Introduction: Head injury hurts. As a mom or dad, husband or wife, brother or sister of someone who has just suffered a severe head injury, YOU hurt. You’re likely to hurt because you feel scared and worried. You ask, and are afraid to ask: “Will he survive? Will he be normal? How long will it take?” You’re likely to hurt because you feel so helpless. You wonder: “What can I do? How can I help?”
It’s normal to be confused when trying to sort out what doctors and nurses and relatives and friends have told you. As well, it’s a very stressful but very normal process to question whether there was anything you could have done to prevent the actual accident. On top of all this, some people feel tired but can’t sleep. For some people food tastes like sawdust and some may have head or stomach aches.
In the critical first few days after the accident, most family members put the outside world “on hold”. However, after the head injured person has stabilized, some semblance of normal family routine needs to be re-established…back to work, back to school, back to sleeping in a bed at night. Understandably, everything will not be the same, but some stability is essential.
We hope you’ll realize the necessity of TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF. This is likely to be what the brain injured person would also want you to do. As well, you are an extremely important member of the team that is dedicated to the rehabilitation of your loved one. This effort is a labour of love. No one person can do it all. The rewards vary and are sometimes difficult to predict. Your efforts can make a difference.
Some particularly challenging changes that can happen to people who have had a brain injury:
- Aggressive behaviour is a normal part of the Confused-Agitated Stage (Level IV); it does not represent anger at God or fate for the unfairness of the accident. Longer term, poor frustration tolerance and poor impulse control are common problems experienced by people after a brain injury in stressful situations, particularly when fatigued. This is not “anger” as a “stage” on the way to “acceptance”. It is most important to decrease the demands and the overall stimulation and to help him learn “defusing” techniques, i.e. counting 1…2…3, then speaking.
- Depression is sometimes seen following head-injury once the person is well enough to have insight into his present limitations and their future implications. This is not usually seen until the person is functioning very well on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes people at earlier stages of recovery are mislabeled as depressed when really they are bored or under stimulated. Provide calm, consistent, caring feedback with frequent cues and information.