Traumatic Brain Injury
People who have experienced a TBI require ongoing care, but 40% of people who have been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury have a service or therapeutic need remaining untreated after a year. Unmet needs include therapies for improving memory and problem-solving and managing stress and emotional upset, both of which impact ability to work. Other issues that can worsen memory and stress include medication side effects, sleep alterations, sensory impairment, pain, and depression.
While occupational therapies hope to allow people to work if they are able, the focus on "getting back to work" can be counter-productive. If people return to work before they have fully developed new abilities to manage cognitive obstacles and problem-solve, or control pain, frustration, or stress, the outcomes may prevent them from ever wanting to try again. Part-time or small unit-of-work projects may allow for therapeutic work in problem-solving and managing emotionally stressful situations.
Rather than focusing on sheltered workshops or other work opportunities that pay significantly less than minimum wage, and give employers large tax breaks, consider short volunteer opportunities, such as two to four hour shifts at a local food bank or library, to develop the job and workplace skills that are needed to be successful, including new methods of problem-solving and the challenges of different methods of managing cognitive stress. Short working times with adequate rest and quiet time allow for processing and reflection, as well as managing the issues of sleep, pain, and medications that can compound attentional problems.
In addition to volunteer work, small cottage industries can give a person the flexibility to manage a workload and take time to learn new skills. Developing skills such as computer work, printing and packaging, online marketing, photography, and other elements of an online cottage industry can allow a person to develop a microbusiness at the rate they can manage, without the stress of having to meet workplace expectations.
Flexibility in working situations may be a key element for people with TBI who are still managing problems with cognitive function and emotional stress.