Brain (Head) Injury Information
for Nungas (Aboriginal) and Torres Strait Islander People
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Cover Illustration by Isabel (Izzy) Doreen Jackson
The painting on the front of this booklet represents the spirits within us. In 1990, Izzy became an Art Student at Tauondi College and had a few exhibitions. One exhibition was held at Tandanya and the other at the Port Adelaide Arts Centre, where she went solo. Isabel also travelled to New Zealand for an art exhibition. Tragically, in June 2002, Izzy had a severe stroke due to high cholesterol. This was a big change within the family as well as within her community.
Introductory letter about this publication by Samantha Jackson
I chose to do this information booklet for the reasons being that we (Izzy's family) had
no idea where to go for help from the hospital when my mother was diagnosed with brain (head) injury.
I was interested to learn some more about brain (head) injury. In 2004 I had the opportunity to do a personal carers course. I was then offered a trainee position with a brain (head) injury service within the Western Suburbs. While working with this service I had an opportunity to bring information about brain (head) injury to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. I am continuing my work with disability services in Adelaide.
This booklet was only the beginning of a new era. Throughout this project I was going to make sure there was enough information to guide the community throughout their own personal journeys. By using available services, which helped my own family, I feel this will also help others by reducing the stress and burdens carried by the person and their families.
I dedicate my work on this booklet to my mother Isabel Jackson for allowing myself and my family to walk through her journey together.
Some of the wording in this booklet is white fella's language that you may come across through your journey and may help you understand better when dealing with services. If you don't understand you should ask—don't be frightened to ask
This healing journey of the brain (head) injury may be a quick journey or it could take many years of recovery stages. After many years you may still see healing. Samantha Jackson (daughter of Izzy Jackson)
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What is Brain (Head) Injury?
Brain (head) injury happens when damage is done to the brain.
Some examples are:
? Traumatic brain (head) injury means a hard hit to the head (severe blow)
during sports, a fall, a flogging (assault), car accident or shaking of a young
child, to name a few
? Other causes of brain (head) injury are stroke (bleeding in the brain), alcohol or
drug abuse, poisoning, near drowning, disease or a work accident
? A brain tumour means a growth on the brain.
A brain (head) injury might affect the way a person, thinks, talks and walks and could
isolate them from their communities.
Bang to the head
eg flogging (assault)
Stroke the brain)
Near-drowning Attempted (lack of oxygen suicide to the brain) (car fumes,
of the brain,
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Changes Brain (Head) Injury Can Cause
Some of these big words used by white fellas are described for you to understand.
The Frontal Lobe (front part of the brain) contains your emotions and personality. Damage to the frontal lobe may have the following effects:
? forgetting things
? talking (yarning) / not making sense, repeating what you have just said
? changes in behaviour, eg going off for no reason, mood swings
? not being organised – difficulty making choices ? how your hands can pick up small things such as a pencil.
Damage to the Cerebellum Lobe (bottom back part of the brain) may affect the way
you balance, you may look like you have had some alcohol (charged up), staggering.
Damage to the Parietal Lobe (above the ear part of the brain) may have the following effects:
? you may lose feeling in your hands etc
? reading, words will look different
? writing will not be same
? your head may ache (headaches)
? not knowing distances of how far things, eg bumping into doors
? not thinking or seeing straight.
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Damage to the Occipital Lobe (back part of the brain) means you may: ? mistake a pen for a toothbrush
? forget what to use a pen for
? not be able to see to one side of yourself as well. You may bump into something
or shave only half of your face.
? change the colours that you see.
Damage to the Temporal Lobe (behind the ear part of the brain) may have the
? listening and reading may be difficult
? you can't remember things
? you might cry/laugh for no reason
? changes to your sense of smell
? not recognising your family by their face but only by their voice or the other way
You may also experience more headaches and be tired. You may also feel
withdrawn and confused within your community. People may not understand your
brain (head) injury because you still look the same.
Painting of a Bro Iga by Suzanne Richardson.
Suzanne has a brain (head) injury.
