How Can I Help a Family Member After a Brain Injury?

When someone you love experiences a traumatic brain injury, it can be stressful and upsetting, leaving you wondering how to help and offer support.

Brain injuries can cause a significant cognitive change affecting their memory, as well as their personality and emotional states. Most likely, the individual will feel overwhelmed that they have to relearn many things over again.

One of the best things you can do when a family member or someone you love is suffering from a brain injury is to educate yourself on the type of brain injury suffered and formulate a plan for support so that you are prepared to help your loved one navigate this new post-brain injury world they will be living in. This article will explain the basics of a brain injury and how you can best support your family member or loved one.

Brain Injuries and Symptoms

A brain injury is a sudden injury that causes damage to the brain, whether it’s a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. It can be either a closed head injury or a penetrating injury, with the aftermath of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Mild to moderate brain injuries are usually more likely to have temporary symptoms. Symptoms typically resolve over a period of days, weeks, months or even a year.  A person with a severe, complex, or penetrating brain injury is much more likely to have long-term or even permanent symptoms that impact the quality of the person’s life in a myriad of different ways. As a result, these types of brain injuries are usually managed by a variety of specialists with a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor and/or neurologist overseeing the care at the same time. 

The range of symptoms for people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries depend on the location of the injury and its severity.  However, common symptoms can include the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss or trouble remembering things
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Mood swings and personality changes
  • Speech difficulties
  • Headaches ranging from mild to severe
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Sleep disturbances

While severe traumatic brain injuries can lead to a vegetative state, a coma, or brain death, people that survive are often experiencing centralized pain syndrome, ambulation and mobility difficulties, and even urinary and/or bladder incontinence. As a result, brain injuries of all different severity levels can drastically impact your loved one’s ability to work, enjoy life and even care for his or herself.  

Types of Brain Injuries

Here we will tell you the three types of traumatic brain injuries to help you understand the difference.

1. Closed Head Injuries

These are the most common type of brain injury. While they can still be severe, you don’t see an external wound.  They are often referred to as “concussions” or an “invisible injury”.

Sometimes symptoms are not immediately noticeable, so it’s essential to watch for signs of brain injury such as confusion, memory loss, personality changes, cognitive changes, dilation of pupils, vision changes, headaches, and difficulty speaking. This is because brain bleeds can occur hours or even days after the initial trauma and the brain bleed can slowly progress over time.  As a result, even closed head injuries can be fatal, so it is important seek your doctor’s attention as soon as possible.

2. Open Wound Brain Injuries

The most common type of open wound brain injury is a linear skull fracture. A linear skull fracture is less severe and occurs when the skull is cracked.

A depressed skull fracture is more severe and occurs when bone fragments are left in or around the brain after the skull is penetrated.  The force that is applied to the brain tissue and neurons by the depressed skull fracture can impact neurologic function throughout the person’s body and drastically impacts morbidity and mortality.

3. Crushing Brain Injury

A crushing brain injury is when the brain and skull are crushed between two hard objects. The greater the force is during the crushing event, the more severe the damage to the brain as a result. The severity of the damage also depends on the location of the injury and the overall health of the brain.

If your loved one suffered a brain injury due to an accident, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to help ensure the liable party covers medical expenses.

Best Ways to Help a Family Member with a Brain Injury

It’s hard to watch a family member struggle after a brain injury. Here are some recommendations on how you can help.

1. Be Understanding and Patient

Your loved one is probably feeling frustrated and stressed. One of the best things you can do when helping them recover from a traumatic brain injury is provide them with patience and understanding. It can be challenging, especially if your family member is experiencing cognitive dysfunction and personality changes.

Understanding the effects of a brain injury can help you better prepare yourself and know why they are acting differently, are forgetful, or not acting themselves. This understanding can help you approach them with compassion and patience.   

