April 20th, 2019

Brain works: Seniors learn about injuries, coping

By Jeremy Appel on September 27, 2017.

Diana Sirivath with BIRS hosts an information session on "brain health" during Active Aging Week at the Strathcona Centre on Tuesday.--NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT


Seniors had the opportunity to learn Tuesday at the Strathcona Centre about different types of brain injuries and their effects, as part of Active Aging and Wellness Week.

The event included an interactive presentation from Diana Sirivath, disability services worker for Brain Injury Relearning Service, as well as some brain-building games and puzzles.

“When you injure your brain, you’re not fully recovered per se,” said Sirivath. “You’re actually finding strategies and learning to cope, and finding ways to make things work for you.

“You can’t fix it, but you can definitely find other pathways to make those connections where you are able to try to do what you can before injury.”

The presentation focused on injuries to different parts of the brain — the temporal, occipital, frontal, cerebellum and parietal lobes — as well as concussions.

“Each part of the brain … works together,” Sirivath noted to explain the overlap in their various functions.

The temporal lobe deals with functions of perception, language and memory. A temporal injury can result in trouble controlling emotions.

Damaging the occipital lobe can impact vision. To demonstrate this, Sirivath had a member of the audience walk around in goggles that impede sight.

The frontal lobe is responsible for planning, problem solving, personality and feelings, an injury to which can cause aphasia, a communication disorder.

The cerebellum deals with muscle memory and movement co-ordination, and parietal with reading, touch and sensation.

When assisting people with concussions, which can affect any part of the brain, it’s best to allow them recover at their own pace, Sirivath said.

Sirivath recognized her limits in handling degenerative brain disorders, like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“We work with people with brain injuries, so there’s that potential to build strategies and skill-building as it’s connecting pathways to making new ideas and finding ways to do certain things,” she said.

“Patience is key” to assisting people with brain injuries, Sirivath added.

Shirley Leachman, 70, said the event helped her understand how the injured brain functions.

She said she once had an employee who suffered a brain injury and that her father currently has Alzheimer’s-related aphasia.

“There’s a lot of things that I learned that helped me understand what my employee was going through, helped me understand what my father is going through and also gave me some ideas of what I can do with respect to working with him,” said Leachman. “Maybe I can help him a little bit more.”

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