Long-term outcome after brain injury with a focus on return to work, life satisfaction and participation

University dissertation from Arbetsterapi, Umeå Universitet

Abstract: Rehabilitation after brain injury is often a process which is spread over several years and runs through different phases. After sub acute in-patient rehabilitation a community based post-acute rehabilitation can follow. In this late phase after injury the rehabilitation focuses on reintegration into the community through a return to work and participation in other occupations in society. The overall aim of this dissertation was to study the long-term outcome of brain injury, with a special emphasis on the return to everyday domestic and productive occupations and the connection these have to life satisfaction as a whole. The aim was also to describe and understand the lived experience of the consequences of brain injury in these areas.This dissertation comprises four studies on different aspects of the long-term outcome of those who have had a brain injury. In a sample of 56 people, the value of occupational therapy assessments as predictors of an eventual return to work was investigated. In a longitudinal follow-up study, the life satisfaction of the participants (n 36) was reported and its correlation to a return to work was evaluated. Interviews were conducted (n 10) to explore the main characteristics of the meaning of work after brain injury in ten respondents. And, finally, in the fourth study, 157 people reported their participation in community activities. The extent of the correspondence between the level of participation and life satisfaction was calculated.The findings showed that occupational therapy assessments were useful in predicting a return to work in the late phase of the recovery after brain injury. A combination of assessments on the level of body function with assessments on activity level appeared to comprise the best predictive model. In two different studies the reported life satisfaction was found to be significantly lower than the level of life satisfaction in a sample of healthy Swedes for almost all domains. When comparing life satisfaction at two points in time with an interval of three years between them in the longitudinal study, no significant improvement was found. There was no difference reported by the participants for their overall life satisfaction regardless of whether they were back at work or in education, or not. On the other hand, participation in daily occupations in a wider perspective was found to have a positive impact on satisfaction with life as a whole. However, half or more than half of the participants claimed that their participation was restricted except for the items self-care and mobility, where a higher degree of participation was reported. The meaning of work after the brain injury had changed: Work had taken on a new place in life and the importance of work had decreased. In contrast, the social dimension of work had expanded in importance. After the brain injury, the perception of the participants’ own competence and work identity had changed and the respondents described their striving to return to normality.To conclude, brain injury has a lasting effect on a person’s life, even many years after the injury; consequently there is need for rehabilitation in this late phase. Life satisfaction, which is often used as an overriding goal for rehabilitation, did not improve over time. This finding raises the question of whether life satisfaction is too broad a concept and/or insufficiently sensitive to improvements. There is need for further research in this area to clarify the factors that have an impact on life satisfaction.