While timely medical care and intensive rehabilitation can make a huge difference in quality of life for a person who has experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI), for many survivors there remains a reality that both themselves and their loved ones must accept…that life in some ways will be changed forever. The difference between how things used to be and how they are now can be jarring, especially after hoping that you or your loved one will make progress and fully recover. With patience and practice, however, it can become easier over time to integrate these necessary changes into everyday life.
At Andrea’s Angels, we know that there is hope in understanding. Below are some changes you can expect to see in a loved one recovering from and living life after a TBI. Review these to prepare yourself for your or your loved one’s return from the hospital or another care facility.
- Memory Changes: Memory problems are the most commonly reported cognitive impairment after a TBI, between 56.5% and 74% of TBI survivors report changes or difficulties with memory. Memory loss is to be expected as a result of a TBI, however, it is not just past memories that are affected, but the ability of the TBI survivor to remember important things going forward which can also be impacted. They may forget appointments, requests, telephone numbers and important messages. It can be especially painful when they forget names and special dates like birthdays, anniversaries, or special events.
Memory problems also include forgetting new information and future plans quickly, as happens with short-term memory loss. It is best not to take this personally.
- Planning and Organizing: The first few days after bringing your loved one home from the hospital or rehabilitation facility, you may have already begun to plan all the wonderful things you and your loved one will do together to celebrate life. But these expectations need to be tempered with the realty that your loved one likely has new limitation as a TBI survivor. They may experience great challenges in making plans, sticking to plans, or with getting ready ‘on time’.
- Concentration: TBI survivors are easily distracted and find it difficult to finish certain tasks. They may also have difficulty with complex ideas or be very rigid in their thinking. Up to 40% of people may have difficulty in thinking flexibly after a TBI.
- Motor-sensory Impairment/Physical Abilities: Most TBI survivors make a good physical recovery with only 25% experiencing permanent long-term physical impairments. However, is not unusual for one side of the body to be restricted in movement or experience weakness during the recovery period.
Visual impairment is one of the most commonly reported motor-sensory impairments that accompany TBIs, along with changes in smell and taste. Those who use mobility aids like wheelchairs or a walker may face their own challenges, such as accessibility issues. You can find workarounds by checking beforehand if the places you are visiting are accessible and planning your visit in detail.
- Communication: Slurred speech, and decreased ability to recognize non-verbal communication or communication that is inappropriate are common residual effects of a TBI. Sometimes, it goes deeper and outlasts the recovery phase such as in cases of Aphasia and Dysarthria.
Aphasia is a disruption in one or more of the communication skills including understanding speech, speaking, remembering names, reading, writing, and so on. Dysarthria arises from damage to the brain stem which can result in physical problems in the production of speech, swallowing, and salivation control.
- Personality & Behavioral changes: Some 60% to 80% of relatives of survivors of a TBI will report behavioral changes in their loved ones up to 15 years post-injury. These changes include a difference in drive as they appear lethargic or inert. Everything seems to take a tremendous amount of effort which is sometimes mistaken for laziness.
Survivors may be unrealistically happy or not respond appropriately to good or bad news. They might be unaware of their limitations or have unrealistic goals or expectations. They may also exhibit “childlike” behavior and become very self-centered, demanding and have difficulty empathizing or seeing other people’s needs and point of view.
- Anger Management: Anger is a significant clinical problem after a traumatic brain injury. As many as one-third of survivors of TBI experience symptoms, ranging from irritability to aggressive outbursts, that are identified as new or worse since the injury. Remain calm if an outburst occurs, and avoid reacting emotionally. Take the person to a quiet area to help them calm down and regain control. Acknowledge and give the person a chance to talk about their feelings. Provide feedback gently and supportively after the person regains their composure.
Facing the Future:
There are so many changes that TBI survivors contend with daily, which can alter their quality of life. Andrea’s Angel’s person-centered approach to TBI recovery and Independent Living Skills Training acknowledges the physical and cognitive changes associated with TBI, and assists clients and their families navigating their new lifestyle that will have to be developed to live a whole and enriching life. To learn more about how to handle life changes after a TBI, and how Andrea’s Angels can help, visit our website or call us today.
DISCLAIMER: THIS BLOG DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.