Brain Injury — What's next?

The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training
Brain Injury – What’s next?

A brain injury can change life forever for the person who sustains the injury and for those in a relationship with that person. Recovery is a lifelong journey with a series of changes, challenges and rewarding experiences.

The more you know about brain injury the more confident you will be in your ability to cope with these changes and to find effective ways to manage the challenges.

What can I Expect?

No one can tell you exactly what to expect. The impact of brain injury and the recovery process are as unique as the individual who has sustained the injury.

  • People heal in their own way.
  • No two recoveries are alike.
  • Some days will be better than others.

Brain injury creates confusion and emotional highs and lows for both the survivor and the family. The most common long-term challenges faced after brain injury have to do with cognition (thinking, memory, and organization) and behavior (habits, emotions, actions).

Brain Injury Differs from Other Injuries

Unseen Damage

The damage that results from a brain injury is often unseen. On the outside the individual may look the same and seem fine. Some individuals may not be aware they’ve had a brain injury until they or others notice changes in their behavior or thinking. Mild to moderate brain injuries may even be missed in a medical exam.

Personality Changes

The injury may cause personality changes. And some personality traits from before the injury may now be exaggerated.

Changes Over Time

Challenges may change over time and even day-to-day. What's easy one day may be hard the next. What works to support a challenge this month may not work next month.

What supports might be needed?

Each brain injury is different. Challenges will range from some to many and from mild to severe.

  • Physical adjustments may be needed to help with mobility, vision or speech, sensitivity to light and noise, and fatigue.
  • Cognitive aids may be needed to help with memory loss, difficulty in starting and completing tasks, and making it to appointments on time. Support may be needed to improve concentration, organize, plan, and shift attention from one event to the next.
  • Behavioral/emotional strategies may be needed to reduce impulsiveness, poor judgment, mood swings and frustration.
  • Social cues may be needed to deal with awkward social interaction, inability to understand social boundaries and expectations, and difficulty understanding language such as jokes and double meanings.

There are many support tools and strategies available to help with any of these challenges.

What can I do to Help Recovery?

Take it one day at a time

Learn to accept the person as he or she is "right now". Don't promise or expect that life will return to normal.

Try to stay flexible

Realize there is not just one right answer to any specific problem.

Show respect

Tell your family member that he or she is valued. Allow full participation in all decisions that involve him or her. Work with your family member. Resist the urge to take on a parental or authoritative role.
Listen. Check in often to see how your family member is feeling and take time to listen to his or her answer.

Basic needs remain unchanged

Adults with brain injury have the same emotional needs as before:

  • to feel loved
  • to feel useful
  • to feel needed
  • to be treated as an adult
  • to be treated with respect

Together You Can Do This

Help your family member on the path to participating in his or her own healing. Encourage your family member to explore new things. Help them have choice and control over his or her life whenever possible. Avoid helping with any activity that can be done independently, even if it takes more time for him or her to do it.
People need "say so" over their own lives. Even when you cannot give someone complete choice, for safety reasons, you can create the feeling of choice by saying, "Would you like to to do X or would you prefer Y?" with two safe options.

Keep Hope Alive

Finally, if there is just ONE thing that you can do to support the best possible recovery, it's to…Keep hope alive!

One fact is certain: support from family and friends is a big factor in the recovery and quality of life for individuals with brain injury. The challenges that come with brain injury provide opportunities to learn and grow. Relationships can strengthen. People with brain injury and their families can lead full and productive lives.

Posted on BrainLine October 22, 2015.

Comments (8)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

Very hard to believe I am a head injury . But once I could see my how things were hard for me . The whole flooding, word loss, anger and loss of independent was and is huge . I struggle wanting my life back, yet know after 3 years, I have changed . I worked / work everyday to do well . and my therapist tell me so . Now I have to give a huge hug to my husband whom cares for me threw it all . Not saying it was or is easy on him. We have had disagreements , and see a long ways together . I want this and he says not yet . I get angry and feel bad later, its love not always control . In time I hope to drive . We all must teach others TBI,s are not dumb,,,, lost maybe . Thank you for caring for us

My name is Barbara Matthews, I was a nurse in a pediatricians office. I was in a 4-wheeler accident Nov 2010, it threw me and I landed on the left side of my skull. Was in coma for 2 weeks. Woke up on Thanksgiving day. I don't remember much, I was sent to Atlanta in late Dec., the first thing I remember is in Jan I called my son and he told me what had happened.I stayed in the hospital for bout 3 months, then I was put in an apt next door to the hospital, and someone had to stay and help take care of me. My member, which was family, would take me to a rehab place every day. I was in a wheel chair till they taught me how to walk, talk, bath, eat and other stuff. I came home in April, still talked weirdly. I went to a rehab place here for a couple of months. Now I still have problems with words and names.I also don't taste or smell anything. I do thank the Lord that Im still alive, and now I'm a grandma ;)

I understand that we need to "learn to accept the person as he or she is "right now". Don't promise or expect that life will return to normal." This is often hard when the family member can be inappropriate and hurtful and it becomes necessary to set boundaries to protect yourself and they are not accepted or understood by the person with the injury. Brain injuries are often incredibly difficult and life changing for family members too and I feel there is inadequate support for those dealing with the loss of a loved one...although they a still physically present.

It's been 5 yrs since my double aneurysm some days are good most are not I'm not even sure what's normal anymore because I look normal it's harder to deal with I get so frustrated and everyone around me just thinks I am using my SAH as an excuse

The story touches my heart very deeply.. The submission is so accurate and almost gave me the chills.. Still having a hard time getting to know the new me four and a half years later.. So many thing that come up daily or unexpected

How about support from employers? Since my stroke I've found some work conditions aggravate my difficulties coping with issues.

So true!

Thank you for continuing to educate us on ourselves. I wish that this was sharable, with our family and friends.