When nothing seems to be working

Your patient/client is frustrated.  They feel like they have tried everything.  Their doctor says they are doing all the right things, but they are still experiencing debilitating symptoms with no relief in sight. This can leave them with a sense of hopelessness. As a health and service provider, you may feel helpless to assist them.

While there is no magic spell that will make them feel better, there are a few options to explore.

Seeking a second opinion

It is within their right to seek medical care from a variety of professionals. Some may have different training or more up to date knowledge on brain injury (or brain injury-related medical topics).

If they would like more information about seeking a second opinion, you can share this article with them.

Allied health professionals

Allied health professionals are healthcare and health service providers that are not specifically medical-focused. Allied health professionals include: dental hygienists; laboratory and medical technicians; optometrists; pharmacists; physio and occupational therapists; psychologists; speech-language pathologists and audiologists.

They can provide a range of diagnostic, therapeutic, and support services to aid in their treatment and recovery.

Discuss options with your patient/client and encourage them to consult their physician about the benefits of other therapy options.  Some of these services do not require a physician referral, so be sure to encourage them to do their homework. Not all allied health care providers are covered out of the public health insurance plan, so they may need to rely on their private insurance or pay out of pocket.

Support groups

Encourage your patient/client to seek the support from other people who have been in a similar position as them and have found success with other therapies, treatments, or recovery methods. Brain injury associations across Canada offer groups online and in-person for individuals living with brain injury. Some are geared towards targeted groups such as women, men, and youth. Familiarize yourself with the brain injury associations in your area and the services and programs they provide for individuals with brain injury. Community supports can fill a huge gap that may exist in social and recreational engagement.

Disclaimer: There is no shortage of web-based online medical diagnostic tools, self-help or support groups, or sites that make unsubstantiated claims around diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Please note these sources may not be evidence-based, regulated or moderated properly and it is encouraged for individuals to seek advice and recommendations regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management from a regulated healthcare professional such as a physician or nurse practitioner. Individuals should be cautioned about sites that make any of the following statements or claims that:

  • The product or service promises a quick fix
  • Sound too good to be true
  • Are dramatic or sweeping and are not supported by reputable medical and scientific organizations.
  • Use of terminology such as “research is currently underway” or “preliminary research results” which indicate there is no current research.
  • The results or recommendations of a product or treatment are based on a single or small number of case studies and has not been peer-reviewed by external experts
  • Use of testimonials from celebrities or previous clients/patients that are anecdotal and not evidence-based 

Always proceed with caution and with the advice of your medical team. 

Healthy habits

Nutrition for brain health, healthy sleep, exercise, and mindfulness are important. Visit the section on healthy habits to see how to help your patient/client form better health.

Take a step back

Encourage your patient/client take a step back and slow down.  Sometimes we need to pause and listen to our bodies and look at what may be triggering their symptoms. They may be juggling too many things at once or it could be something in their environment, such as the lighting in their home or office.  It is important to remember that recovery can take time, so they need to be patient and look at the whole picture.

Do something they enjoy

When we are not feeling well, it is hard to focus on the positives. Encourage your patient/client to something they enjoy or that brings them happiness and relaxation. Doing activities that make them feel fulfilled can help in their recovery process.

Become educated on their health

Individuals as much as possible need to become their own health advocates.  While service providers bring knowledge and expertise to treatment and recovery, it is empowering to patients/clients to become as educated as possible on the topics and treatments for brain injury that will help them better communicate with their health team.

Here are some helpful tips you can suggest:

  • Write down some talking point or notes so they don’t forget anything and can speak clearly with the healthcare provider
  • If they have articles or research papers about brain injury they want to share with their clinician, suggest they bring copies to their appointment
  • Use only sources of information that are reputable, credible, and based on evidence. University and medical research centres are examples of reputable sources
  • Encourage them to be open to their clinician’s perspective and knowledge of the topic
  • Take notes (or have someone take notes for them)
  • Ask for more links or resources so they can be more informed

Use their voice

Individuals have a powerful voice as a person with lived experience. Encourage them to use this power to advocate in their community. They can reach out to their local brain injury association to see if they can share their experience and challenges to help others and contribute to advocacy efforts. If they are interested in learning more, direct them to our page on self-advocacy.