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In this episode, I talk with a long-time colleague, and trusted friend, Dr. Lori Spohr. We have both worked in the field of Neuropsychology for over 25 years helping patients with various neurological disorders including traumatic brain injury. Dr. Spohr is a rehab neuropsychologist and works primarily with patients with illness or injury like stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia, or patients with chronic difficulties like multiple sclerosis.
Frequently following traumatic brain injury or concussion, loved ones and family members do not have a good understanding of the neurological process, what symptoms might be experienced, a typical course of recovery, what they can expect during recovery, and how they might be able to assist with recovery to help optimize healing.
In this episode, Dr. Spohr and I discuss the advances in traumatic brain injury over the last 30 years, the biggest struggle for traumatic brain injury sufferers, and the biggest struggles for their caregivers. We also then discuss how the TBI patient can still hold on to hope, and what they can do to help maintain good self-care in the recovery process.
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Quotables from the episode:
Neuropsychology utilizes assessment and testing to help patients better understand themselves and work toward improving their quality of life.
Neuropsychology focuses on neurological illness or injury and how that affects a person’s behavior and thought.
Now, the majority of patients who get a traumatic brain injury survive it.
The brain controls everything about us. Patients with a traumatic brain injury often have changes in physical functioning, emotional functioning (sometimes depression, irritability, anger) as well as changes in thinking skills (like making decisions and keeping themselves safe).
A traumatic brain injury affects the whole family. Initially the caregivers want them to survive, then they focus on the physical challenges because they are the most obvious, then they are faced with the changes in behavior and cognition.
It can be hard to adapt both for the traumatic brain injury patient and their caregivers because you can’t see the injury. This makes it hard for the caregivers to appreciate that there is an ongoing problem.
Even mild brain injuries have changes in attention, organizing, and planning, and those can be very frustrating deficits.
For a traumatic brain injury patient, it is a matter of being able to accept what is while going on to adapt to a new normal.
A patient with traumatic brain injury often has difficulty returning to school, to work, and to their relationships, and it can be difficult for friends and caregivers can struggle because the patient is often unaware of their own deficits.
Neuropsychologists, rehab psychologists, and health psychologists help the patient and family members adjust to such changes.
We would encourage traumatic brain injury patient to reach out to other professionals for help such as rehab psychologists, good speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and good behavioral medicine psychologists and therapists.
Brain injury recovery continues well after two years. Don’t grow impatient or lose hope, because it is likely that things will continue to improve.
Frustration is normal in the recovery process. It is natural to feel irritable and overwhelmed during recovery. Feel free to take breaks as the frustration grows but go back at it and don’t give up on it. Those who do the best are those who will persevere through it.
Those who maintain a combination of perseverance and optimism experience the greatest hope.
Sometimes it is a matter of learning something new. Many traumatic brain injury patients move on to new and different roles, jobs, and vocations. There can be a lot of change. We all need a way to contribute, even if that is different from how a traumatic brain injury patient previously contributed to society.
About 50% of traumatic brain injury patients may go through a major depressive disorder, and even more will experience what is called an adjustment disorder. It is very common for people who have experienced any major medical condition (e.g. stroke, heart attack, organ transplantation, cancer, etc.) to experience some change in their mental health.
Sometimes respite care is a very helpful component of treatment for traumatic brain injury patient caregivers to be able to continue helping others. You must take care of yourself first. Giving yourself permission to take breaks and utilize resources can help you remain effective in the longer run.
It can be difficult for a caregiver to not take it personally after caring for someone with a traumatic brain injury patient may take out their frustration on those who are caring for them. It’s helpful to step outside of it and realize that they aren’t personally attacking, but reacting out of their own frustration.
Part of taking care of ourselves includes getting enough rest, eating right, and when able getting physical exercise.
There are many dimensions of wellness: relationships, physical abilities, emotional well-being, cognitive wellness, vocational satisfaction, etc.
Keep pursuing, keep trying, keep going after your hopes and dreams, and do not give up!
Jeremiah 30:17 “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds, says the Lord.”
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award.
Hope Prevails Bible Study by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, winner of the Christian Literary Award Reader’s Choice Award.
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Guest: Dr. Lori Terryberry-Spohr
Dr. Lori Terryberry-Spohr, is the Director of Rehabilitation Programs at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Terryberry-Spohr has served Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital for 16 years, first as a staff neuropsychologist and for the past eight years as the Brain Injury Program Manager. In her new role, she is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of specialty rehabilitation programs across the continuum of care, including quality improvement and outcomes management. As director she oversees program development both at the established Lincoln campus and the new Omaha Campus. She earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Hosted By: Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Audio Technical Support: Bryce Bengtson