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Life After Brain Injury: What to Expect and How to Cope

creating a joyful life after brain injury

Life after brain injury will be full of challenges. But it is possible to overcome these obstacles.

In this article, we’ll show you what you can expect life after brain injury to look like, what treatment approach works best, and what you can do to make life feel meaningful again.

Use these links to jump ahead to a relevant section:

What Will Life After Brain Injury Look Like?

Traumatic brain injury can cause severe physical and cognitive limitations. While it is possible to recover from many of these, they can still present significant challenges in your daily life.

The following are a few examples of some of the most common secondary effects you might experience after brain injury:

Physical Symptoms

doctor helping patient relearn to walk after brain injury

Severe TBIs can cause various physical symptoms, including:

In addition to these symptoms, patients can also experience seizures. These mostly only occur after certain types of traumatic brain injuries, however.

Sensory Problems

A traumatic brain injury can also disrupt the brain’s ability to process the senses. For example, TBI can lead to many visual problems, including:

Besides problems with vision, a severe brain injury can also cause the person to have tactile sensory changes, or even lose their sense of taste and smell, a condition known as anosmia.

Cognitive Impairments

Perhaps the most common difficulties that patients experience after brain injury revolve around cognitive impairments. These include issues such as:

Fortunately, you can treat these and other cognitive issues with cognitive exercises for TBI patients.

Emotional Problems

daughter comforting father for emotional problems in life after brain injury

Finally, patients can develop several emotional problems after brain injury. These are primarily caused by frontal lobe injuries.

Some emotional changes that occur after brain injury include:

Besides all these symptoms, people with a brain injury can sometimes also develop PTSD from the traumatic event. However, not everyone who sustains a TBI develops PTSD. PTSD tends to go more hand-in-hand with mild TBI, because with more severe injuries, the individual typically does not remember the incident that caused it and may not even be aware that they are injured.

PTSD causes many of the same symptoms as brain injury, but they are accompanied by heightened sensitivity to danger and involuntary memories of the traumatic event.

How to Recover Function After Brain Injury

The above list of symptoms above can seem overwhelming at first, but it is important to realize that not every person will experience every secondary effect.

Still, it can be helpful to know what symptoms you may experience after brain injury. That way you can take the correct actions to minimize their severity.

In fact, many of these symptoms can be treated by activating a process called neuroplasticity. This term refers to the brain’s ability to repair neural connections. It allows people to regain functions even after a devastating injury.

Engaging Neuroplasticity After TBI

hands holding hologram of brain in front of sunset

The key to activating neuroplasticity lies in therapeutic exercise. That’s why doctors encourage so much therapy in the early stages of recovery.

Even after you return home, it is critical to continue with regular therapy. If you struggle to remember your exercises, have your therapist write you a home exercise sheet to help you know exactly how to do them.

There are also home therapy devices, such as FitMi, which walk you through common exercises. Many patients find that these devices help them stay motivated in a way that hand-out sheets do not.

Beyond exercise however, there are other activities you can practice to improve your life after brain injury. We will discuss those in the sections below.

How to Enhance Your Life After Brain Injury

While life after brain injury will not be easy, it is still possible to achieve happiness. Your life may look a lot different now, but it can still be worthwhile.

The following are a few ways to accomplish this:

1. Follow a Brain Injury Diet Plan

A proper diet plan can boost brain injury recovery. Therefore it’s important to consume foods that promote healthy brain function, such as foods rich in flavonoids and omega-3.

The following are a few examples of the best foods for brain injury:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dark, leafy greens such as kale and spinach
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Walnuts
  • Turmeric root

In addition, it is crucial to avoid fried and processed foods as much as possible after brain injury, as these foods increase inflammation and hamper neuroplasticity.

2. Create a structured routine

Woman hanging up a calendar to help get her life back on track after brain injury

In the early stages of your brain injury recovery, your days were most likely fully planned out by others and filled with appointments. If you are like most brain injury patients, however, this schedule didn’t last forever.

Unfortunately, many TBI survivors fall into an unhealthy routine when their schedule opens up. For example, they might sleep in late, spend the afternoon surfing the internet or watching TV, take a nap, and start the routine all over again the next day.

This isn’t meant as a negative judgment. Brain injury makes it much more difficult to make decisions and initiate activities. Therefore, you are not lazy. You might just need help changing your habits.

That’s where a structured routine comes in. It helps you know “what’s next” without having to come up with something on your own every time. That way, you can stay active and prevent decline. Simply engaging in your everyday activities regularly (brushing teeth, getting dressed, bathing, etc.) is a form of “exercise” after TBI, and will boost your recovery if you try to consistently participate.

3. Focus on small victories

Young woman with arms in the air giving thumbs up and celebrating a small victory

It’s important to keep your focus on small victories in the early days of your recovery. This can help you stay motivated to continue your recovery.

For example, instead of focusing on what you have lost, focus on what you have gained during your recovery. Maybe you couldn’t even stand up at all when you first started therapy, and now you can stand for ten seconds unsupported. That’s a big deal, and you should be proud of yourself.

This fact is true for everyone, with or without a brain injury. If you only consider how far you still need to go to get where you want, you’ll soon get discouraged.

But if you break it down into smaller pieces, you’ll find it much easier to stay positive.

4. Stay Physically and Socially Active

surrounding yourself with loved ones can help you feel better after tbi

As you gain more abilities back, it’s important to stay both physically and socially active.

The more active you are, the more your brain gets stimulated, which helps create new neural pathways and promotes better brain function. Similarly, interacting with peers improves your cognitive function and helps fight off feelings of depression.

If possible, try taking part in some recreational therapy activities for traumatic brain injury patients. These activities are fun ways to stay active and find a social group that understands and supports you.

You can also try volunteering at your local church or charity. Many people find that helping others makes their life after brain injury meaningful again. The key is to have something that keeps you engaged and outside the house at least once a week. This helps improve both your TBI symptoms and your quality of life.

Living Your Life After Brain Injury

As you can see, brain injury doesn’t have to be the end of your story. There are many ways to make your life after brain injury a rewarding experience.

It all depends on how you choose to see your new life. As cliche as it may sound, your attitude really does make all the difference.

If you choose to stay positive and keep yourself active, you’ll have an easier, more fulfilling life than if you focus on the negative.

Yes, life may never look like it did before your injury. Some activities will always be more difficult than they are for others. But this doesn’t mean your life will be empty. You can still find joy and happiness in life after your brain injury. You just have to know where to look.

photo credits: iStock/jacoblund/Lyndon Stratford

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Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

That’s why a team of neuroscientists and clinicians from Boston University created the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app. Designed for those recovering from stroke, TBI, or living with neurological conditions, the app contains over 100,000 cognitive exercises that are all available right from your phone or tablet. That’s like having a speech therapist by your side whenever you want!

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He now understands things faster, can make decisions with less hesitation, has improved recognition of words, and his confidence is higher. I also find it easy to get in touch with customer service; they pleasantly help out. The whole experience has been great.”

— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

“The CT app has helped me gather my confidence by building on and reinforcing old forgotten skills. It helps to see my percentages increase, and work harder when they decrease. It’s very self-motivating.” -Kathryn

We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

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