While many people may consider concussions or other types of mild traumatic brain injuries to be relatively minor injuries, any head trauma is capable of having a long-lasting impact not only on the victim, but on his or her family as well.
Recovery following a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be a long and sometimes confusing process, particularly when a child with TBI is involved. It is for this reason caregivers and loved ones should educate themselves on brain injuries, so they have an understanding on what to expect and can begin to adjust to the new responsibilities they will take on.
As the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) reminds us, “Brain injury rehabilitation is a marathon and not a sprint.” Families need to be prepared to go the distance to provide their loved one with the level of quality care he or she requires during the recovery process.
Fortunately, there are a number of groups geared toward providing TBI caregivers with unwavering compassion and support.
The Effect a TBI Can Have on a Victim’s Family and Loved Ones
Family members and loved ones of a TBI victim may begin to experience feelings of being overwhelmed, burden, stress, anxiety, resentment, anger and even depression. Rest assured that this is quite common.
With TBIs, a lot can change in the blink of an eye. An individual who was outgoing, energetic and communicative prior to sustaining a TBI may suddenly become withdrawn, aggressive and unwilling to interact with others.
Individuals who suffer TBIs in car accidents, falls or sports-related injuries may experience a wide variety of physical cognitive and psychological symptoms. These are just a few of the symptoms you should be aware of:
- Personality changes.
- Memory problems.
- Learning difficulties.
- Shortened attention span.
- Coordination problems.
- Difficulties with speech.
- Paralysis, partial or full.
- Lack of empathy toward others.
- Inability to control emotions.
- Aggression or irritability.
- Mood swings.
Research has proven the ease with which a TBI victim achieves recovery and is able to be reintegrated into the community is in direct correlation to the level of support he or she has from family and friends, according to Brainline. In this type of situation, family-centered care is an integral part of rehabilitation and recovery.
While there is no surefire way to fully prepare for these types of situations, patience and compassion are key during such difficult times.
Strategies to Help Caregivers Cope and Alleviate Stress
Family members and other caregivers often find themselves having to do tasks the TBI victim is no longer able to do on his or her own. While balancing a checkbook, making dinner, helping the kids with homework, doing laundry and other everyday tasks may seem mundane, it is this type of activities which can lead to extra stress and strain on caregivers.
TBI caregivers need to realize the importance of learning how to cope with their new situation and finding a way to alleviate their own personal stress. If you are worn out, irritable or frustrated, those emotions will have a negative impact on your loved one.
A mild TBI victim needs all the help, compassion and support you can provide. The following strategies may be used to help you adjust to your role as caregiver and alleviate any stress you may be feeling:
- Take time for yourself. Caregivers should never attempt to provide care to another when they are physically or emotionally exhausted. Sharing responsibilities with another family member or opting for in-home assistance can help eliminate compassion fatigue.
- Never ignore feelings of depression or anxiety. Support groups can help you understand your role, cope with the problems you face and alleviate concerns.
- Maintain a regular schedule as much as possible. This will not only provide stability for your loved one, but it will allow you to tend to your personal needs as well.
- You do not have to go through this alone. Insist that you get the assistance and support you need.
Mild TBIs will usually have more of an effect on a family’s life than they may have originally thought. Working together, obtaining support and following recommended medical treatments and rehabilitation programs can help you find the proper balance needed to enable a proper recovery.
Brain Injury Association of America – Family & Caregivers
Brain Injury Association of America – Choosing the Right Caregiver Support Group
Family Caregiver Alliance – Traumatic Brain Injury
Brainline – Caregiving & Brain Injury