I have spent 18 holiday seasons with my dad’s brain injury. It seems like every year my mom ends up with too much on her plate, meanwhile my dad wants to do everything and go everywhere. There are over five million people who live with brain injury and for millions of families like my own, the most wonderful time of year can be the most challenging time of year. Whether you know someone who has a brain injury or you don’t know the first thing about brain injury, you can do one of these four things this holiday season, and you will have made this time of year a little more merry for those of us who live with brain injury every day.
Support a friend or family member.
Do you have a friend or family member who has a brain injury? Go to a support group with them. Either offer to take the place of a caregiver (who will thank you for the extra hours at this busy time of year) or suggest going to a friend who has never been to one before. Brain injury support groups give survivors the chance to share the ups and downs, to ask questions, to talk openly about how their injuries affect them and the people in their lives, and to know they are not alone. You don’t have to talk or share, just being there means a lot.
Help out a caregiver.
For most of us, the holidays are chock-full of one too many things to do. For those people caring for someone with a brain injury, it can be nearly impossible to keep up with it all. If you know someone with a brain injury, there are a few ways you can help out during the holidays. You can take them shopping and help them cross off that holiday to-buy list and stay on a budget. You can plan a time to come over and wrap presents, bake cookies, or decorate. You can take them out to dinner or to the movies. Every little bit of free time you can give a caregiver is a gift.
Educate yourself or someone you know.
When I was in high school and living with my dad’s brain injury, it felt like my family was the only family like mine, which is why I had to write He Never Liked Cake. I wanted to share my story with other people in the hopes of finding other kids who lived with brain-injured parents (I have), and to educate people who knew nothing about brain injury so they could learn what families like my own experience (I have). Today, many people are sharing their stories of brain injury. There are books like mine and all those on BrainLine’s brain injury book list and documentaries like Kevin Pearce’s The Crash Reel. Read or watch, and help raise brain injury awareness with what you’ve learned.
Give what you can.
Although there are a growing number of brain injury organizations and rehabilitation centers that specialize in brain injury treatment, there are few that are making big bucks. In fact, most lack the funding to provide survivors, family members, and caregivers with the proper resources, materials, treatment plans, and health care options that they need. Brain injury is a life-long condition and the treatments are long-term and costly. You can help out by donating to a local brain injury facility or non-profit organization. Or if you don’t want to blindly give money, you can call and ask what they need most. It could be as simple as sweatpants or yoga mats or volunteering your time.
The holiday season is all about sharing, giving, and gratitude. Thank you for helping the brain injury community!