It’s Action for Brain Injury Week from 20th – 26th May, and the theme for Headway’s campaign this year is Brain Drain: Wake up to Fatigue. Fatigue is one of the most common effects of brain injury, but it’s experienced differently by everyone. People may feel exhausted, lacking in energy and motivation, and feel weak or sleepy. Fatigue may also worsen existing difficulties associated with brain injury, such as memory problems, speech and language difficulties, frustration, irritability or low mood.
Pathological fatigue may be present most of the time and this excessive tiredness may not necessarily be alleviated by rest. As fatigue is different for everyone, and caused by a range of factors, there is no single cure or treatment. However, it can be managed and gradually alleviated by focusing on each individual’s specific needs.
Below are some of the factors that affect fatigue and some of the ways that we help our service users with acquired brain injury to manage their fatigue.
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – Regular CBT sessions with members of our psychology team help our service users to increase their understanding of their brain injury, including the fatigue that they experience, what the triggers are and how they can respond.
- Relaxation Therapy – weekly group relaxation sessions aim to teach relaxation methods, including progressive muscle relaxation exercises and guided imagery, which can help to reduce fatigue. In addition, our service users enjoy regular hand and foot massages from our massage therapist, which helps to reduce tension and aid relaxation.
- Mental well-being – low mood, anxiety and depression are all factors that can make people with acquired brain injuries more vulnerable to experiencing fatigue. These are addressed by a combination of therapies and activities in each individual’s rehabilitation plan. For example, our Consultant Neuropsychiatrist prescribes medication and monitors how an individual is affected by it, and the psychology team help them to deal with the psychological aspects of their brain injury. Our holistic approach to medication and psychology support aims to reduce the reliance on drug therapy over time, when possible, which also reduces side effects – another potential contributory factor in fatigue. In addition, our focus on providing opportunities for social inclusion and community participation also help to improve mental well-being and motivation.
- Neurological Physiotherapy – regular physiotherapy sessions help individuals to gradually increase their muscle strength and mobility, which helps them to manage their fatigue. These sessions are carefully controlled to ensure sufficient rest breaks.
- Neurological Speech & Language Therapy – enabling service users with acquired brain injuries to improve their communication skills helps to reduce frustration and building strength and co-ordination in their facial and vocal muscles also contributes to alleviating fatigue.
- Environment – the home environment that we provide is calm and relaxed, with a choice of social and quiet spaces so that each service user can decide when they spend time with others and when they have some time out. Also, the decoration within the homes is attractive, but not over-stimulating, and everyone has access to the garden and outdoor spaces, which is also important.
- Diet – we support all service users to have a healthy diet and maintain good hydration. As well as being important for their general health and well-being, it can also help to alleviate fatigue.
As with all aspects of brain injury rehabilitation, everyone is different and there is no single solution. Neurobehavioural factors are often interlinked, so our dedicated person-centred interventions, delivered by our experienced multi-disciplinary team, work together to deliver effective rehabilitation and positive outcomes for our service users.