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College of Human Ecology

Professors develop new resources for traumatic brain injury survivors, families

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Working with traumatic brain injury survivors, families and caregivers as well as current public information and research, two professors in family studies and human services have developed a new resource guide called “TBIoptions.”

Deb Sellers, associate professor and extension specialist on adult development and aging, and Jane Mertz Garcia, professor and speech language pathologist, teamed to produce resources to promote understanding of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among the general public and community members, highlighting three key topics:

  • Create change through knowledge about traumatic brain injury,
  • Create positive differences for people who experience traumatic brain injury, and
  • Create a supportive community for people who experience traumatic brain injury.

The information is available at online at www.TBIoptions.ksu.edu and www.aging.ksu.edu, and at K-State Research and Extension offices throughout the state. The online site includes an interactive map for survivors, families and caregivers to match their needs to resources within their area. It also has videos with survivors who share their stories about rebuilding their lives and relationships, and opportunities for reflective thinking and personal growth.

The effects of traumatic brain injury can impact physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral functions and bring life and lifestyle changes for the survivor and his or her family, Sellers said. A survivor of traumatic brain injury may have difficulty communicating effectively, performing basic life skills, maintaining independence – driving can be an issue – or returning to work. Most who experience the injury are unfamiliar with it and, often at a loss to know how to access resources that can be helpful in rehabilitation and recovery.

With funding from Kansas’ Social and Rehabilitation Services and the help of K-State Research and Extension agents across the state, Garcia and Sellers worked with 28 communities, which helped identify medical and community-based support services for injury survivors in four categories: community support; financial; health and related concerns, and treatment and rehabilitation.

They also sought grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural health and safety education competitive program to develop an educational program and materials called “TBIoptions” Promoting Knowledge.

Falls are the leading cause of such brain injuries, Sellers added. She sees traumatic brain injury as an emerging issue in the U.S. because of its aging population.Children also can be vulnerable, and so can teens, who tend to engage in more risky behaviors, said Sellers, who cited examples such as playground, sports, bicycle, auto and farm accidents.

Traumatic brain injuries attributed to improvised explosive devices also have become the ‘signature’ injury resulting from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said. The Brain Injury Association of America defines a traumatic brain injury as an alteration in brain function or other evidence of brain pathology caused by an external force.

This article was posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, and is filed under Center on Aging, College News, Family Studies & Human Services.