To identify the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI), with particular attention to unique effects for individuals with chronic disability.
Individuals with and without a history of TBI completed a web-based survey.
Participants were recruited from the Vanderbilt Brain Injury Patient Registry in Nashville, TN and completed the survey from their homes between May and June 2020, during social distancing related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
47 individuals in the chronic phase of moderate-severe TBI (>6 months post-injury) and 51 non-injured healthy comparison (NC) peers completed the survey.
Participants, or respondents, answered a mix of multiple-choice and free-text questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their work, education, medical care, social communication, sources of information and decision-making, and mental and physical well-being. Individuals with TBI also answered questions about how TBI has affected their experiences of the pandemic.
As a group, respondents with TBI reported less pandemic-related behavior change (e.g., daily habits, virtual social visits, and masking) than NC peers. Both NCs and respondents with TBI identified healthcare providers as trusted sources of public health information. One third of individuals with TBI indicated that brain injury has made coping with the pandemic more difficult, and respondents identified mental health challenges and social isolation as key barriers.
These results suggest that healthcare providers should look for ways to provide tailored education and reduce social isolation for individuals with disability during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We discuss a number of direct suggestions from participant responses.