Resource for Caregivers: What to Expect When Your Loved One Has a Brain Injury
If your loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, you may have become a caregiver quite suddenly, with no warning. There are few illnesses or injuries which bring the devastating damages which accompany a serious brain injury. While a person with a brain injury may look the same, he or she likely thinks and behaves very differently. It can be overwhelming for you, as a caregiver, to provide and coordinate care which reflects the changes which have taken place in your family. Knowing there are specific resources you can turn to during this difficult time can make your future seem a little less devastating.
Statistics Related to Traumatic Brain InjuriesOver 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur each year, caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury. The first type of injuries are called closed brain injuries, the latter are open brain injuries. Approximately 35-40 per 100,000 of those with brain injuries will die. Although many of those who sustain a traumatic brain injury will eventually return to their regular day-to-day activities, many will remain permanently disabled. Brain and head injuries are among the most serious, life-altering injuries, in some cases leaving victims in a coma or unable to ever care for themselves or even perform the most basic tasks. Less severe brain injuries can cause significant changes to the victim’s personality, along with chronic, severe pain.
Causes of Traumatic Brain InjuryThe most common cause of traumatic brain injuries are automobile accidents, including motorcycle, pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Among the elderly, falls from a bed, down steps or in the bathtub are a primary cause of brain trauma. Nearly 20% of brain traumas are caused by a violent incident such as domestic violence, child abuse or gunshot wounds. Sports injuries can also result in brain trauma, particularly in high-impact sports such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, skateboarding and baseball. Among those in the military, explosive blasts and other combat-related injuries can lead to brain trauma.
Consequences of Traumatic Brain InjuriesThe specific outcome of a traumatic brain injury can depend on which lobe of the brain is most affected. The victim of a traumatic brain injury may be unable to understand language or to communicate, could have difficulty solving problems, and could suffer an inhibition of behaviors. Memory loss may occur as well as depression, irritability and anxiety. The person with a traumatic brain injury could experience poor judgment, as well as physical symptoms such as full or partial paralysis, changes in the senses, seizures, sleep problems and speech difficulties. The medical expenses associated with a traumatic brain injury can easily exceed insurance limits, causing a significant financial burden for the family of the victim.
How Caregivers Can Ease the BurdenBecoming a caregiver for a loved one with a brain injury can turn the world as you know it completely upside-down. It is important that you somehow find time for yourself in order to cope with the stress of being a full-time caregiver. If you are physically and emotionally exhausted, you will be unable to take care of your loved one. Finding a caregiver support group can help you deal with your feelings, and if you are feeling significant levels of anxiety or depression you must seek help. There are resources available for caregivers, and it is crucial that you take advantage of them. Here are a few of those resources:
- As a starting point, read: Fact Sheet: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers
- For national and state-by-state and list of resources available for those dealing with a loved one with a traumatic brain injury: http://www.brainline.org/resources/site_map.php
- The Brain Injury Association of America has a network of more than 40 chartered state affiliates as well as hundreds of local chapters. To find a list of your state’s TBI programs, go to biausa.org/stateoffices.htm.
- Your loved one may be entitled to SSDI and/or SSI, depending on the severity of the disability. Contact the Social Security Administration at ssa.gov.
- If you feel your loved one could benefit from gaining learning skills which would allow him or her to live independently, contact the National Council on Independent Living at virtualcil.net/cils.
Learning how to navigate your new role as caregiver can require you to learn how to ask for the help you need. The more people involved in the care of your loved one, the easier that care will be, and the less alone you may feel. Further, research has shown that those with brain injuries who receive the highest level of support from family and friends tend to have a better outcome.