Living with Brain Injury in the 21st Century

Globe with many online icons

Such a grand title ‘Living with brain injury in the 21st century’. Sounds like a school essay.

No. This is more a “stream of consciousness” kind of article. Less of the researched ideas and information, more me writing as my thoughts unpack.

It all started when I realised I was once more overwhelmed by information and technology.

I was not keeping up. I was not responding to people I wanted to contact. Not reading and listening to things I wanted to. Further highlighted when I confided to a friend, and fellow blogger that I have over 800 websites saved in the “To Be Read Later” part of my life. A few helpful tips on minimalism were gratefully accepted.

It got me thinking about the impact our mass-information-modern-world, has on people (me). What about the impact on someone living with a brain injury? I guess it kind of links to the discussion about gadgets and technology last week.


Impact For a Person Living With Brain Injury in the 21st Century

Here are just some of the changes I see in the world. Things a supporter might think about. Potential impacts, and workable strategies for living with brain injury in the 21st century. Lofty idea, let’s see how it goes.

Brain injury in the 21st century Coloured picture of network diagram

Distractions – Busyness everywhere

Over-decorated, over-noisy spaces all around us. Rarely a space that is not filled with colour, movement and / or sound. Television screens jumping from one topic to another.

If you are easily distracted, have difficulty concentrating, or maybe lost the filtering system for what you pay attention to, this could be even more overwhelming.

Triple Tips
  1. Find or make space that is quiet and distraction free when important tasks need to be done, or concentration is needed.
  2. Ask for quiet spots in restaurants, ask for music to be turned down (yes you can) or move to quieter areas in community spaces.
  3. Schedule the amount of time in busy places. Leave before it becomes overwhelming.


Do It Yourself Technology

Increasingly the jobs people would inhabit to assist us in life are being “outsourced” to self driven technology. You once had ticket people to assist purchase your public transport ticket. Now you catch public transport and find you have to sort out what ticket, pay for it, all while on moving transport.

If you have difficulty completing steps in the right sequence, trouble remembering new tasks,reduced physical movement or poor balance then completing “do it yourself” tasks may be even more difficult.

Triple Tips
  1. Wherever possible complete steps ahead of time e.g. book and pay for tickets online.
  2. If it helps – record the steps for regular tasks and keep close by. On a small card carried in a person’s wallet or a note on mobile phone.
  3. Find out where help is available if needed. For instance information sites, services where a “real person” is engaged to help customers.


Instant Communication

Brain injury in the 21st centuryAntique phone with dial and handset

The ability to have rapid / instant short communications anywhere, anytime. No need to think through what you want to say. You can communicate with any number of people with one message. You can communicate in short bursts; 140 characters at a time.

Trouble can result if you tend towards being impulsive, become easily frustrated, or you say what you think before considering the impact.

Triple Tips
  1. Develop a method to slow down communication. A time to Wait.  Write – Pause – Review – Pause – Send.
  2. Work out which form of instant communication best suits needs and use just that method.
  3. Discourage use of messaging to multiple contacts, or ‘Reply all’ type communications to limit the reach of any one communication.


Buy Buy Buy

Constant encouragement everywhere to buy newer, bigger, better, more efficient. Advertising is placed in every spot imaginable, hard to avoid.

Too tempting if you have trouble making good decisions,  if you tend to be impulsive and rush into things.

Triple Tips
  1. Within the budget set an amount for online spending.
  2. Put a low limit on the credit / debit card used for online purchases.
  3. Draw up a prioritised list of items needed and wanted. Work out what purchases are possible and when.


Pressure to “Multi-task”

Multiple things happen at once, all insisting on your attention. Multi-tasking itself is often seen as a desirable attribute, with all kinds of assistance and encouragements to achieve it.

Your mobile phone rings while you are completing a task and your eyes are drawn to the emails popping up on a screen in front of you.

If you have difficulty with flexibility, are easily distracted from a task, or have difficulty concentrating, multi-tasking can be even more limiting. It can also sometimes trick you into thinking you are doing things well because you feel busy, when you may not be completing anything.

Triple Tips
  1. Set up consistent routines for completing tasks.
  2. Focus on seeing each single task through to completion before moving to another.
  3. Schedule tasks. Make a realistic ToDo list and work through it.

Brain injury in the 21st century. A web with two heads facing each other

Information Everywhere, on Everything

Incredible amounts of information pour in, via many sources, all day every day.  As an example there are about 2.5 million blog posts being published every day. Finding information that is accurate, helpful and appropriate can be difficult.

On the positive there is much that can be helpful in all aspects of living with brain injury from the personal and emotional to best practice diagnosis and rehabilitation. And of course there is here: Changed Lives New Journeys.

Information overload is even more likely if you have trouble filtering out what is not important, or difficulty understanding what is written or being said.

We also hear what is happening all over the world. This can have a benefit when looking for the best possible outcomes or highest quality however it can be difficult when tragedies are reported from everywhere.

Triple Tips
  1. Work out the ideal method for taking in information – audio, visual, print – and find sites / places that provide information in this format.
  2. Stick to a small number of sites that meet the person’s needs or research tips and strategies to search for information while reducing overload.
  3. Consider restricting news and current affairs media to reduce opportunities for hearing bad news that can cause stress or reliving the person’s own trauma.


Apps Galore

Brain injury in the 21st century Iphone with hand using icons on face of phone
‘App’ a new-ish word that has entered our language. Accompanied by a large and growing number of Apps. In 2011 Android apparently had over 87,785 and Apple 348,894! These Apps can do all sorts of things from entertain you, help you keep fit, help manage your time.

Difficult if you struggle with learning new things. Useful if you are tech savvy and can use Apps to help overcome difficulties such as prompting, diary management, remembering information.

Triple Tips
  1. Choose the outcome that is needed (Manage time. Provide prompts. Get fit). Work out what the App needs to do. Don’t be afraid to become hyper-critical to ensure you find the App to meet needs identified.
  2. Start with one App at a time. Resist new Apps until each one is well learned.
  3. It may be worth seeking assistance from someone who understands the complex outcomes of brain injury to find the most useful Apps.


A Virtual Life

In the early 1990’s a support worker, who was very interested in technology, said authoritatively that in the near future a person would be able to do everything from their home. I thought at the time this was a very science fiction kind of thought. Yet there is now potential to buy anything, watch people everywhere, engage with others – do many, many, things from your own space.

For each of us, including people living with brain injury in the 21st century, life can be virtual.

A plus – it can enable independence and engagement not previously possible.

A minus – it can lead to isolation.
The offer of an every increasing virtual life needs to be looked at with a balanced and slightly sceptical review. At the same time keeping open to the possibilities of new technology that is useful.

Brain injury in the 21st century. Comet with long tail

And Finally

This might date me but I seem to remember in the 1960’s you could put out your stream of consciousness and others could add to it.

Please feel free to do that here in the Comments or send me an email HERE.

And also feel free to comment and disagree – this is after all my own un-researched thought bubble. It needs some shaking up.


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