Life Care Planning for Brain Injury Survivors 

A brain injury can have a significant impact on an individual's life, and the process of developing a comprehensive Life Care Plan (LCP) for a brain injury survivor is complex and specific. A Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) can play a critical role in the LCP process, providing expertise and support to design a plan that is tailored to the individual's specific needs and goals. We talked with MacKenzie Life Care Planning expert Kristy Easley about the benefits of having a CBIS work on your life care plan, including the ability to provide a big-picture view, ensure reasonable outcomes, and advocate for necessary care and resources.

What is a CBIS and why would I need one?

A Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) is a healthcare professional specializing in the care and rehabilitation of individuals who have experienced brain injuries. The certification is offered by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) and is designed for rehabilitation professionals who have at least 500 hours of experience working with individuals with brain injuries.

The certification process for CBIS involves completing a training program that covers the underpinnings of brain injury and rehabilitation. The program is conducted through the Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists (ACBIS) and includes a detailed examination that assesses the candidate's knowledge and skills in brain injury rehabilitation.

CBIS professionals possess specialized knowledge in the areas of cognition, cognitive rehabilitation, and long-term care for brain injury. They are trained to provide comprehensive care and support to individuals with brain injuries, including those with severe brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of brain injury that occurs as a result of an external force, such as a blow to the head. A TBI can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the injury. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), also known as a concussion, is a type of brain injury that is often overlooked and, in some cases, can have long-term consequences if not properly treated.

CBIS professionals are trained to work with individuals who have experienced mild to severe brain injuries. They can assist with the cognitive and physical rehabilitation of the individual and help them find a path to regain their independence and quality of life.

Understanding the options for the ongoing needs after brain injury is essential to guiding an individual toward the support required long-term. CBIS professionals can provide guidance and support to the individual and their families throughout the recovery process. By taking the extra steps to train, test, and maintain the focus to maintain the CBIS credential, these professionals offer better information and insight because they stay actively engaged and up to date about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other acquired brain injuries.

The Role of CBIS in Life Care Planning

A traumatic brain injury is a complex injury that can impact an individual's physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. TBI is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with millions of new cases each year. Working with a Certified Brain Injury Specialist can provide individuals and families with the specialized expertise and support they need to manage the challenges associated with brain injury and achieve the highest possible level of independence and quality of life. With extensive knowledge about brain injuries and the specialized care that is needed, a life care planner with a CBIS credential can better tailor the plan for the individual's specific needs and address their preferences for maintaining a positive quality of life.

The role of a CBIS in Life Care Planning is significant, as they possess specialized knowledge and skills in brain injury rehabilitation that can be invaluable in developing a comprehensive LCP for individuals with brain injuries. No two brain injuries are the same, and no two plans of care look the same. The highest value advantage is a big-picture view of what a person may experience over a lifetime. A life care planner with CBIS credentials can assess and project the most reasonable outcome, not under-reporting or over-reporting needs. Locking someone into a treatment program that doesn’t meet their needs can be detrimental. Not providing the right treatment can be a challenge to quality of life.

Specialized Knowledge and Expertise

CBIS professionals have specialized training and knowledge in the assessment, treatment, and management of brain injuries. This specialized expertise can help to ensure that individuals receive the most effective and appropriate treatment and support. A CBIS has a unique understanding of the nuances of brain injury and its impact on an individual's functioning. They can provide a treatment path that accounts for the common thread of cognitive improvement needs that can touch every area of life after brain injury.

Comprehensive Assessment

CBIS professionals conduct comprehensive assessments to evaluate an individual's cognitive, communication, behavioral, and emotional functioning. This assessment can help to identify specific challenges when developing an individualized treatment plan. A CBIS’s assessment can include a special cognitive evaluation that can identify the need for a range of services, including rehabilitation, counseling, and education, to help individuals with brain injuries reach their full potential. A life care planner with CBIS credentials brings a broader view of future care needs and a better understanding of long-term care issues that arise from related chronic conditions.

A CBIS can conduct a thorough assessment of the individual's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social functioning. This assessment can provide a foundation for the LCP and ensure that it is tailored to the individual's specific needs.

Individualized Treatment and Rehabilitation Planning

Based on the assessment results, and by collaborating with other healthcare professionals, CBIS professionals develop individualized treatment and rehabilitation plans that address the specific needs and goals of the individual. A life care planner who is a CBIS can support individuals with brain injuries by creating plans that provide the care and support they need to live fulfilling lives. This may include cognitive rehabilitation therapy, behavioral interventions, and mental health support services. They can help people understand the resources that are available and present a plan to ensure that individuals with brain injuries receive the resources they need to reach their goals.

