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4 Tips to Help Caregivers of Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors

These four tips will aid caregivers as they shepherd their loved one through the life-changing ordeal of traumatic brain injuries. 

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Traumatic brain injury affects more than 2 million Americans every year. Whether it’s a child who is injured while playing sports, an elder who has a severe fall, or a veteran who is injured during combat, survivors are faced with symptoms that affect them physically, mentally and emotionally. Family caregivers play a vital role in shepherding the brain injury survivor through this life-changing ordeal. They act as advocates, care managers, and spiritual counselors to help their loved one cope with a condition that wounds not only the body but the whole self. Here are four tips for caregivers of traumatic brain injury survivors.

1) Be informed, but hopeful, about the full impact of brain injury. Even when your loved one’s physical injuries heal, other deficits may remain, because of injury to brain areas involved in thinking and emotion. People with brain injury may be more irritable, impulsive, and disinhibited than before the injury- troubling family members, friends, and most of all, themselves, with the nature and magnitude of these changes. Learn from medical professionals such as neurologists and neuropsychologists what the impact of brain injury means for your loved one’s personality. Learn from counselors, support groups, and your loved one themselves, how to accommodate these changes in personality while helping them hold onto the emotional and spiritual core of who they are. Share memories, love and laugh often and stay hopeful. 

2) Explore options for home care and in-home rehabilitation. Because of lingering problems with memory and planning, your loved one may have trouble living independently after the injury. These problems may be as subtle as forgetting keys or glasses, or as dangerous as leaving the stove on, or the door unlocked. Home care and in-home rehabilitation can help your loved one adapt to changes in memory and planning. Call their insurance company to ask about arranging home care, or in-home rehabilitation, so a professional can help them plan and implement strategies to best accommodate these changes. 

3) Get help from friends and family. Brain injury is too overwhelming for you and your loved one to suffer alone. Reach out to friends and family for help. Consider using a website like CaringBridge.org or Caregiver.com which lets you request help (like help with chores, or rides to medical appointments) to coordinate care. Social media can be used to chronicle the journey, letting friends and family celebrate successes, and provide consolation when things get difficult. If your loved one is a hospital inpatient, consider reaching out to the chaplain or pastoral counselor for help coping with their condition. Also consider reaching out to spiritual leaders in your community for help.

4) Prepare for a life-long journey. Taking a long-term view of brain injury means acknowledging its impact may be life-long. Connect with community organizations such as the Brain Injury Alliance or Brain Injury Association in your state. They may offer a helpline and education sessions on coping, as well as support groups. Regular attendance of a support group is an important help for adjusting to the life-long consequences of brain injury. Seek out counseling with a therapist who is familiar with adjustment issues as pertains to the survivor and the family. This way, when challenges rise, you will have a toolkit of strategies and ways of understanding brain injury symptoms, especially as they affect your loved one’s personality. For example, therapists can help you reframe outbursts or hurtful comments as simply symptoms of the injury and not personal attacks. This can make coping easier and promote positive growth. Brain injury is challenging and heart-breaking but also a unique opportunity to guide a loved one back to health and to re-connect them to faith, family and the things that matter most.

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