Brain Injuries. . . Help with Memory Loss

An exciting new approach to vocational rehabilitation is being used successfully by Turning Point, a division of Southern Oregon Goodwill Industries that specializes in vocational programs for people who have sustained an injury to the brain. In addition to the usual services, Turning Point offers programs tailored to meet the unique needs of those who have trouble due to memory loss.

Many people who have sustained an injury to the brain are discharged from acute medical care and returned to their homes and family when they are pronounced medically stable. For those who are referred for assistance in returning to work, it becomes apparent that compensatory skills training is needed. Compensatory skills training focuses on teaching a wide range of coping strategies to deal with such problems as short-term memory loss, difficulty following oral directions, setting priorities and controlling emotional episodes. Given the opportunity and time to reinforce new habits, many people with brain injuries are capable of learning strategies for handling a majority of everyday situations.

Kathy Moeller 1994 Kathy Moeller, job coach at Turning Point, is a passionate advocate for compensatory skills training. In 1990 she sustained a closed head injury when her automobile collided with a bus. For the past three years she has used compensatory skills acquired at residential and outpatient treatment facilities to reorder her life. Kathy’s goal has been to return to fulltime employment. She says, “I am convinced that many of my peers could be working if they were given the opportunity to learn how to compensate for losses that occur at the time of injury.” Kathy needed to learn how to follow an employer’s instructions, handle interruptions and reset priorities, schedule tasks, remember her routine and control stress. Motivated by her own need plus a creative mind and limitless energy, Kathy developed The BRAIN BOOK® Life Management System, a tool kit to help people with brain injuries lead a normal life.

The BRAIN BOOK® is a customized day/life planner. Explaining the system Kathy says, “Short-term memory problems call for day planner mastery, while scheduling challenges require setting priorities and writing down steps to complete them. Confusion can be managed by learning how to divide a situation into basic parts. The problem of getting lost is helped by learning to use special maps. Becoming emotionally overwhelmed can be avoided by learning how to take a break. When mastered, the strategies for handling these and other problems can be applied to the workplace.

Goodwill’s Turning Point program helps people learn new skills and apply them to work and daily living. The Brain Book® is one method used in the retraining process. Lorraine Linder, a registered nurse, heads up the Turning Point staff, which has worked with 27 people in 1994. If you know of someone who needs this type of assistance, call Lorraine at (541)776-3427.