The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) explains that “each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability” (p. 1). There is a myriad of factors that cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI) but the main causes are violence and road traffic accidents.
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These incidents usually cause anatomical and physiological changes in brain functions thereby causing permanent or temporary changes to the mental system (which may manifest in lifestyle and behavioural changes).
Annually, about 21,000 people are treated in Australia for TBI while cases attributed to road accidents are estimated to be about 33% of this population (Rushworth, 2008).
The cumulative healthcare cost for the treatment and specialised care of TBI patients is estimated to be about $180 million (Brain Injury Australia, 2010).
By any standard, such figures are high and there is a need to improve the efficiency of treatment and specialised care plans to reduce the health burden that TBI patients have on the Australian healthcare system.
From this background, this paper analyses the influences of socio-cultural and psychological factors on patient recovery of TBI.
Traumatic Brain injuries after Accidents for Young Adults in Australia
This paper has already established that traumatic brain injuries are often caused by road accidents or violence. In Australia, about two-thirds of the total patient population admitted to be suffering from severe or extreme forms of TBI are usually victims of road accidents.
Violence and falls constitute the second most probable cause of TBI-related complications. Majority of patients admitted because of TBI related complications are usually young adults aged from 15 years to 25 years (some researchers and medical journals explain that the incidence of TBI among young adults stretch to males aged up to 35 years) (Khan, 2003).
The incidence of TBI among young adults is explained to be higher within the male gender because of their high probability to take dangerous risks. The male to female ratio for patients admitted with TBI-related complications in Australia is reported at 4:1 (conservative estimates put this ratio at 3:1) (Khan, 2003).
However, such statistics are also true for other regions apart from Australia. Most of the patients admitted usually suffer from short-term loss of memory, and “life-long impairments in physical, cognitive, behavioural and social functions” (Khan, 2003, p. 1). At worst, these patients die.
Factors Influencing the Recovery of TBI Patients
Some of the most common socio-cultural factors influencing the recovery of TBI patients centre on the role of family and friends in the healing process, education and prevention programs, how the patients cope with their new “condition” when returning to work and the economic impact that TBI have on patients.
Families and Friends
Like most long-term illnesses, the recovery process for TBI patients is often influenced by socio-cultural factors such as the input of family and friends. Probably, the most notable contribution of family and friends in a patient’s recovery process is the emotional stability of the patients.
Patients with a strong family support are confirmed to be more emotionally stable and suffer a low probability of experiencing depression (Julie et al., 2009).
However, family and friend support during TBI patient recovery process is usually complicated by ignorance and misunderstandings which are often caused by a poor understanding of the behavioural impact that TBI has on its victims (Classen et al., 2009).
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Essentially, patients suffering from TBI exhibit poor behavioural and antisocial tendencies which may annoy family and friends (thereby creating rift between them). Such an eventuality only worsens the healing process for such patients because they lose the critical family and friend support needed for healing.
It is therefore important to prepare family and friends for any anti-social behaviour that may be exhibited by the patients so that they continue to support the patient throughout the recovery process.
Returning to Work
Patients who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries are usually required to resume their normal duties (which often require them to go to work). Some patients usually struggle to resume their normal work duties because their basic bodily functions have not returned to their full potential.
Notably, patients who have suffered from disability experience many difficulties when resuming their normal duties but researchers such as William et al. (2006) point out that the skill-levels of patients is usually the main cause of patient performance at work.
Here, unqualified people tend to experience more difficulties returning to work while qualified people tend to have an easier time at this. Occasionally, the ease of difficulty in returning to work has an impact on the patient’s recovery process because the patient’s level of happiness is affected in the process.
Patients who experience relative ease in returning to work are happier at the process than patients who have trouble at work. Happier patients tend to have a faster recovery process than unhappy patients (Sol Ibarra-Rovillard and Kuiper, 2011).
Earlier sections of this study show that Australia’s healthcare burden is partly caused by the high treatment and rehabilitation costs for patients with TBI.