Since caring for a brain injury victim can be incredibly difficult on families, it is important that the entire family talk about their emotions and experiences with one another and with professionals. In fact, there are also support groups for people with a family member or loved one that has experienced a traumatic brain injury. It can be incredibly validating and comforting to talk with people going through the same experience or with people that are already on the other side of that experience. Conversations like these can help you focus on being more patient and understanding through these difficult times with your loved one.  

2. Validate Their Experience, Pain, and Emotions

One common symptom a brain injury victim can experience is called “emotional lability.” This means your loved one can experience rapid and intense changes in mood. Common examples are where the victim can go from laughing to crying to anger to ambivalence, all within a short period of time.  Validating their feelings, pain, and trauma is essential to helping control the emotional state and minimize the intensity of the mood swings. By minimizing the lability, the victim is in a better position to focus on strategies to help control their emotions and behavior. 

Minimizing or doubting their complaints is not helpful.  Their emotions are real and the brain injury can prevent the victim from being able to control them.  Saying how lucky they are to be alive can also be counterproductive and make the victim feel like you are minimizing their pain and struggle.  In fact, people that suffer a brain injury that are alone or unsupported are at a higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings.  As a result, it’s important that loved ones listen, empathize and pay attention for warning signs that the person may harm themselves.

3. Encourage a Familiar Routine

Formulating a routine and sticking to the routine is critical to improving the quality of your loved one’s life.  A traumatic brain injury is very disorientating and can often be life-changing. Support your loved one in finding a new normal and encourage them to establish a daily routine.

The routine should start as soon as they wake up. It can be as simple as having a list at their bedside that reminds them of everything they must do to start their day. The routine should also include sleep habits. Improving the quality of a brain injury victim’s sleep is imperative to recovery.  As a result, going to bed at the same time every night with the same routine and waking up the same time every day puts your loved one in the best position for success throughout the day.  

4. Be Respectful and Mindful

You may notice that your family member or loved one doesn’t seem like the same person. However, it is essential to be mindful and respectful of these changes.

Remember that your loved one probably feels frustrated about the changes in their life, so do your best to help them understand that it’s OK to relearn things they used to know. Please do not take emotional or behavioral changes personally, as it is merely a common brain injury symptom. 

5. Be Kind

Some of the most supportive things you can do are simple acts of kindness,  such as cleaning their home and doing laundry or changing their sheets. Consider prepping some easy-to-make meals they can prepare on their own if possible. Offering to tend to their yard, help care for thier children, or take them to appointments can significantly alleviate their stress and allow them time to rest.

Supporting a Family Member with a Traumatic Brain Injury

Support for your family member or loved one is crucial, and rehabilitation can take time. Remember that healing from a brain injury will require physical, mental, financial, and emotional support. Accompanying your loved one to doctors’ appointments, driving them to the store, walking in the park, and doing things they previously loved may be helpful.

You can also help medical professionals understand your loved one’s general character so they can help provide additional therapies and support to reach long-term goals. You know your family member best and will most likely be able to detect subtle changes that a medical professional may miss as they don’t have a personal connection to the injured person. Family and friends are essential and help loved ones heal from a traumatic brain injury.

Your insight is valuable and your support will positively impact your family member’s rehabilitation process. Studies show that people suffering from a traumatic brain injury with the help of loved ones encouraging them to stay with physical therapy and a recovery routine increases their chances for healing and improves their quality of life. 

Having unconditional support from family and loved ones can be a game changer. If your family member or loved one knows they are not alone and have your help and the help of medical professionals, it can provide invaluable emotional and mental support and security, which is irreplaceable.

Get Compassionate Legal Representation From Our Experienced Brain Injury Attorneys

When someone you love is suffering from a brain injury, it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially challenging. While you’re caring for your loved one, remember to care for yourself as well. Their injury and recovery can also take a toll on your emotional and mental health.

Our team at Pullano & Siporin has successfully protected our clients and obtained timely compensation in personal injury cases. We work tirelessly to fully understand how the injury has impacted your loved ones and their families. When you choose us to represent you in your personal injury case, we prioritize your health, well-being, and claim.

Contact us today to discuss your case, and we will ensure that you and your family get the support you deserve.

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