When you have been the victim of an accident resulting in serious personal injury, it can take weeks, months and even years to fully comprehend the damages you have suffered. While you heal physically, you also heal emotionally as well. It takes time for you, your loved ones and your friends to adjust to this new set of circumstances.
Part of your recovery from a TBI is learning how to live with your condition and the potential implications this type of injury can have on many aspects of your life.
Recovery from TBI is possible. The more you and your loved ones understand about how to live with your injury, the easier it will be for you and them to deal to adjust to the new situation.
What Every Caregiver Needs To Know
Traumatic brain injuries affect both family and friends of the injured person. Caregivers, in particular, often require extra help and support in handling their new responsibilities.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAUSA), the demands of attending to an injured loved one can result in overwhelming feelings of depression, fear and anxiety.
After dealing with the shock and uncertainty of the early days in the immediate aftermath of the injury, you will likely get a better idea of the extent of damage caused by the traumatic brain injury and the limitations the injured person will face during recovery.
Doctors, nurses and hospital staff will provide care for your injured loved one while you are hospitalized. Once you get home, these responsibilities will fall on you.
According to the BIAUSA, people with traumatic brain injuries often become irritable and depressed once they are at home and realize they can no longer function the way they did prior to their injuries.
As a caregiver, providing structure in the injured person’s daily activities can help fend off negative feelings and provide a pattern and purpose for the day.
To provide this structure, the BIAUSA recommends taking these steps:
Be knowledgeable about their condition – Know what your loved one can and cannot do by being closely involved with both the doctor and his or her rehabilitation appointments. As tempting as it may be to use this time for personal pursuits, at these appointments, you will gain valuable information that can help you care for your loved one.
Plan living space accordingly – Plan the room the injured person will stay in so that he or she can be as independent as possible. Due to the injury, your loved one will likely have problems with memory. So, place stickers on drawers labeling their contents and use labeled trays and dividers on the nightstand to hold personal items such as a wallet and glasses. You may want to make up cue cards describing the steps to performing certain activities such as using the television remote.
Provide structure in their day – Structure is crucial to avoid frustration, boredom and loneliness. Set up a schedule for the injured person and keep it filled with activities. Perform certain tasks at the same time each day and write down tasks and activities in a place where your loved one can see them.
Provide prompts – Use verbal and written prompts to keep them on task and remind them of appointments or activities they will be participating in each day.
Give cues and reminders – Use plenty of lists, post-it notes and cue cards for personal reminders such as what time dinner is or when to take medicines. You can also scatter pictures and positive messages throughout the room to keep his or her spirits up.
Dealing with Depression
In facing the sometimes drastic changes that result from a traumatic brain injury, feelings of depression are not uncommon. Brainline.org, a national information resource on preventing and treating traumatic brain injuries, states that post-TBI depression can occur in the days immediately after an injury has occurred and last for weeks and even months if left untreated.
Depression, in general, is characterized by overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness or despair. The serious cognitive, emotional and physical disturbances that are common in the aftermath of a TBI can easily cause a depressive episode to occur.
People who have suffered traumatic brain injuries may be depressed over the effects of their injury and its impact on their quality of life. Depression often occurs as an emotional reaction to a new set of circumstances and limitations on the person’s activities. It can also be a chemical reaction occurring as a result of changes in the brain or body.
Brainline.org advises that it is also common for depression to occur as the result of post-traumatic stress, in which the person experiences frightening and realistic flashbacks to the accident which caused the injury.
Brainline.org recommends treating depression early – before it becomes pathological. The resource also advises family members and friends of the injured person to be alert for the following signs of depression:
- Lack of concentration and slowed movements
- Decreased energy and feeling lethargic
- Loss of desire in participating in social functions, activities or hobbies
- Withdrawing from other people and retreating into isolation
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia or sleeping too much
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Suicidal and self-destructive thoughts and actions.
According to Brainline.org, one of the first steps in treating depression is acknowledging its existence. It is important to realize that it is only natural to feel unhappy or sad over a TBI, and the limitations and changes that occur as a result.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. It is not something to be ashamed of, either. Begin by attempting to make small changes in attitude and behavior.
You can help a person suffering from depression related to TBI by helping them to set up a routine, encouraging them to stay involved in interests and activities and encouraging them to get support from others by sharing their feelings.
