Few medical incidents are scarier or more life-threatening than a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Data shows that 1.37 million emergency room visits, 275,000 hospitalizations, and 52,000 deaths occur each year as a result of TBI.
It’s probable that millions of other, non-fatal cases never make it to an emergency care facility. If a loved one ever suffers from a brain injury, it’s crucial for you to know how to respond and care for him or her as your family member deals with symptoms and side effects that could last indefinitely.
How To Help Your Loved One Cope With A Brain Injury
There are dozens of potential causes of TBI. According to the Neurological and Brain Injury Section of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, five of the most common include motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, sports and recreation accidents, workplace accidents, and defective products.
In some instances, victims manage a decent recovery and are able to return to a fairly normal life within a few months. For others, the effects of TBI linger for years. If you’re determined to look out for the best interests of a loved one, here are four essential tips to help the person cope:
1. Stop Comparing
One of the worst things you can do is compare your loved one with the person he or she used to be prior to the injury. TBI fundamentally alters the brain and often leads to significant personality changes.
It can also exaggerate previous personality traits and makes them more intense. So someone who used to be somewhat sarcastic might now come across as being mean and spiteful. As hard as it is, you have to be patient and avoid comparing the person to who she or he was in the past.
2. Help With Memory
“Head injury survivors may experience short-term problems and/or amnesia related to certain periods of time,” Family Caregiver Alliance explains. “Generally, new learning presents the greatest challenge to memory or remembering. In contrast, pre-injury knowledge is more easily retained.”
In an effort to help your loved one improve memory, keep distractions to a minimum and focus on repetition. Again, patience is critical throughout the process.
3. Create Some Structure
Life after TBI is chaotic and different for everyone, but especially the loved one who is trying to deal with the injury. And though you can’t control a lot of what happens, you can do your best to provide as much external structure as possible.
Daily and weekly routines will help the individual anticipate whatever comes next. Eventually, this will give the person confidence and allow for a sense of normality to emerge in the wake of what feels like chaos.
4. Encourage Support-Group Participation
You can provide solid support for your loved one during the recovery. Don’t forget, however, that you don’t have any real past, firsthand experience in dealing with TBI. You’ve read books, listened to doctors, and spent time on various blogs and websites, but what does all of that really tell you?
In order to help your loved one feel understood, encourage participation in a TBI support group. These gatherings can provide encouragement and teach coping strategies that should prove useful in a variety of situations.
Make A Long-Term Commitment
It’s easy to be there for your loved one during the initial weeks and months after a brain injury. It’s clear that he or she needs you, and you have a lot of love and support to offer.
This may become challenging when months turn into years, however, and years promise to grow into decades. After a while, many people start to separate themselves from the situation, even when the individual continues to need just as much assistance.
If you want to be there for your loved one, be prepared to make a long-term commitment to supporting the person … especially on the emotional front. You might end up being their only hope.
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