Take the time to get to know the whole person, not just the facts about their injury. Getting to know someone takes time. Think of yourself as a coach and that you and the person with a brain injury are becoming a team. Involve family members and friends whenever possible. Also, taking the time up front to get to know someone can help you more effectively manage challenging situations later on.
How can I find out about the person’s experience with brain injury?
Read the medical reports and ask the person with the brain injury, their family members, friends, and the Program Director/Manager where you work:
- When did the brain injury occur?
- What kind of brain injury (TBI, stroke, tumor, lack of oxygen and toxicity, other)?
- How long ago did it occur?
- Has there been more than one injury?
- What are the primary medical concerns?
- What are the primary cognitive, behavioral, physical, and emotional impacts?
- What are the social, vocational and financial impacts?
How can I find out about their background, interests, and personality?
If the person with a brain injury or their family members are willing to share more personal information, you might learn about their:
- Primary/preferred language
- Cultural background
- Health beliefs (e.g., How have they engaged with medical/rehabilitation services in the past? Were they reluctant or comfortable participating in these services?)
- Sexual orientation/gender identity*
- Spiritual/religious beliefs/practices*
- Role of the family; significant others (e.g., Who were their primary relationships before the injury? Are these relationships still intact? How has the family been involved? Do they hold similar health beliefs? See “health beliefs” above)
- Who they were before their injury? What they did for fun? For work?
- How did they manage stress before the injury? Now?
- Do they now have a legal guardian or Conservator (Someone who is responsible for the person and property of an individual who cannot make decisions for themselves.)?
*These can be particularly sensitive topics. Carefully consider if and how to discuss these topics with the person with brain injury. Rather than initiating a conversation about these topics, take their lead. They will share with you what they’re comfortable sharing.
Excerpted from Staff TBI Skill Builder by The Center on Brain Injury Research & Training (CBIRT). Funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. Grant #: 90IF0124