Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects all facets of life, from physical, functional and cognitive abilities to managing relationships and responsibilities at home, work or school. For many individuals with TBI and their families, adjusting to these changes can be overwhelming. However, a new program developed through Baylor Scott & White Research Institute (BSWRI), in collaboration with Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR), is helping to ease the transition to life ahead for those living with brain injury.
Long recognized for its expertise in treating TBI, Baylor Scott & White Health’s network provides a highly specialized continuum of care that supports individual recovery and enables TBI survivors to regain their highest level of independent living. Starting in the trauma unit at one of our BSW Medical Centers, patients will progress to BSWIR’s slate of comprehensive programs and services, depending on their needs: inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient therapy, day neurological rehabilitation and neuro-transitional rehabilitation. Inherent in all of these programs is a shared commitment to helping every patient go beyond their goals -- to thrive, not simply survive.
More than a support group
That commitment led to the creation of the Brain Health Group, a unique year-long, 22-session educational support group for adults living with TBI. Developed by a team of Baylor Scott & White research scientists and brain injury rehabilitation specialists under the North Texas TBI Model System,* this innovative program provides instructional seminars, group discussion and structured tasks that may improve overall well-being. It is at the center of a clinical study exploring and identifying healthy lifestyles following a TBI.
According to Donna Noorbakhsh, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, clinical liaison, BSWIR-Frisco, the program “focuses on ways to improve brain performance from the inside out. The first step is deciding to appreciate, protect and nourish one’s brain with knowledge, nutrition and self-love, leading to a healthier and happier one.”
The group’s motto is: Starting today, I will acknowledge what’s gone, appreciate what remains and look forward to what’s coming next.
The World Health Organization defines brain health as a “concept that encompasses neural development, plasticity, functioning and recovery across the life course.” The team has measured how the Brain Health Group’s support and education impacted participants’ mental and physical wellness, quality of life and progress towards individual goals. In addition, they tracked the use of the group’s “Brain Health App” that provided reminders, health tips, fun facts, strategies and encouragement to the participants.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the group shifted from in-person to online Zoom meetings. This was yet another adjustment for participants, but one that helped provide consistency and continuity of care, support individual progress and maintain social connectedness in a time of social distancing.
An unexpected benefit of moving to a virtual platform was the research team’s confirmation of the feasibility and effectiveness of creating large-scale, online, group-based educational support.
What’s next for brain health?
As this important research study concludes, a key takeaway is the importance of community in dealing with TBI. Neither patients nor families need to face this journey alone. To that end, BSWIR is implementing a modified version of the Brain Health Group that will be a free resource for this patient population. The goal of this program remains - helping those with TBI learn the strategies they need, find new hope and ultimately thrive.
*The North Texas Traumatic Brain Injury Model System is a collaboration among Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
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