by James A. Heuer, PA
One of the most crucial devices in life, communication is by definition “the capacity to exchange or discuss ideas, to dialogue, to converse with the aim of understanding between different parties.” The importance of it is engraved in day to day work, education, relationships, conversations, and leisure activities.
It is extremely important to seek medical attention right away; this cannot be stressed enough. After a traumatic brain injury, a person’s communication is anticipated to be affected. An individual post TBI may experience slurred speech, slowed speech, and difficulty understanding. This happens if the areas of the brain controlling the muscles of the speech mechanism get damaged. Doctors refer to this condition as dysarthria. Others may develop apraxia, a condition in which strength and coordination of the speech muscles stay unaffected yet the individual struggles with proper, consistent pronunciation.
Consequently, you may notice that TBI victims may not respond to questions or comments. Their sentences may contain long pauses. Oftentimes, they may be unable to start conversations or find problems explaining what they want to get across.
Communication issues occur when the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are injured. Every TBI victim’s symptoms will differ, some being more severe than others. Problems in communication vary due to several factors, some of which include the individual’s personality, abilities before the injury occurred, and of course, the severity of damage to the brain.
Typically, the communication effects of brain damage seem to be most apparent directly following the TBI. It is difficult to fully understand what problems are long or short term within the first weeks following the injury due to temporary damage from brain swelling. Once the brain swelling subsides, the damage may not be permanent and the brain’s functions sometimes return. Consequently, this makes it hard to foretell the extent of long-term injury accurately.
Since the effects create a strain on day-to-day life, without much knowledge of when the symptoms will improve, it may be difficult to go back to work for the individual. Sometimes it is even difficult to do something as simple as compose an email to a coworker, thus making it impossible to work properly.
Especially with “mild or moderate” symptoms, seeking legal advice post-TBI can be important. Since injuries tend to be more difficult to identify with subtler problems, it is crucial to have an advocate for compensation lost from work. Seeking strong legal advice also helps for all of the other aspects the TBI affects.
With more severe communication problems, families, friends, and loved ones feel detached from the individual due to the struggle of discussing day-to-day decisions and expressing feelings. It can be very beneficial for loved ones to help the recovery process along with medical and legal help. Some suggestions include
- Reducing distractions – Make sure you are able to hear the speaker to help you understand what they are trying to say. The better listener and well-focused you can be, the easier it will be on the speaker. Minimize loud noises, such as a TV around during communication.
- Rephrase what you said – if not understood the first time around, try rephrasing and repeat it. Ask if they need clarification first. Honesty helps more in their time of need.
- Do not brace for issues – sometimes the individual can feel the stress they cause the other party because they can’t find the right words to say. Try to relax and do not anticipate this. Patience is key.
- Non-verbal communication – if verbal communication does not work, try using facial expressions, pictures, or gestures, or writing to assist.
- Slow down your speech. Sometimes a person with a communication disorder needs those few extra seconds to process what is being said. Make sure to speak clearly and simply as well.
As a friend, caregiver, or loved one, you can take these tips home to help immensely with the path of recovery, whether it be medical care, therapy, or hiring a lawyer.
James A. Heuer, PA is a personal injury attorney helping individuals with TBI after suffering one himself, he is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.