Aging and Brain Injury: A Call for Lifelong Care
Last week, I had the pleasure of revisiting old friends in Iowa. On one particular morning in Iowa City, I had a chance to catch up with Geoff Lauer, the current executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Iowa. He had brought his daughter along for breakfast (that girl can eat!), who helped brighten the morning with her enthusiasm about the current book she's reading.
After she trotted off to school, Geoff and I chatted about the current state of brain injury care in Iowa. I told him that I felt America needs to begin transferring the awareness that brain injured veterans have helped generate into action for civilians–and primarily among the aging population. It's one of the largest, yet underserved, populations in America. I've met a number of people who have been denied brain injury care because their trauma either instigated, or co-occured with dementia. It's unfair.
In these situations, what typically happens is that the patient is deemed unable to make gains. But my concern is that our measurements–and perhaps even our definition of "gains"–doesn't fit will for the geriatric patients. Life improvement terms like "well-being" and "fulfillment" need to be incorporated into our understanding of aging with brain inury.
Instead of treating brain injury as an episodic event, tomorrow's successful providers are going to offer lifelong services that address satisfaction and quality-of-life concerns. Each of us are rapidly heading into a demographic with high risk for injury–it only makes sense to create and champion the supports that we ourselves may someday need.