A resource for Alaskans with brain injuries

While slipping on ice may be a common affair during the slick, wintry months of the new year, falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in Alaska, according to the Alaska Brain Injury Network (ABIN).

“Falls that result in a TBI occur across all age groups, but we definitely see a lot of this in the older population,” said Julie Davies, resource coordinator and executive director of ABIN. “With the ice and weather, a lot of people slip and fall, banging their head. Most think that if you don’t lose consciousness, you don’t need to seek treatment and dismiss the injury until symptoms arise.”

TBI symptoms include irritability, fatigue, disturbance in sleep patterns, difficulty initiating memory, difficulty concentrating, depression and anxiety. Davies also stresses that while concussions are common, they are considered mild brain injuries and should be taken seriously.

Alaska is one of the few states lacking a TBI rehabilitation program, but for Alaskans impacted by a TBI, Alaska Brain Injury Network offers statewide support with resources regarding physical therapy, counseling appointments, transportation, housing and more.

“The number one challenge with brain injuries is that people don’t understand because they can’t see the injury,” said Davies. “Our biggest goal is education. Depression and anxiety are linked to a TBI. Someone suffering from a TBI may be the same on the outside but be feeling differently on the inside. We’re there to tell them, ‘no, you’re not crazy or lazy.’ Some just need a listener, validation and to know that what they’re experiencing is real.”

Those sustaining a TBI in Anchorage can participate in the Brain Recovery Action Group (BRAG) and the Family Support Group welcomes family members impacted by a loved one’s brain injury. BRAG meets the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, and the Family Support Group meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Alaska Brain Injury Network office at 121 Fireweed Lane. Juneau residents can participate in the monthly Traumatic Injury Support Group meeting the first Tuesday of every month in the first floor conference room at 3225 Hospital Dr.

Alaska Brain Injury Network provides clinics in rural areas statewide and has serviced Utqiagvik (Barrow), Kotzebue, Nome and Ketchikan in the past. For persons with a TBI in need of additional financial support, the network manages the Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injury (TABI) Mini Grant on behalf of the state and provides funding for those that can’t get the items or care they need due to financial insecurity while suffering from a TBI.

Alaska Brain Injury Network’s largest event, the annual Brain Institute conference, brings together medical and support professionals from across the state to discuss and implement the best TBI practices for Alaskans. This year, the conferfence, themed “Returning to Life,” will be held Mar. 21 and 22 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown and will feature speakers from across the country sharing information on concussions, new treatment directions, nutrition after a TBI and much more. For the first time, the conference will be divided between a medical provider and support professional track to further cater to the dynamic nature of healing from a TBI. The Alaska Training Cooperative will be providing travel and training funding for those traveling to the conference from outside of Anchorage.

“Everyone involved in the care of a TBI should be working together,” said Davies. “Our hope is

that the Brain Institute will attract providers like community health aids, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers from rural communities around the state to alleviate the gap in not having enough TBI providers in Alaska.”

Cost of attendance for the medical provider track is $425 and for the support professional track is $200. There is an additional concussion certification training for coaches and athletic trainers on Mar. 22 for $125. For more information on registration and pricing, contact Julie Davies at 274-2824.

Interested in attending an Alaska Brain Injury Network support group? Visit https://alaskabraininjury.net/calendar/ for a list of events around the state.

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