Indeed, patients who have suffered from TBI experience huge healthcare bills which stretch from the primary treatment process into the late stages of a patient’s life. Unfortunately, these healthcare costs rise by the day and the economic implication of long-term treatment for TBI patients is significantly high.
Nationally, Australia incurs in-excess of $184 million in treatment and rehabilitation processes for patients suffering from TBI-related complications (Harrison, Henley and Helps, 2008).
Education and Prevention Programs
Doctor NDTV Team (2009) explains that “prevention is better than cure” (p. 1). This is the main philosophy informing the introduction of education and prevention programs for the prevention of TBI.
Indeed, many social organisations and institutions have embarked on serious education and prevention programs to prevent the occurrence of TBI in Australia (by educating young people on the dangers of road accidents, high speed driving and drunken driving).
Even young adults who have been licensed to drive are among the target audience because they constitute the main patient population for TBI (Menon et al., 2010). In the education and prevention programs, young people are encouraged to wear seat belts and helmets (for motorcycles) to prevent the severity of TBI injuries when accidents occur.
Different countries have different structures for designing their prevention and education programs but some of the most notable proposals made to improve the effectiveness of these programs are to ensure driving licence renewal is subject to a thorough health analysis, and a frequent approval process.
In Australia, such proposals have been voiced and high levels of efficacy in establishing education and prevention programs for TBI have been realised (Maria, 2008).
The most notable psychosocial factors influencing the recovery of TBI patients include substance abuse, depression, aggression and the lack of self control. They are discussed below
Depression, Aggression and Lack of Self-Control
Depression, aggression and the lack of self control manifest symptoms of patients who have suffered from TBI. Aggression and self control may be caused by depression but the lack of self control is usually a manifestation of the behavioural changes which victims of TBI exhibit (Silver et al., 2009).
Researchers have always affirmed that depression, aggression and the lack of self control may cause a slow-down in the healing process and therefore, it is important for patients to be supported by healthcare providers and their families so that they do not fall victim to any of these symptoms (Khan, 2003).
Substance abuse often has a negative impact on the psychological development of patients. Patients suffering from TBI are not different because researchers such as Fary, Ian and Ian (2003) explain that substance abuse may lead to death.
In the context of this study, alcohol abuse stands out as a conspicuous issue in TBI incidences because it is estimated that majority of all road traffic accidents are usually caused by alcohol abuse. In fact, global statistics show that about 30%-80% of all TBI road accidents are caused by drunken driving (Khan, 2003).
It is from such statistics that this paper highlights the importance of prevention and education programs which are aimed at sensitising the youth against drunken driving. Earlier sections of this paper show that such programs have been carried out in Australia.
After weighing the findings of this paper, there is a strong indication that TBI stands out as a major health problem in Australia.
Its importance is especially manifested by its high incidence among Australia’s most youthful and productive population who contribute immensely to the nation’s development (Shukla, Devi and Agrawal, 2011).
There is therefore an urgent need to adopt sound treatment and rehabilitation processes to help TBI patients have a quick recovery. This paper highlights the importance of socio-cultural and psychological support to achieve this objective.
Such support structures are especially important in helping patients recover from extreme TBI but more importantly, it enables patients to exhibit normal behaviours and exude normalcy throughout their healing process.
There are several ways that this objective can be achieved but this paper highlights the importance of good communication between patients and family members to improve their emotional stability and ultimately positively influence the patient’s recovery process.
To avoid some of the economic implications for treating TBI cases, this paper highlights the importance of prevention and education programs as a way to reduce the high incidence of TBI cases in Australia.
Psychosocial factors are also highlighted in this paper as possible influences in a patient’s recovery process from TBI but most importantly; this paper draws more attention to the influence of alcohol abuse as a prime cause for road accidents, leading to TBI.
Ultimately, it is important to embrace positive psychosocial and socio-cultural influences to improve patient recovery of TBI but in the same light, it is important to avoid negative psychosocial and socio-cultural influences that inhibit the same.
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