A CBIS can work with the individual, their family, and their healthcare team to establish realistic goals for rehabilitation and recovery. This goal-setting process is critical to the LCP and emphasizes the individual's needs and goals at the forefront of the planning process. Based on the assessment and goal-setting, a CBIS can develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the individual's needs and goals. This treatment plan can include a range of services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, counseling services, and vocational rehabilitation.

Collaboration with Other Healthcare Professionals

CBIS professionals work as part of a multidisciplinary team, collaborating with other healthcare professionals such as physicians, neuropsychologists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and vocational rehabilitation counselors to ensure coordinated and comprehensive care. They understand that the severity of brain injuries ranges from mild to severe with many resulting in life-changing chronic issues. CBIS professionals understand the importance of education for those with injuries of all severity levels. 

A life care plan that includes coordinated care across multiple providers and settings can help individuals access appropriate and effective care and improve their quality of life. Whenever possible, a CBIS credentialed life care planner coordinates with an individual’s treating physicians and therapists to gain insight and recommendations for usual, customary, and reasonable care options within their respective scope of practice in order to develop a comprehensive life care plan.

Support for Family Members and Caregivers

CBIS professionals provide education and support to family members and caregivers to help them understand and manage the challenges associated with caring for a loved one with a brain injury. They also know that a lot gets overlooked or presumed if you are not working with patients and their families. In a life care plan, it is very important to include appropriate access to qualified caregivers beyond just what the family can provide. 

Connecting individuals and families who have experienced brain injuries to support groups can also be a valuable resource for emotional support and practical advice. Working with support groups provides a long-term perspective in care and awareness of what is truly helpful when living with brain injury. For example, the East Texas Brain Injury Support Group meets monthly to support any individual with acquired brain injury, family members, and professionals in the circle of care.

Improved Quality of Life

By addressing the specific challenges and needs of individuals with brain injuries, CBIS professionals can provide insight for a life care plan that helps to improve their overall quality of life. This may include improvements in cognitive functioning, communication skills, emotional regulation, and social participation. Working with a life care planner who has a CBIS credential can provide individuals with brain injuries and their families with the specialized expertise and support they need to manage the challenges associated with brain injury and achieve the highest possible level of independence and quality of life. 

Whether you or a loved one has experienced a mild or severe brain injury, working with a CBIS can provide the comprehensive care and support you need.

What Makes A Life Care Planner with CBIS A Better Choice? 

A CBIS credentialed life care planner will bring specialized knowledge and expertise for more comprehensive care, emotional support, advocacy, and follow-up. By working with a CBIS, you can trust that your life care plan is tailored to your unique needs and goals in order to access the best possible care and support for your recovery. 

The majority of resources for healthcare for individuals with TBI are delegated to costs for initial hospitalization and acute care while a much smaller percentage of resources are available for post-acute care and rehabilitation. The reality is that only the beginning phases of recovery occur in acute care, leaving the majority of recovery to occur in the underfunded post-acute care phase. CBISs can identify the necessary costs for future care needs during the life care planning process to ensure that the individual receives the care and support they need to achieve their goals and live a fulfilling life.

 A benefit of working with a CBIS in life care planning is their ability to support reasonable outcomes. Developing a comprehensive LCP involves considering the individual's current and future needs and medical recommendations from treating providers, and balancing these needs with available resources. A CBIS can use their expertise to develop a plan that provides the necessary treatment that can improve quality of life while distinguishing between what is necessary and unnecessary for optimal care. 

About Kristy Easley, MA, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLCP

Kristy Easley is a certified life care planner at MacKenzie Life Care Planners. With over 20 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist and ten years as a certified brain injury specialist (CBIS), Kristy brings extensive expertise to life care planning from serving as a treating clinician in inpatient residential and outpatient brain injury rehabilitation, skilled nursing rehabilitation, and in pediatric home health and outpatient settings. Her work includes serving patients with traumatic brain injuries caused by accidents or other external events and non-traumatic brain injuries such as stroke, encephalopathies, and anoxic injuries. 

Kristy’s unique perspective to the life care planning process and her work with support groups help her plan for the needs and goals of individuals with brain injuries, as well as the challenges that their families may face. 

Kristy's passion for supporting individuals with brain injuries extends across organizations and geographies. She has established and is the co-facilitator of the East Texas Brain Injury Support Group, a support group open to individuals with any type of acquired brain injury, as well as other rehabilitation professionals, to provide casual support and ongoing connections for both brain injury survivors and their families. She is also a board member of the Texas Brain Injury Alliance, HeadUp TBI East Texas, and a member of the International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals.

If you or someone you know requires a life care plan after a brain injury, contact MacKenzie Life Care Planning to learn more about how Kristy's expertise can benefit you.