Only 55 percent of people who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) went back to work within three years of their injury. Based on the results of a Dutch study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, the career prospects of patients with moderate to severe TBIs are grim.
Researchers found that a TBI can have long-term, debilitating effects on those who suffer from it. Older patients in the study were much more likely to be unemployed after three years than younger ones, suggesting young bodies may be more likely to fully recover from TBIs than others.
This study affords insights into characteristics of the aging workforce and long-term effect of TBIs on a patient’s vocation.
The Aging Workforce
Several factors contribute to why workers are staying in the workforce past retirement age, and in larger percentages than previous generations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increasing average cost of retirement, better education of workers, and higher life expectancy mean older workers have fewer reasons to retire around age 65 than before. This has led to a greater number of older workers across industries.
Unfortunately, the increasing number of older workers in the workforce comes with greater risks for employers. According to several studies, older workers are more likely to be injured and/or disabled on the job, costing employers and taxpayers millions each year.
According to the Dutch TBI study, patients over 40 years old were much more at risk for unemployment after suffering a TBI than those under 40. Whether this correlation indicates a higher incidence of severe symptoms or employers’ lack of willingness to hire TBI patients above a certain age is unknown.
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
Unsurprisingly, the most common causes of TBIs can occur in almost every area of work. The Mayo Clinic reports that falls, vehicle collisions, and explosions or flying debris can all result in a TBI. With both slips and falls as well as contact with equipment topping charts for most frequent workplace injuries, it’s no surprise that 200 out of 10,000 Americans suffer from TBIs every year.
In addition to external causes, several internal events may cause a TBI, including:
- Aneurysm or tumor
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
Decreasing your risk for both internal and external causes may help prevent a traumatic brain injury from derailing your career.
Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries on Employment
Traumatic brain injuries fall on a spectrum of severity, with mild cases slightly impairing cognitive ability and extreme cases leading to coma or death. It goes without saying that those who complete a more full recovery have a much better chance at regaining employment than those whose injury leaves them with long-term effects.
Symptoms of TBIs that directly affect work performance can include:
- Communication problems: trouble organizing thoughts or understanding others, difficulty picking up nonverbal clues
- Cognitive problems: degradation of memory, reason, problem-solving skills, attention, and learning ability
- Behavioral changes: difficulty in social situations, reduced self-control, lack of awareness
- Sensory problems: consistent ringing in the ears, decreased hand-eye coordination, blind spots, trouble with balance
In some cases, workers who have previously suffered a moderate to severe TBI may put employers at even greater risk for future injury, and therefore miss out on being re-hired. Access to robust rehabilitation programs may increase patients’ chance of making a full recovery, but not everyone has equal access to such facilities.
Because traumatic brain injury is considered a form of disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with TBIs. Though such allowances vary from workplace to workplace, examples of TBI accommodations can include:
- Making flexible work schedules
- Reassigning tasks to others
- Restructuring supervisors
People suffering from TBIs can be far from helpless, and in many cases occupational therapy contributes to a more complete recovery. Employers can help injured employees readjust to a work environment by making a few simple concessions. These small steps may just save time and money while helping a person in need.
Help from an Evansville Work Injury Lawyer
If you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury on the job, Hensley Legal Group can help. Call us today or contact us online for a free consultation.
After an injury, you may not be able to return to work. The Social Security disability benefit lawyers at Hensley Legal Group can help you explore your options.