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What happens to families after a person has a brain injury?
That's a hard question to give a simple answer because
it really depends on who is injured.
Is it a child?
In which case, if it's a child, especially a young child,
it's certainly very, very, very devastating
for the parents.
A lot of times parents feel very guilty.
Is it a spouse?
Maybe a couple in their 30s or 40s who have children?
Is it an elderly parent who has fallen
and had a brain injury from the fall?
So it's really hard to generalize too much.
What we can say is that
brain injury is catastrophic for most families.
It causes changes in roles.
People have a sense of great loss and a sense of confusion.
And for a period of time, people feel very hopeful,
but that hope is often left with a sense of fear
that life will never be the same.
Yeah, one thing that we like to say
is that if you've seen one brain injury, you've seen one brain injury.
But we have found that amongst
the uniqueness of people that we work with,
there are some universals.
And when we work with families,
we find that there's often a renegotiation
of roles and relationships,
and that's a really broad way of saying a lot of stuff changes.
But what that means is, if the person
who was providing for the family financially is injured,
then things shift within that family system
to figure out how that family is now going to support themselves.
If the person that was caring for the children is injured,
then things shift in a different way to figure out
how do we care for these young children and the parent that was injured?
And in particular,
I've had the pleasure of working with a lot of adult children
that in their 30s and 40s,
that were out on their own living independent lives,
and as a result of being injured,
went back to live with their family members.
And what I see is that there is a lot of
renegotiation between parents
and adult children about
boundaries and roles
and even things like
curfew or going out with friends.
Parents in situations, even with an adult child,
are oftentimes fearful,
at the very least anxious, that their child is going to get hurt again.
And parents lose a lot of their independence,
as does the adult child that returns home.
So a lot of
very complex dynamics, for sure.
Some of the families that stand out
for me that as--
having been a family that was having a difficult time,
but they're doing much better now,
again, the families for me are the ones that do
all the heavy lifting.
They live it, they're very courageous,
they're very brave, they're willing to come in to my office
or Jeff's office or our office
and look at themselves and how they're
contributing to whatever issues exist.
Families that do best tend to be families that are able
to talk with each other and not just talk
about the weather or what they saw on TV,
but talk about feelings and experiences
and really share with one another
and check in.
In particular, I worked with a family
where the fear of one
person getting angry
kept other family members from communicating with one another.
And so when we were able to talk about
some of those "hot-button issues" within the session
and keep them calmer and keep some of the anger out of the room,
Then those topics didn't become taboo anymore,
and that family was able to communicate with each other in an honest way
and learn how to deal with anger
in a way that didn't stymie or block their communication in the future.
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On April 24, 2009, BrainLine had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Kreutzer and Dr. Stejskal to talk about their work with people with traumatic brain injury and their families. Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King. Transcript of this video.
Jeffrey Kreutzer, PhD,
Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, PhD, ABPP, is the Rosa Schwarz Cifu Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Medical College of Virginia Campus. There, he is also a professor of Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Dr. Kreutzer serves as director of Virginia's federally designated Traumatic Brain Injury Model System and coordinates VCU Health System outpatient services for families and persons with brain injury.
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