The brain controls all of our bodily functions, including thinking and emotional reactions. The brain is divided into two halves (hemispheres), and damage to one can produce impairments in the opposite side of the body.
Medical professionals classify brain injuries as mild, moderate or severe based on how they affect your ability to think and move. However, classification does not predict a specific course of recovery.
1. Identify Your Needs
For many brain injury survivors, the most difficult aspect of their recovery is dealing with changes in their abilities. They may grieve the loss of some of their skills, friendships and relationships and feel frustrated, angry or sad about their limitations.
They may also have problems with their short-term memory (being able to remember something from one minute to the next, like what their doctor just said) and long-term memory (remembering things they learned a long time ago, such as facts or vocabulary). They may think slowly or have trouble concentrating.
Taking it one day at a time is important for those recovering from a brain injury. Even if they do something you think is easy, they may repeat it over and over again. This is a way of ingraining the information into their memory.
2. Find a Rehab Center
After discharge from the hospital, a patient with brain injury will either continue in a day program or move to a sub-acute rehabilitation facility. The day program provides three or more hours of daily therapy in a structured group setting and allows the person to return home at night.
It’s also important to know that people with brain injuries can experience emotional and physical changes. It is often a good idea to attend a caregiver support group and practice self care to prevent compassion fatigue.
It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s not appropriate to ask someone with a brain injury how they are feeling. This can make them feel like you are blaming them for their current emotions or that they are overreacting.
3. Talk to Your Doctor
Depending on the severity of your brain injury, you may be sent home or admitted to the hospital. If you’re in the hospital, doctors will do a neurological exam and run tests to see how your brain is responding. They may need to perform surgery to repair skull fractures, remove clots or relieve pressure on the brain.
Your doctor will probably tell you that it’s important to eat well and get enough rest. They will also recommend a physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech language pathologist. These professionals can help you regain your lost function and compensate for those functions that cannot be recovered. It’s important to understand that recovery from a brain injury is a process and it can take months. You should be patient with your loved one as they go through this journey.
4. Talk to Your Family
When someone you love suffers a brain injury, it can be difficult to know how best to help them. This is especially true in the early stages, when the injury often leaves them in a coma or with reduced awareness. It’s important to listen carefully to what they say and try not to minimize their emotions. Saying things like, “Everyone feels this way,” or, “You’re so lucky you’re alive,” can be incredibly hurtful.
It’s also important to encourage their recovery and support them in ways that you can. This might include offering to take them to appointments, cooking them a meal or helping them clean their home. Remember that every person’s recovery process is different, so don’t be disappointed if they don’t make progress as quickly as you expect them to.
5. Talk to Your Insurance Company
A person with a traumatic brain injury is often hospitalized for emergency care, which involves making sure the brain gets adequate oxygen and blood flow, reducing swelling, preventing blood clots and removing clotted blood. In severe cases, doctors may operate to repair skull fractures, relieve pressure on the brain and remove excess fluid from around the brain.
People with a brain injury might be asked to rest and refrain from physical or thinking activities until their doctor indicates it is safe to return to these things. This can be frustrating for loved ones who feel they are being deprived of a fulfilling life and can lead to feelings of resentment. To avoid these pitfalls, it is best to get an experienced brain injury attorney on your side early on.