TBI: How it Affects the Family and How They Can Help With Recovery

The effects of a brain injury on the patients and their families, regardless of its severity, can be complex. Find out how you can cope with the responsibility of caregiving and how you can help your loved one through the recovery process.

A traumatic brain injury affects not only the patients, but also their families. In many instances, life is not the same after the brain injury. TBIs affect each family differently, but there are some common problems that many families experience including financial difficulty, emotional distress, lack of support from family and friends, and altered family dynamics, among others.

TBIs Effects on Caregivers

People respond to the demands of caregiving differently. It’s normal for families of TBI patients to feel shock, confusion and overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for their loved one. Some other emotions that carers go through include:

  • Grief – This is quite common especially if their loved one exhibits personality changes because of the TBI. The caregiver often feels like the family member they knew and loved is gone and that a stranger has taken their place. The duties thrust upon them can also become so overwhelming that they feel a sense of loss for their former life before they had to schedule their days around the injured person.
  • Stress – Aside from the daily struggle associated with taking care of a person with TBI, the caregiver may have other worries that can trigger stress, such as job loss, caring for kids, financial problems, etc.
  • Anger and frustration – These feelings may arise when faced with difficult behavior from the injured person on a regular basis, such as angry outbursts, verbal or physical aggression, etc.
  • Resentment – The primary caregiver may feel as if other members of the family aren’t stepping up to provide support and to relieve some of the burden of taking care of the person with TBI. They may also resent the injured person for not seeming to be grateful for their efforts.
  • Guilt – This is a common feeling for caregivers if they have had thoughts about not wanting to provide care for their loved one, or have lost their temper, or felt embarrassed for and by the injured person.
  • Fear – Feeling fear and anxiety for the future, especially with regards to whether the injured person will recover, is common.

Looking After Yourself

Remember that it is important to take care of yourself if you are to effectively care for your loved one. Some tips to help you maintain a your health and wellbeing include:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Take a few minutes every day to breathe and relax
  • Keep a regular schedule for yourself and the injured person
  • Try to get regular exercise each day (such as a 15-20-minute walk)
  • Maintain a sense of humor
  • Find support groups, whether face-to-face or online
  • Be assertive about your needs and ask for help when you need it
  • Take time for yourself occasionally

How To Help a Person With TBI

Your loved one’s treatment team can guide you with regards to the assistance you can provide, being careful not to give them too much or too little help. The best way to learn how to be of help in your loved one’s recovery is to attend therapy sessions with them, as well as work with their therapists and nurses.

Some practical ways to help your loved one once they are given permission to come home include, but are not limited to:

  • Make sure they are given structure and some semblance of normalcy day-to-day
    • Establish a daily routine to help them feel more secure
    • Give them ample time to rest
    • Place objects that they need within easy reach
    • Include them in family activities and discussions
  • Care for them respectfully
    • Treat the person courteously and never talk down to them
    • Don’t make them feel bad about making mistakes (e.g., spilling food, etc.)
    • If they become disoriented or can’t seem to remember how to do something, explain patiently and as simply as possible
    • Respect their preferences when it comes to clothes, entertainment, and food (unless they have dietary restrictions, in which case patiently explain why they can’t have something)
  • Avoid over-stimulating them
    • Limit the number of visitors that can come at a time
    • Speak to them in a calm, soothing manner
    • Avoid taking them to crowded places
  • Make sure your home is as safe as possible
    • De-clutter spaces such as hallways and staircases and remove anything that might trip them up such as rugs, small toys, etc.
    • Remove dangerous objects such as knives, scissors, matches, or guns (if any)
    • Put away objects that can easily get broken, such as ceramic figurines, glass frames, etc.
    • Make sure all exit doors are locked and consider installing some type of exit alarm, so you will be alerted if your loved one tries to leave
    • Restrict access to potentially hazardous places in your house by locking doors, such as bathrooms or the basement where it is easy to slip or fall
    • If your loved one is severely agitated, confused or depressed, make sure there is always someone staying with them

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