How Can Caregivers Help Their Spouses Address Problems That The Spouse Doesn't See?

Question: 

How can caregivers help their spouses address problems that the spouse doesn't see?

Answer: 

If someone is not aware that there are problems after a brain injury, it’s difficult to convince them that there are problems.  And so when we have survivors who have profound self-awareness challenges, we’ll often have caregivers or spouses who are very invested in making positive changes, but are struggling with convincing their spouse that those changes need to be made. 

One way around that is that sometimes spouses are able to convince a partner who has had a brain injury to make changes for the spouse's benefit. So if I’m married to someone who has a brain injury, I might say to that person, "I know that you feel like things are going fine, but I’m struggling right now. I’m hoping that you might make these changes because I need that help, and if you make these changes, I might be able to do better."  Sometimes you can create motivation for change that way. 

Posted on BrainLine August 8, 2018.

Emilie Godwin

Emilie Godwin, PhD, LPC, MFT is a faculty member and licensed clinician at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a specialty focus on couples and family counseling after brain injury. Currently, she serves as the Family Support Program Coordinator for the VCU TBI Model System projects.

Comments (3)

My partner is just months recovering from TBI. When she woke from her injuries, she had a completely different personality. It took weeks of non-stop conversation and talk to slowly evaporate the anger and confusion and for the kindness and sweetness of her old personality to return.

On many fronts we are very lucky to have much of life returned to normal (work, driving etc)… however, there is just a shift in her, a very subtle one, where her confidence seems lacking and she is now very needy of attention. I understand that this is normal but she doesn't see how much this gets worse when she isn't rested and yet, because she doesn't see it, she is continuing to push herself harder and harder which makes the situation worse for me.

I feel horribly guilty admitting that (we were only together just over 6 months before the TBI) this is not the confident and strong woman I met, and I find this really difficult. A friend asked me had I met the woman as she is now 'would I have fallen in love with her?' and the truthful answer to that is 'no.' What I loved most about her was her confidence and I am struggling with the neediness and conflict in my mind of knowing I love this woman but this current personality is very challenging for me.

I often wonder (given we weren't together that long beforehand) if this is just another side to her that I hadn't seen? Had it not been for the accident - would this relationship be drawing to a natural close now?

Am I hanging in because of love of the old person? I don't know.

I have experience on both sides of this question. I have a special needs son that we adopted as a baby. We had no idea he was special needs when we adopted him, and it was very difficult to learn what he needed and when. He no longer lives at home and is doing well. Now, I have a brain injury and my husband is my caregiver. I try very hard to tell my hubby how much I appreciate him as much as I can. We work together to make our marriage work with this change in our circumstances. I am there for him when he needs me. We constantly talk about everything. Communication and respect are key, here.

Dr. Godwin, we are 20 years post t.b.I, have four kids-3 whom are college aged (rarely come home) and a pre-teen who has begun to self harm. She has named "fear of her father's" moods and behaviors as the primary concern. For years, we have accommodated his need to promote his self care at expense of ourselves, but I am heartbroken. How do I get him to have more empathy for our children and to understand that the world does not revolve around him and his needs all of the time?