The Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury on Family and Caregivers
Any time the head suffers trauma from an impact with a solid object, the brain can be injured. This is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
A traumatic brain injury can follow nearly any type of accident such as:
Additionally, hitting the ground, getting pinned between objects or a projectile object can all cause one to suffer a TBI.
Recognizing Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms in Your Loved One
As the Mayo Clinic describes, TBI symptoms are often behavioral or cognitive. As such, they are not easily detectable. You or another member of your household might be the first one to recognize these symptoms in your loved one.
A few cognitive and behavioral TBI symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Sleeping too much
- Memory difficulties
- Difficulty recognizing everyday items or conventions
- Difficulty concentrating.
Traumatic brain injury often lacks physical symptoms. As a result, the injury can go unnoticed and, in turn, untreated.
If you recognize one or more of the above symptoms or physical symptoms in your loved one such as nausea, headaches, slurred speech or sensitivity to light or sound, you should strongly encourage your loved one to see a doctor.
Your Role as a Caregiver
If your loved one is diagnosed with a TBI, you will likely take on the role of caregiver. Until he or she makes a complete recovery, your job will be to make your loved one’s life as easy as possible, which will help to promote a timely recovery.
For mild brain injuries, the only treatment is rest and slowly easing back into daily activities.
In more severe cases, surgery and medications may be necessary. Rehabilitative therapy, such as anger management or cognitive behavioral therapy, could also be part of your loved one’s treatment plan.
You should create a simple, structured daily routine once your loved one returns home from the hospital. Having a routine will make your loved one feel secure and reduce his or her confusion. You should also act as a liaison between your loved one and his or her friends and other family members.
People who care about your loved one will naturally want to know how he or she is doing. However, your loved one might not be ready for visits or phone calls yet. Plan low-stress visits as your loved one becomes ready for them.
It is also your job to help your loved one to understand the medical aspects of his or her recovery. You should go to doctor appointments with your loved one and speak with the doctor so that you understand all that is happening at each stage of his or her recovery.
The TBI can make it difficult for your loved one to comprehend and retain information, so you need to be in contact with the doctor on your loved one’s behalf and follow the doctor’s instructions for medication and further treatment. When you go to doctor appointments, you need to be prepared to ask questions. If it helps you to retain information, bring a pad and pen to take notes during your conversations.
Caring for a Child with a TBI versus Caring for an Adult
These injuries cause more cases of child and adolescent disability and death in New York, New Jersey and throughout the country than any other factor.
A child’s brain is still developing. When a child suffers a brain injury, this development is altered, which can result in delays in cognitive and motor functioning, social and behavioral difficulties and physical disability. Although adult and child TBI patients can experience the same symptoms, a TBI often has a far greater impact on a child than an injury of the same magnitude would have on an adult.
Parents of children with TBIs should work with their children’s pediatricians to anticipate potential difficulties and work to overcome them. A child with a TBI will face difficulty as he or she transitions back to school due to the social expectations of the classroom environment and the impact of a brain injury on the child’s ability to do academic work. You should work with your child’s school to develop a post-injury independent education plan (IEP).
For an adult, transitioning back to work can be difficult. Sometimes, going back to the type of work the patient performed before his or her injury is not possible. A significant part of caring for an adult with a TBI is handling his or her day-to-day needs, such as laundry, cooking and other household chores. Your role as a caregiver will also include driving your loved one to doctor appointments and running errands.
Remember to Care for Yourself, Too
The impact of TBI on family members should never be underestimated. As you take care of a loved one with a TBI, remember to take care of yourself, too.
Make time to do things that make you feel good, like working out or spending time with friends. Also, ask your loved one’s doctor if he or she can refer you to a support group for caregivers. Going to a support group meeting will allow you to engage with others who are caring for loved ones with TBIs and understand your experience.
Most importantly, know how to recognize symptoms of fatigue in yourself and ask for help when you need it.
If your loved one suffered a TBI because of another party’s negligence, he or she could be entitled to compensation through a personal injury claim.
Our team of personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. in New Jersey can help you to learn more about pursuing compensation and explain what you can expect during this process as a caregiver.