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Caring for a Loved One with Brain Injury

Meghana Giridhar - March 03, 2015 09:53 AM

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. A report by the Family Caregiver Alliance brings to light some sobering facts:

•    Each year, an estimated 2.5 million people in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
•    5.3 million Americans, approximately 2% of the population, currently live with disabilities related to brain injury.
•    Males are more than twice as likely as females to experience a TBI.
•    TBI is most common among adolescents (aged 15-24) and older adults (75 and older).
•    The most common causes of TBI:
o    Falls (40.5%)
o    Unintentional blunt trauma (15.5%)
o    Motor vehicle accidents (14.3%)
o    Violence (10%)
•    TBI is a contributing factor to a third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States

Caring for someone with brain injury can be tremendously stressful with having to grapple with feelings of burden, anger and depression. It is impossible to understand the impact this would have on everyone’s life. It is best to be equipped with as much knowledge as possible about the nature and stages of the injury. This will allow for adjustments in the care planned.

The first and earliest phase of brain injury is typically centered around the intensive care unit (ICU) in hospitals. Since doctors impose visitation restrictions to better help them to carry out procedures, it is a good time to divide the workload among family members. Family and friends can help with chores the primary caregiver is unable to complete such as cooking, laundry, banking, insurance claim follow-ups and taking care of children, if any. It is also the time to get enough rest, sleep and eat well so you are physically prepared for the next stage of care.

Once the injured person is medically stable, the doctor will focus on rehabilitation. It is important to understand that setbacks can occur at any stage so being emotionally strong and not getting discouraged will be helpful for both the member as well as your loved one. To see a caregiver distraught is discouraging for the person who may not be fully aware of the impact of the injuries sustained. It can lead to agitation and other behavioral problems.

When it’s time to get discharged, the caregiver’s role becomes even more intense. Brain injury recovery is unpredictable with many factors affecting full recovery. It is advisable to meet with the discharge planner as soon as possible and understand the options and support programs available to patients and families.

It is a happy feeling to have a loved one home after an extended stay in a hospital. But due to brain damage, many cannot deal with the isolation that comes after everyone gets back to work. Common problems include:

•    Inability to plan the day
•    Remember information
•    Complete simple tasks
•    Poor judgement
•    Weight gain
•    Resentment against family members

Creating a care plan in collaboration with your loved one is again the key to handling these changes.

Some steps to take include:

•    Have a clear understanding of the areas where your loved one needs help
•    Make sure your loved one’s room is ready and welcoming. Try to make it easy for the person to function independently with minor changes such as labeling drawers, keeping a notebook and pen, rearranging cupboards so they can reach things easily.
•    Prepare a simple, active daily schedule so your loved one is neither bored nor over-exhausted. Prepare lists so he/she can recall things when needed. Follow the same routine every day when it comes to eating, sleeping, exercising.
•    Always keep the doctor posted of developments, good or bad so action may be taken sooner rather than later, if the situation requires it.

Here are some resources that can provide more information on brain injury.

The Brain Injury Association’s Guide to Selecting Brain Injury Rehabilitation Services

The Brain Injury Association’s statewise listing for details about brain injury programs and resources.

The 2015 theme for Brain Injury Awareness Month is “Not Alone”. Caring for a loved one with brain injury is frightening. But having a proactive attitude to the process can help so there is hope of some ease in this uphill struggle.


Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Coordinator and is part of eCareDiary's founding team.  In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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