Life after a Traumatic Brain Injury: How to Help a Loved One

Jeffrey A. Mega

I often represent individuals who sustain serious injuries as a result of someone else’s carelessness. Usually, I can easily discern my clients’ injuries by simply looking at them. Occasionally, however, my clients’ injuries include a closed head traumatic brain injury. This type of injury can seriously disrupt one’s life even though it is not discernible, either visibly or through high-tech diagnostic procedures.

A traumatic brain injury, often referred to as a TBI, is an injury that disrupts the brain’s normal function. The consequences of a TBI can affect all aspects of an individual’s life including relationships with family and friends, and the ability to work, perform household chores, drive and/or participate in activities of daily living. The leading causes of non-fatal TBIs are falls, motor vehicle-related injuries and strikes or blows to the head, which result in sudden damage to the brain.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has calculated statistics regarding the prevalence of TBIs. Each year, approximately 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury in the United States. Approximately 5.3 million Americans are living with a TBI-related disability.

Life after a TBI can be challenging for the person who suffered the injury as well as his or her family, as depending upon the portion of the brain affected and the severity of the result, the injury can cause personality changes, memory and judgment deficits, lack of impulse control and poor concentration.

Numerous publications offer advice to those afflicted with TBIs and their family members. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • If memory problems are present, have the injured person repeat important information conveyed to him or her.
  • It is also helpful to have the person write down key information whenever possible.
  • Maintaining structure in the person’s schedule is also a powerful tool.
  • Using a daily planner or calendar can assist the injured person in figuring out what he or she must accomplish in a given day.

Lack of emotion and emotional instability are also known consequences of TBI. This may range from a complete lack of emotional responses to intense mood swings or extreme reactions. Family members and caregivers should understand that these emotional responses are caused by the injury and therefore, not take the behavior personally. In addition, they should try to remain calm and not become overly critical.

Finally, there are numerous support groups for those affected by TBIs including the Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island and its national affiliate the Brain Injury Association of America.