by James Heuer
A traumatic brain injury affects not only the person suffering from it, but their entire family and friends. Typically, a caregiver can be a spouse, child, relative, or close friend. Stressing the importance of seeking support services for the caregiver themselves is vital. Caring for someone with a traumatic brain injury can interfere with the caregiver’s own personal responsibilities such as work and family, and can affect their health and finances negatively. Caregivers can end up losing work time, social activities, and family obligations. Studies have found and recognize those caregivers can experience feelings of distress, anxiety, anger and depression.
When a caregiver commits to taking care of a loved one, reaching out to the Brain Injury Association of America for information and educational materials is highly recommended. This is to help the caregiver understand the consequences of a TBI injury and their role in the course of recovery. Every brain is unique as every injury is unique, Understanding the steps of the journey of what your loved one with a TBI will go through is cardinal in a caregiver’s role and duties.
Initially after an accident, a caregiver will be taking their loved one to scans, examinations, and physical therapies. Post-concussion symptoms will be apparent, and sometimes after many doctor visits, the incredible challenge may make you ask, “Will it ever get better?”
Once a patient realizes they cannot resume their daily activities, they can be upset and behavioral problems can arise. A caregiver should be sure to look for possible issues such as sensitivity to light and sound, pacing, and hallucinations. Mood and social problems can arise such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and agitation. As a caregiver, limiting certain interactions with others while this is happening is essential.
Typically, a caregiver can experience burnout as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. This can stem from overextending themselves physically and financially. Burnout can cause high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. The stress may alter and reduce a caregiver’s ability to provide proper and quality caregiving. Oftentimes, therapy can offer both social support and coping mechanisms. Seeking help through a home health aide or a personal care assistant for services of care to provide breaks for the caregiver is recommended.
Mayo Clinic suggests caregivers should not try to do everything themselves. Taking a break and asking a friend or family member for help when it’s needed is essential for a caregiver’s mental health. Something such as running errands or taking a shower is a needed break in the caregiver routine. Caregivers should be aware of their limits and not over- extend themselves. Overextending leads to exhaustion, which is harmful to for the caregiver, making it even harder on the loved one with the traumatic brain injury.
Instead of dwelling on the consequences of the injury, caregivers should try their best to focus on daily successes and steer away from the loss and perceived failures. Set reasonable goals daily. With severe traumatic brain injuries for example, a caretaker may need to walk their loved one to a coffee shop practicing the words needed to order a drink. The long-term goal would be to eventually walk alone to the coffee shop and order yourself a drink. In the rehabilitation stage, every task or activity you once loved may seem intimidating. Within this phase, a caretaker has the loved one work on language therapy, strength, coordination and motor skills. As a caretaker, you should be motivating and be specific with the goals you set with your loved one. To find a balance in meeting your own needs and their needs is the best way to create a successful journey in regaining a normal life.
James A. Heuer, PA, is a personal injury attorney helping individuals with TBI after suffering one himself, he is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.