By James A. Heuer, PA
As a personal injury attorney for over 45 years, I have witnessed many of my clients successfully recover from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Whether the TBI occurs from a car crash, a slip and fall, or blow to the head, the resiliency of the human body and brain is incredible.
According to the CDC, the majority of TBIs that occur annually are considered “mild” TBIs, also referred to as a concussion. Bouncing back after a TBI can be referred to as returning to baseline (pre-injury). In the initial phase of recovery, I encourage my clients to have confidence, accept new limitations, adapt active coping skills, and most importantly, maintain a positive outlook.
Mental resilience can improve with family and friends by your side. I advise seeking out a primary caregiver post TBI. A caregiver can be a friend, family member, or anyone close to you. A caregiver can help with journaling, encouraging rest, and exercising, among other things to ease your recovery. Your caregiver will be able to notice changes and/or improvement with any limitations you may suffer such as memory, learning, problem solving, and concentration.
Following a head injury, a caregiver will also be taking their loved one to many difficult appointments. Appointments may include but not limited to physical and mental examinations, physical and occupational therapy, and other prescribed treatments. These multitudes of appointments can be taxing and challenging, and the caregiver can serve as a helping hand of encouragement promoting resiliency.
The more you can accomplish on your own – such as remembering tasks and techniques – the more your resiliency of the brain strengthens. Our office assists in recovery by providing our TBI clients journals and encouraging them to write down daily tasks of what was difficult and perplexing. This combats discouragement if progress moves slower than desired. This technique also assists the brain’s resiliency to recall the past and focus on future recovery.
In addition to journaling, cognitive rehabilitation can be extremely helpful during the road to regaining baseline status. Some simple activities to improve cognition may include crossword or jigsaw puzzles, card games, knitting, or even building a model. Although never linear, progress and improvement will always depend on the individual. Some struggle with anger and loss of their former self, which can hinder efforts to recover.
The human spirit is incredibly resilient, and a positive outlook is always encouraged by myself and my team at Heuer Fischer to overcome falling into negative thinking. I like to think of it this way: coping with stress can strengthen a person suffering from a TBI immensely.
As per research and personal experience, I learned just from feeling more resilient, one can improve their communication and problem solving skills, as well as feel less stress. Changes in resilience equal changes in all positive outlooks of recovery such as goals, treatment, and mood. The willingness to focus on the positive to overcome a negative is important.
Dr. Burke from Emory Brain Health Center, a TBI survivor himself, shared a tip that resonated with assisting TBI clients. Dr. Burke shares that gratitude is a key component to resilience. Within adopting a positive outlook, Dr. Burke carries around a small stone in his pocket and touches it to think and remind himself of something grateful. “It is critical that people stop looking in the rearview mirror, and instead look ahead,” he suggests. “You can’t move ahead if you’re always looking at what was lost instead of what you can gain.”
Resilient adaptive responses regain fundamental skills. Traits may be innate but skills develop and expand in a lifetime. The goal is to strengthen problem solving, emotional management, and communication. By doing so, this will improve emotional health and stress thus improving overall health.
James A. Heuer, PA is a personal injury attorney helping individuals with TBI after suffering one himself, he is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.