According to the Alabama Head Injury Foundation, 28 percent of head injuries occur due to falls, 20 percent occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents and 19 percent occur as a result of being struck by blunt objects, which includes injuries that occur in sporting events. Cindy Woodcox, an intake specialist with the AHIF, recently spoke to the Lions Club about the organization.
Based in Birmingham, the AHIF is a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides support services for individuals with traumatic head injuries and for their families. As an intake specialist for the south Alabama region, Woodcox receives referrals from local hospitals, doctors and rehabilitation centers. She also visits patients in their homes to determine their physical and emotional needs and to offer referrals for support in the form of counseling, vocational rehabilitation and caregiver assistance, as well as other needs identified in the initial interview.
Assistance may come in the form of modifying the patient’s home so that the person can better navigate his or her living environment and may include help in applying for disability benefits, managing finances and planning for long-term care. In-person counseling, support groups and community services are also available through AHIF.
In 2020, Zoom presented many opportunities for clients, particularly those in rural areas. Through Zoom meetings, these individuals could actively participate in support groups, counseling and group activities that might not have been available to them previously due to transportation obstacles they faced.
The AHIF is a program that offers life-long services for its clients; many patients recover from their injuries and return to their “normal” life. Vocational rehabilitation is offered to help some learn new job skills while others may need different transportation, for example, a van to accommodate a wheelchair, and AHIF can help locate one. Even individuals who have suffered an injury many years ago can still reach out to the Foundation. Woodcox noted that her youngest client was three years old, and they range in age into the 70’s and 80’s. She has also worked with veterans to help them adjust to and cope with the changes in their lifestyles.
AHIF also provides recreational opportunities for its clients with outings to Camp ASCCA on Lake Martin and Camp McDowell in Nauvoo. In addition, Woodcox recently attended the Bright Ideas TBI Camp at Auburn University with six of her clients. This camp puts clients together with students and faculty from various disciplines (such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, counseling and music and art therapy) to help those who suffered their injuries at least three years ago and still need the services of the AHIF. After visiting Auburn and learning about the university’s successful wheelchair basketball program, Woodcox said that she is now exploring adding the sport to the activities available for local clients.
Support for caregivers is also available through “respite vouchers” that provide the caregiver a “break” from the care of injured family members. Through Caregiver Support Groups, they they are paired with experienced caregivers to assist in caring for recently injured individuals.
No two brain injuries are the same, therefore recovery times vary, and the effects of the injuries will vary depending on the part of the brain injured. The greatest amount of improvement will occur in the first six months. Subsequent improvement will depend on the severity of the injury and the available support and therapy for the patient, and physical activities, thinking activities (cognitive) and behavior or emotional changes make up the three major areas of change noted in patients with brain injuries.
As a 501c3 organization, AHIF accepts monetary donations from groups and individuals.Woodcox also reported that if someone has equipment they no longer use, such as a wheelchair or other medical equipment, the AHIF accepts those items as well. AHIF does not charge patients for its services.
If you know someone who has suffered a brain injury or a spinal cord injury, please reach out to the Alabama Head Injury Foundation for assistance. The home office can be reached at 800-433-8002 where someone will put you in touch with a specialist in your area. You can also visit their website at www.ahif.org for more information.