Few types of injuries and illnesses have a comparable impact on a family as that of a brain injury. Those suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) will require part-time or full-time care, and may never be quite the same person they once were before the injury occurred. In many cases, they are likely to develop different behavior, perceive the world in new ways, or lose much of their independence. That’s why it’s important to understand what you can expect when caring for a loved one who has TBI symptoms, and know how to care for their unique needs.
A Team Effort
Being a caregiver for someone with a TBI is almost always too much for one person to handle on their own, especially if full-time care is needed. In the days following the injury, it’s a good idea to get together with your family to figure out how you can work cooperatively to help provide the necessary brain injury care. Potential caregivers might include family, friends, or even paid caregivers referred by an agency. The more people you have helping to provide care, the easier it will be on everyone involved.
What You Need To Know
A TBI is a life-changing injury. When dealing with a brain injury, physical recovery is only half of the picture, and your family will need to be ready to cope with the likelihood of significant cognitive or behavioral changes. Fortunately, with the right support systems in place, many of those who suffer from a TBI will be able to enjoy a life similar to the one they had prior to their injury.
Facing the possibility of social alienation and several significant life changes, it’s easy for your loved one to become bored, lose physical fitness, and develop a variety of alienating behaviors. You can help reduce the risk of this occurring with a little preemptive planning. This planning should include learning as much as you can about the specific deficits you can expect from your loved one during rehabilitation, and seeking strategies that can help them compensate for those deficits.
Although every TBI will present different symptoms depending on the areas of the brain affected, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are a handful of common problems that you should be prepared for. Unlike physical symptoms, it can be difficult for friends and family to understand these types of changes. Many individuals who suffer from a TBI will lose the ability to plan and organize their day, recall information, stay on task in the face of distraction, and make sense of the world around them.
Elderly people suffering from a TBI are at increased risk for a variety of problems that can make their injury more severe, including social isolation, decreased independence, decreases in strength and endurance, and an increased risk for further injuries from falling. Many of these risks can be mitigated by encouraging your loved one to remain physically active, to socialize with friends and family, and to remain involved in their community.
Brain Injury and At-Home Care
Try and arrange your loved one’s room in a way that allows them to remain as independent as possible. This may include using labels to describe the contents of drawers, or even providing cue cards with written steps to help them remember how to do a variety of simple tasks. These tasks include showering, shaving, and many other common types of personal care. You should also consider creating a schedule that helps your loved one to remain as active as possible without becoming fatigued. The schedule might include activities like therapy, community engagement, or social time with friends.
One of the most common complaints of families who are helping to provide care for someone with a TBI is that they don’t feel like doing anything. One way you can overcome this problem by helping to plan activities for your loved one. After you’ve made a plan, be sure to use written and verbal reminders to help keep that plan in play. If your loved one has problems with their memory, you can use lists and post-it notes to help them remain independent and to prevent the frustration of making a simple mistake.
Preventing Future Falls
It’s also a good idea to make your care environment less likely to create another fall. This can be as simple as using non-stick mats in the shower, installing handrails on any staircases, ensuring the use of shoes with non-slip soles, and discouraging going shoeless or wearing slippery footwear. You should also make sure that common household items are easily within reach, preempting the need for stepstool.
A Long Term Goal
Helping provide traumatic brain injury care for a loved one is never easy, but with the right support, they can learn to adjust, and ultimately lead fulfilling lives. If a behavioral problem becomes too much for you to manage, you should seek professional help at a rehabilitation or mental health facility. It’s also a good idea to contact your physician any time a behavioral change occurs in your loved one or if they are having seizures. In particular, keep your eyes out for complaints of bad smells or tastes, hallucinations, and restless pacing, any of which might indicate a silent seizure.
What have you done to attempt to prevent a fall? Share with us in the comments below.