My husband fell off a ladder almost a year ago now and sustained a brain injury. I've noticed that his communication and social skills tend to get worse at parties, especially during the holiday season. Why is this? And what can I do to help?
The holidays can be fraught with pitfalls for someone with a brain injury. The fact that your husband's communication and social skills worsen at parties is not unusual. For starters, routines are disrupted and there can be an increased number of social functions with less time to rest in between.
TBI related fatigue could cause a decline in social skills. Things can get even more challenging if alcohol is added to the mix. And for individuals prone to seizure activity, holiday lighting — particularly flashing lights — could increase the risk of a seizure.
A social setting, like a party with many people engaged in conversation, eating, and drinking, can easily become over-stimulating and even upsetting to a person with TBI. To help your husband deal with all these issues, you might try limiting the number of engagements during the holidays. And when in a social setting, help support your husband’s conversations by introducing easy topics, and repeating or rephrasing questions asked by others.
You know your husband better than anyone else, and when you hear him having difficulty using the right words, or even slurring his speech, it's time to go home. All the activity has probably tired him out. For someone with TBI, it can be exhausting trying to converse in crowds, with strangers, and in over-stimulating settings.
Carolyn Rocchio is a nationally recognized advocate, author, and speaker in the field of brain injury. Her expertise in brain injury developed as a result of a 1982 auto crash in which her son sustained a severe traumatic brain injury.