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What is Disability SA?
Disability SA Service Coordination assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults who have a significant and permanent disability as a result of an acquired brain (head) injury, as well as people with other disabilities. Disability SA provides support, in partnership with other suitable services, to obtain the best possible outcomes for clients.
Referral means linking the person with a brain (head) injury to the right agencies/services to meet their needs.
Anybody can ask for help by ringing Disability SA on 1300 786 117.
A doctor, family member or Nunga organisation can make this enquiry for you. Assessment
Assessment means talking with Disability SA staff about the person with a brain (head) injury and their disability, their needs for services and support or equipment they would like such as:
? walking frame.
The next step is the Intake mob, who do the assessment of the person with a brain (head) injury. The person may then be approved as a client of Disability SA. After the Assessment
When the person with a brain (head) injury has met the Intake mob they will be introduced to a Service Coordinator in their community. The Service Coordinator will do their best to help the person with a brain (head) injury get the services and supports they need.
The person with a brain (head) injury and their Service Coordinator will decide on a Support Plan.
If the person with a brain (head) injury has a Support Plan you can ask for a copy. The person with a brain (head) injury (and their family) will continue with the Support Plan made with the Service Coordinator. The plan will be checked often, because the person's needs may change.
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What Happens to the Person with Brain (Head) Injury?
The needs of the person with a brain (head) injury are assessed. What do they need?
How can life be made easier? How can they be supported?
Pathway Home Pathway to more support before
Assessment Longer stay
Modifications Assessment for
around the home: supported
eg hand rails, ramps accommodation
Service referrals Move to supported
to community if
Carer and home help Physiotherapy, extra
care needs supported
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The Support Available
Disability SA helps clients to access the services and the supports they need to have a good quality of life with independence.
Therapy is designed to help with the process of recovery and reduce the possibility of long-term disability. The main aim is to help the person with brain (head) injury to gain as much independence as possible and to teach them strategies to overcome ongoing problems.
Rehabilitation can take six months or more and might be provided in a residential setting or by day attendance at a program.
Further rehabilitation may be offered through your community.
Re-entering the Nunga Community
Disability SA will help the person with brain (head) injury and their family to find ways to adapt or compensate for long-term problems and disabilities and to find meaningful activities if the person is unable to return to work.
In some communities there are activities for Nunga people with a disability that may be suitable.
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In the Home
The person may need equipment to make their life easier. This may include a shower chair, a walking frame or a wheelchair.
The person's Service Coordinator can organise this for them.
ASSIST is a Disability SA program that provides eligible people with large and expensive equipment as well as home assessments and some therapies. The Service Coordinator of the person with a brain (head) injury will help them make an application to ASSIST if they need this kind of service.
Modifications may be needed to the person's home after they have left hospital. Some people may need equipment and modifications for a short time, while others may need them for the rest of their lives.
This equipment may include:
? rails to prevent the person with a brain (head) injury from falling
? a ramp for a wheelchair ? a shower chair.
Usually a therapist will have discussed these needs with you and your family. Service Coordination can organise this for you.
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The Person with a Brain (Head) Injury and their Family Grief and Loss
Family will need to understand and come to terms with the person with brain (head) injury's new self. This process involves many different (negative) feelings and may take years before family can fully accept the person's new self.
For example, some of the things that may be different can include: ? shorter temper
? no motivation
? forgetting things
? depression/suicidal ? blaming others
? may try to control others. A few symptoms of grief and loss include:
? not sleeping well
? shortness of breath ? frustration
? feeling weak and tired ? getting angry and confused. The stages of grief and loss:
Stages of grief and loss may come in any order, at any time. There is no set way a person will deal with grief and loss, it will happen in its own time and its own way. Talking Things Out
Counselling can be provided professionally (eg Aboriginal health worker, priests, ministers, doctors) or within your family. If more support is needed, these people will recommend speaking to someone else.
Accepting the new person takes time, but with the family's help, this enables the person with the brain (head) injury to feel better about themselves.
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