Caring for someone with brain injury can be a rewarding experience. But it can also be quite stressful.
Sometimes it will require every ounce of your strength, both physically and mentally, just to make it through the day.
To help you navigate this demanding job, we’ve put together this guide to make caring for someone with brain injury easier.
Let’s get started!
Caring for Someone With Brain Injury
Here are our best suggestions to help you care for your loved one at home:
1. Don’t push them too hard
Rest, especially in the early stages of recovery, is crucial for brain injury patients.
If the person says they need to sleep, let them sleep. It will help their brain heal.
2. Encourage rehab exercises
At the same time, you should encourage them to take part in therapy and remind them to do their exercises.
People with brain injuries struggle with planning and staying on task. As a result, they won’t usually be able to take the initiative and do their therapy on their own.
This isn’t because they are lazy; it’s because their injury has damaged their executive functioning.
With enough practice, the person can regain enough executive function to initiate activities, but until then, they will need your help.
3. Be patient
Emotional and behavioral problems usually arise because there is a problem that the person cannot cope with.
If your loved one becomes irritable and unreasonable, stay patient and don’t react.
They might be in pain or exhausted; there could be excessive noise or confusion. They might just need to be alone.
Whatever the reason, see if you can figure it out and address it while remaining calm. That will keep the situation from escalating.
4. Give the person independence, but be there to help
Your loved one is working on rebuilding neural pathways in their brain, so it will take them much longer to do particular things than it used to.
Try not to rush them or offer to do something for them if they are taking a long time. That will only set back their recovery.
Don’t get frustrated when they need to do tasks the same way every time; remember, that’s just how they learn. Repetition is a significant part of brain rehabilitation.
5. Understand the invisible side of brain injury
Most brain injury side symptoms are not easily noticeable. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, and cognitive deficits can all manifest in subtle ways.
For example, your loved one might come across as inconsiderate when in fact they are just confused.
Learning the various TBI side effects can help you grow more patient with the person you are caring for and become a better caregiver.
6. Adapt your home
Talk to an occupational therapist about what adaptations you need to make in your home to accommodate your loved one.
For example, you may need handlebars or lifts to help you transfer them from their wheelchair into bed without straining your back.
7. Write things down
Memory problems are a huge issue after brain injury.
To help the person with a brain injury remember important information, try writing it somewhere they will easily see.
Keep a whiteboard in each room and write every appointment for the day on it. Put sticky notes on the microwave or coffee pot with precise instructions on how to use them.
All this will help the person become more independent and take some responsibility off your shoulders.
8. Record their gains
Brain injury recovery is a slow process. It can get discouraging sometimes, especially when the person appears to no longer be improving.
That’s why you should keep a journal documenting all the progress the person has made, such as relearning how to tie their shoes or getting better at coping with disappointment.
No matter how small a gain they make, write it down. This will encourage both you and your loved one on those days when it feels like nothing will ever get better.
9. Don’t rearrange furniture too much
Try to resist the urge to rearrange furniture or change where you put everything. Too much change can overwhelm someone with a brain injury and make them flustered.
It’s also a good idea to set apart a section of the house that “belongs” to your loved one. Give them a room where they feel safe and can retreat to if they get overstimulated.
10. Cheer them on!
Encouragement is vital during brain injury rehab.
Make sure you celebrate every accomplishment and focus on the positives more than the negatives.
Our attitudes and beliefs shape our actions. If your loved one only focuses on the negative, they will feel like therapy and exercise are useless.
That’s why they need your support. The more positive their belief is towards recovery, the farther their recovery will go!
11. Take time away
Caring for your loved one will ultimately take a heavy toll on you if you do not take care of yourself first.
Find someone else to take over your responsibilities for a couple of hours while you go out to dinner by yourself. Or join a caregiver support group where you can talk to others with the same struggles as yourself.
Just those two simple things will go a long way towards keeping you strong enough to continue caring for someone with brain injury.
Compassion When Caring for TBI Patients
Our final tip is to remember to be kind to yourself.
Many caregivers struggle with guilt over how tired caring for their loved one makes them. You might believe it makes you a terrible person for wanting a break.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you need time away if you want to continue helping your loved one. Otherwise, your exhaustion will make it physically and mentally impossible to care for them.
You are doing amazing work, and your loved one appreciates it, even if they can’t always express it. So don’t get angry at yourself when the work becomes too much.
Ask for help. Take breaks. Do things you enjoy. When you feel good, your happiness will overflow and will help your loved one more than you can imagine.
We hope these tips make caring for someone with brain injury at home a little less complicated.