Ways Family Can Help a Loved One with a Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries can take a major toll on the life of your loved one as well as yours. Learn how to help someone suffering from a TBI and improve their quality of life)
Watching a loved one struggle with the symptoms and life effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) isn’t easy. A concussion or head injury could cause changes to a person’s mobility, cognition, speech, everyday functioning, or personality.
TBI affects not just the injured person but their entire family, who may have to change their lives to help their loved one recover or support them long-term.
To make matters worse, brain injuries are often “invisible,” with subtle effects that can get worse over time. A moderate or severe TBI victim may not even be aware they have a TBI until they get checked out. There’s still so much the medical establishment doesn’t know about brain injuries and the way they affect brain function. As a result, even your doctors may not fully know what to expect.
Even “mild” traumatic brain injuries are often quite serious. While some cases may resolve in a couple of weeks, others may take much longer. As many as 30% of concussion victims experience post-concussion syndrome for months or years after their initial injury.
You want to be there for your loved one but you probably don’t have any more experience at dealing with TBI than they do. What’s the best way you can help?
What is the Definition of Traumatic Brain Injury?
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a traumatic brain injury is defined as an injury that affects how the brain works. TBI symptoms can either be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the individual.
TBI is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders. Traumatic brain injury includes head trauma, restriction of blood flow, or other damage to the brain.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury?
The CDC estimates that 13.5 million people in the U.S. live with a disability due to a traumatic brain injury. An estimated 50,000 people die from TBI-related deaths every year.
The more severe the head injury, the more serious the prognosis. 60% of victims with moderate brain injury recover with minimal lingering issues. But for patients with severe TBI, 25-33% recover to a functional degree, 33% live with a disability, and the remaining 33% do not survive.
The first step to helping a TBI patient is to better understand what they’re going through. Ask their doctor about the details of their diagnosis. You may not understand all of the medical jargon but that’s okay. You can ask questions and take notes to continue your research later.
A traumatic brain injury can have symptoms ranging from anxiety, depression, and PTSD to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, slurred speech, light sensitivity, and paralysis. Post-concussion syndrome involves neurovascular coupling, affecting the communication between neurons in the brain and the blood vessels that give them energy.
The effects of a TBI depend on which parts of the brain were affected and the severity of the injury. The most debilitating cases could require supportive care or even live-in care. As a family member caring for a TBI patient, you may struggle to balance the needs of your loved one with your work and other family responsibilities. This could be even harder if the TBI caused your household to lose a source of income because the patient can no longer work.
Medical treatment and rehabilitation therapy for TBI can get expensive, too. If your loved one’s TBI was caused by someone else, a personal injury lawsuit can help you cover the costs.
How to Help Someone Recovering From TBI
Do not hesitate to talk to the therapists, nurses, and doctors providing your loved one’s care. They can instruct you best on how to help – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Depending on the severity and type of injury, specialists may be able to put together a plan for in-home care to improve their quality of life.
The fact that you’re concerned about how you can help means that your heart is in the right place. The following tips (more here) can help your loved one be as comfortable as possible without overstepping their boundaries.
Restore Structure and Normalcy
- Establish and maintain a daily routine
- Keep the items the patient needs within easy reach
- Let the patient rest as much as recommended
- Make sure the patient gets the prescribed amount of exercise or cognitive activity
- Include the patient in family activities and conversations even if they’re unable to speak
- Keep a calendar within view to establish a sense of time and date
- Use photo albums of family, friends, and familiar places to help with memory
Be Considerate and Respectful
- Respect your loved one’s wishes and personal choices
- Avoid talking down to the patient or blaming them for small mistakes
- Remind the patient of the gains they’ve made since the onset of their injury
- If a patient has memory issues, simplify activities down to more manageable steps
- Allow no more than a few visitors at a time
- Use simple language and keep your voice calm
- Avoid crowded places or groups of people speaking over each other
- Introduce thoughts and ideas one by one and wait patiently for a response
- Try to limit stimulation to a single sense (sight, hearing, touch) at a time
Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries rarely come with a reliable timeline to recovery – and the road to recovery is usually not linear. Some days may be worse than others. Some days may feel like one step forward while other days may feel like a few steps back.
It’s important to have patience, forgiveness, and grace for both your loved one and yourself.
How a Personal Injury Lawsuit Can Help
If someone else caused your loved one’s TBI, you can sue for personal injury and get damages that compensate you and your family for your losses. That includes the cost of:
- Current and future medical bills
- Transportation to and from the hospital
- Lost wages or income from becoming unable to work
- Pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life
Even though traumatic brain injuries can have major effects on someone’s life and health, they can happen in everyday, ordinary moments, like a car accident during your daily commute.
You only have a limited amount of time after an incident to file a TBI lawsuit for damages. That means you should talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. If your loved one lost their life because of a TBI-related cause, you could have a claim for wrongful death.