) or acute care unit.

During the early weeks after the brain injury, the treatment focuses on stabilizing the physical condition, dealing with medical issues, and preventing complications like pneumonia and blood clots.

When the healthcare team feels the person is ready, the rehabilitation process will begin. Rehabilitation (rehab) encourages the body’s natural healing process through:

  • stimulating and enhancing physical and thinking abilities
  • teaching new skills to make up for lost skills (includes physical, thinking, and behaviour)

The therapy focuses on making the person more aware of his surroundings. For example, he may have to re-learn the date, time, where he is, and understand what happened to him.

As thinking skills and physical abilities improve, rehab focuses to also improve thinking skills, mobility, and becoming more independent in self-care.

The way for the person to relearn is by practice. The person with the injury spends only a few hours a day in therapy. What happens for the rest of the day is very important to recovery.

How much and what rehab the person with a brain injury gets depends on things like how aware he is, what other injuries he has, how much rest he needs, and how much he can take part in therapy.​​

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