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Tips for Working with Individuals with a Brain Health Condition:

  • Always have the client’s best interest in mind. Always present them with options to the best of your ability and suggest things that are only in their best interest.
  • Be honest. This is essential to your relationship with a person who is dealing with a brain health condition. By being honest, you are not going to be instilling a false sense of hope to your client.
  • Get to know your client. Learn and gather the information that your service needs to know in order to best help the client.
  • Clear communication. Make sure that you remain in contact with the client as appropriate and in an effective matter.
  • Provide a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental environment for the client. Whether you meet a client in their home, at the hospital, or in your office always make sure that it is an appropriate environment for both the client’s safety and yours.
  • Actively Listen. Sometimes all people need is for someone to listen to their story so utilize those attending skills i.e. proper verbal and non-verbal communications such as nodding your head, summarizing what the client has said, asking for clarification when needed).
  • Seek Consultation as Needed. It is vital that professionals seek further input and supervision as they need it. Ask your co-workers, other service providers, or anyone who can be of assistance to help you with a current case or situation you are working with.
  • Become Aware of the Brain Basics. Familiarizing yourself with the basics of how the brain develops, the structure of the brain, and how changes in the brain can affect ones physical and mental health are just a few topics that may be useful for you to access. (Please see heading “Resources for Professionals” for some helpful links).
  • Link Client to Appropriate Resources. Often a client needs multiple resources to provide assistance with their brain health condition. For example, an individual with epilepsy may utilize the services through their local centre, but may also need to be linked to government social assistance or transportation alternatives as a result of their condition. Whatever the brain health condition, it is important as a professional to direct the client and their families to the appropriate resources.
  • Stay up to date with current research in your field. Because you are working with the most complex system in existence, the brain, you need to keep yourself informed on new research that is coming out, new programs, advancements in the field, and be able relay that information to your clients.

Importance Maintaining Effective Communication with Other Service Providers:

Depending on your profession, this will determine how much contact you have with clients as well as the methods in which you have contact with them. Nowadays, there are several methods of communicating with clients such as by telephone, email, social media, and face-to-face contact to name a few. Each communication method comes with its strengths and weaknesses but providing effective communication is definitely a common goal between all.

How to Maintain Effective Communication with Other Service Providers:

  • Network. Network. Network! Utilize other services for advice, support, referrals, and to acquire information that will be helpful to your clients. Attend meetings regularly within the workplace as well as in the community are both great ways to build your professional network.
  • Give clients access to your network. When appropriate, refer clients to your own network within the health care or social services system.
  • Be sensitive to differences in understanding technical knowledge. Often in the workplace we come up with abbreviations or use medical language and it is easy to forget that most clients are not going to understand those terms.
  • Make clients aware of important updates in the field that are relevant to them. Professionals are usually the ones who are informed first about updates in the field that they are working in. If a new service is created, a new law is passed that relates to your client and their wellbeing let them know as soon as possible.
  • Remain confidential. Each employer or organization has their own confidentiality policies and agreements. It is your job as a professional, to follow your company’s confidentiality policy as well as respect others confidentiality policies as well.
  • Provide feedback. If you notice a gap in service or something that is working well or not working well in your workplace or in another service that you are connecting with, contact the appropriate department or individual who you can give your feedback to. Positive feedback and suggestions for improvement are needed in order for organizations to better serve their clients.

Self-Care and Preventing Stress or Burnout:

Professionals must aid to their own self-care needs in order to be affective for their clients to the best of their ability. Below are some suggestions of self-care tips and prevention tips that may be beneficial to you.

Ways to Practice Self-Care in Your Daily Life:
  • Eat healthy meals regularly
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get adequate sleep every night
  • Be aware of your own stress
Ways to Prevent Stress or Burnout While at Work:
  • Take time off work when needed
  • Do not skip breaks or meals while at work
  • Request to lighten your caseload if you are feeling too stressed or overwhelmed
  • It is okay to say “No” to more responsibility
  • Consult with colleagues about cases or clients that you are working with that you might want feedback on
  • Create or seek out a professional support group
  • Use relaxation techniques (i.e. deep breathing) or other things you can do at your desk or wherever you may be as needed
  • Be aware of your own personal boundaries and limitations with patients
Ways to Prevent Stress or Burnout Outside of Work:
  • Spend time with your  family and friends
  • Seek out other professional help if you are still feeling overwhelmed
  • Participate in community events or groups that are important to you
  • Engage in activities that promote feelings of relaxation and rejuvenation (these are different for everybody)
  • Be aware of your own thoughts and feelings
  • Seek out the positivity in situations

Signs and Symptoms of Stress and Burnout:

Physical: Behavioural:
Chronic fatigue Isolation or withdrawal
Disruptions in sleep Restlessness
Catching colds easier and more frequent than usual   Relationship changes
Changes in appetite Lack of productivity or poor performance
Headaches Changes in alcohol or drug consumption
Muscle tension Loss of enjoyment in activities that you once enjoyed
Sexual dysfunction  
Emotional: Cognitive:
Feeling overwhelmed Forgetfulness
Feeling helpless or hopeless Impaired concentrations and attention
Increased irritability Disbelief, sense of numbing
Feeling inadequate or ineffective Replaying events in your mind
Feelings of cynicism and detachment Decreased concentration
Sense of vulnerability Confusion
Increased mood swings Struggle with making problem-solving or decision making
Crying more easily or frequently  
Suicidal or violent thoughts or urges  

Resources for Professionals:

Created by the National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/educational-resources/brain-basics/nimh-brain-basics_132798.pdf
Ontario Brain Basics Training Provided by Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA): http://obia.ca/elearning/
Ontario Brain Institute: http://www.braininstitute.ca/homepage
Psychology Today Article: Five Facts about Brain Health: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/make-your-brain-smarter/201307/five-facts-about-brain-health
Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation: http://www.cnsfederation.org/
Three Stages of Burnout pdf. http://socialwork.buffalo.edu/content/socialwork/home/resources/self-care-starter-kit/additional-self-care-resources/self-care-readings/_jcr_content/par/download_0/file.res/three-stages-of-burnout.pdf
Self-Burnout Online Test: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_08.htm