A depression that lingers may require more aggressive treatment. Speak with your doctor about the types of help available that can make a difference in alleviating depression and its symptoms. Physical activity such as taking walks and doing yoga can help. Meditation is therapeutic as well in treating depression. In severe cases, you may want to consult with your family doctor about prescribing antidepressant medications.
What Others Have Experienced
If you have suffered a TBI, it is important to realize you are not alone. According to the Brain Injury Association of Illinois (Association), more than 1.5 million people suffer TBI each year as the result of accidental injuries.
These injuries occur as the result of a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, which disrupts the normal flow and processes of the brain – often resulting in a diminished or even altered form of consciousness. The Association states that the most common causes of TBI are motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries and violence.
While every brain injury is different, certain problems associated with TBI are common. The Association lists the following common impacts of TBI, which vary depending on the nature and severity of your injury:
- Cognitive – These types of impairments include problems with processing thoughts, memory loss and impaired judgment and reasoning.
- Physical – The physical ramifications of TBI commonly include headaches, balance problems, muscle spasms and seizures.
- Emotional – Emotional disturbances caused by TBI may include dramatic mood swings, depression, increased irritation, anxiety, impulsive and potentially dangerous behaviors and bouts of anger.
Connecting with others in the same situation and hearing their experiences with TBI not only helps sufferers better understand their own injuries and how to deal with them. It can help their family members and caregivers as well.
The Association offers resources for people with brain injuries and their families throughout Illinois. It also offers opportunities for those affected throughout the Chicago and Waukegan areas to connect with other TBI sufferers.
The Association has support groups in which TBI sufferers, their families and caregivers can share their experiences. It also provides a calendar of events and activities available within the local community and information on the latest research and tools for living with TBI.
Current Technology for TBI
In recent years, there has been increased public awareness regarding traumatic brain injuries and their impacts on the millions of people who sustain these types of injuries each year.
As awareness has increased, so has the number and variety of technological devices available to help make living with and recovering from TBI easier.
According to Brainline.org, assistive technology devices can help people who have suffered a TBI to be more involved and fully engaged in day-to-day life.
While an assistive device may be something as simple as a calendar or a set of post-it notes, there are new technological devices which can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to live with and recover from TBI.
Brainline.org offers a list of some of the latest high-tech assistive devices, which include the following:
- Computer voice recognition and screen enlargement programs to help people with visual impairments
- Educational aids such as book holders, automatic page turners and pencil grips to assist students in classrooms
- Lightweight wheelchairs designed specifically for sports and recreational activities
- Personal digital assistant devices to help with cognitive as well as physical functions such as dispensing medication.
In addition to the above, recently released phone applications highlighted on Brainline.org assist people with TBI through the use of their iPhone, iPad or Android device. Voice recorders, dictation devices, transcribers, interactive calendars and note pads all help people with TBI communicate more effectively and keep track of daily tasks while a variety of memory and naming games can help increase visual and cognitive skills.
Learning to live with the changes that result from traumatic brain injuries often means adapting to new ways of doing everyday tasks and activities, while also learning to celebrate successes both large and small.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of different ways to cope with the changes brought about by TBI, including:
Get support – Talk to your doctor or contact the resources listed above to see about joining a support group. Talking with others in the same situation offers inspiration and encouragement as well as practical tips for dealing with problems or difficulties.
Keep things consistent and orderly – Follow a daily schedule and keep things organized to reduce confusion and frustration. Repetition is important. So, repeat names, review instructions and use the same routes for going to the doctor or store.
Alter your expectations – Allow more time to complete tasks and realize that there are some things that may be beyond your reach at the moment. Take breaks. Arrange your time so that you can rest between activities to avoid mistakes or becoming overwhelmed.
Try to stay focused – Limit your attention to one task at a time and avoid background distractions such as the television or radio.
Remember that whether you are dealing with the effects of TBI or taking care of someone who has been injured, recovery takes time. If you have suffered a TBI, go easy on yourself and others, allow extra time for doing things and give yourself credit for the small successes each day.
By staying positive, you will be better able to cope with your situation and stand a better chance of making a good recovery.
Contact an Illinois Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. We understand the serious ramifications resulting from these injuries. We can advise you on how to seek the compensation you need to recover. Serving clients throughout the Chicago and Waukegan areas, we are here to help. Call or contact us online today for a free consultation and personal review of your case.