The Month of March is Brain Injury Awareness Month
As it has for thirty years, early March marks the beginning of Brain Injury Awareness Month. Brain injury, often referred to as traumatic brain injury (TBI), can range from mild (commonly called a concussion) to severe and is caused by an impact to the head or the body or by a penetrating head injury. But there are also non-traumatic brain injuries that begin internally due to disease, poisoning, a hereditary condition, stroke, lack of oxygen, or other internal medical conditions. Millions of Americans are affected by a brain injury every year, including the family members who make adjustments to accommodate the “new normal” brought about by a loved one's brain injury.
The month-long campaign aims to support and promote the country's major brain health organizations using campaigns and social media activity that encourages interest in and education about brain injury. The campaign also seeks to de-stigmatize brain injury, empower those who have survived, promote support organizations, and raise funds to assist and support those affected. More than 5.3 million Americans are living with brain injury-related disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), direct medical costs of TBI and indirect, like lost productivity, amount to 76.5 billion dollars annually. Costs of fatal TBI's and those requiring hospitalization account for 90 percent of TBI medical costs.
The Brain Injury Awareness campaign also seeks to mitigate risks in a measured way, especially for those most vulnerable, the elderly. Falls are the leading cause of TBI, and the older a person is, the higher the risk of and associated adverse outcome effects of TBI. The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) documents a 17 percent increase nationwide in the rate of fall-related deaths due to TBI from 2008-2017, including increases in most states.
Unsurprisingly the largest increase in fall-related TBI deaths was among older adults 75 or more years old. To combat this trend, the CDC began the initiative, Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries (STEADI), including tools and resources for health care providers to improve identification of older adults at risk for a fall. The initiative also includes effective strategies that reduce the risk of fall-related injuries, including TBI. Increasing uses of lightweight wearable sensors that continuously monitor and identify changes in gait and other markers in activities of daily living is a promising low-cost technology in the effort to prevent older adult falls, particularly those opting to age in place.
What can you do to help during Brain Injury Awareness Month? You have already accomplished one activity, and that is learning about traumatic brain injury by reading this. You can post your support for brain injury awareness on your social media channels. You can fundraise via a local bake sale, garage sale, or create a webpage that raises funds employing a site like First Giving, or you can donate directly to a credible brain injury support organization. You can invite a speaker to your workplace, place of worship, or service organization for an educational workshop or attend an awareness event. You can volunteer, distribute literature, or help an individual or family in need. Finally, if you are a survivor of a brain injury, tell your story. The Brain Injury Association has a special page to share your story here. Sharing experiences help others know they are not alone and may provide insight, sage advice, and support. A caring community can help problem solve and prevent the growing incidents of brain injury.
If you or a loved one have suffered a brain injury or other type of debilitating injury, we would be happy to talk with you about an estate plan to make sure your needs (or those of a loved one) are met both now and in the future. At a minimum, there are important legal documents that should be created to cover your choices about care, who will provide it, as well as who will make financial decisions for you if you are unable to. And if you are outside of Florida, please contact an experienced Elder Law Attorney (preferably one that is Board Certified in Elder Law) to assist you.
Jason A. Penrod is only the 20th attorney to be Board Certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation. He is the founder of Family Elder Law (www.familyelderlaw.com) which has offices in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Sebring, Florida.