Immediately after a person experiences traumatic brain injury, he or she will be rushed to the emergency room where doctors will check vitals and try to prevent further injury. After a TBI patient is stable, he or she will then move to a subacute treatment center and eventually a chronic care facility or independent living.
While along the way, patients will have plenty of support from their doctors, therapists and other professionals, emotional support from their families is also an essential component of patients' recovery process.
How Family Support Helps
A patient's family members can only aid in the physical rehabilitation of their loved one afflicted with TBI to a limited degree, as much of this work is done by doctors and other certified medical professionals.
However, when it comes to the necessary emotional care recovering TBI patients need, families may be best suited to the job. Some of the ways in which families can support their loved one with traumatic brain injury include by:
- Attending doctors' appointments with TBI patients
- Doing research and asking questions that TBI patients don't (or can't) do on their own
- Helping TBI patients remember and practice prescribed therapies on their own (outside of the doctor's office)
- Laughing or crying with the patient (While you want to minimize the time you cry around TBI patients, at times, sharing a good cry can be therapeutic and enriching.)
- Listening to and talking with TBI patients
- Regularly visiting TBI patients outside of medical appointments (if they are living outside a medical care facility)
- Staying optimistic (Being positive around depression-prone TBI patients can keep them positive and help them progress through medical and physical treatments)
Knowledge is Power
Keep in mind that, the more educated families are about traumatic brain injury, the better the support they can provide to their afflicted loved ones. This is largely due to the fact that those who are knowledgeable about TBI can:
- Find well-qualified medical professionals and get the best treatment for their loved one
- Help administer non-invasive treatments (such as physical therapy exercises)
- Make informed decisions about their loved one's care or treatment needs (if the patient can't make these decisions on his or her own)
- Spot the early warning signs of serious, life-threatening TBI complications (Early detection of blood clots and other potentially fatal conditions is key to saving lives.)
- Stay calm and do what needs to be done (Avoiding the temptation to unravel, become hysterical or give up is essential to staying optimistic and keeping the TBI patient positive)
Traumatic Brain Injury Education for Families
Researching traumatic brain injury online is a good way to start learning about the topic and gain a solid overview of the condition, including its general causes, symptoms and treatments. Similarly, online you can find information about new technologies and cutting edge research.
However, if your loved one suffers from traumatic brain injury, you will likely want more specific information about the precise nature and severity of his or her condition. You can learn more about your loved one's specific type of TBI by:
- Asking doctors and nurses questions about any symptoms or treatments you don't understand
- Attending and interacting with support groups (In support groups, you can discuss strategies, get advice and share experiences with other families supporting a TBI patient.)
- Do further online or traditional research (After talking to doctors, you can learn more about specific complications or disabilities the TBI patient has. Learning about specific impairments yields more specific and more helpful information than the broader topic of traumatic brain injury.)
- Listening and talking to doctors
Just as recovery is a hard, painful process for traumatic brain injury patients, so too can it be incredibly difficult for families. As a result, families supporting TBI patients should consider going to therapy to work through their own anxieties, depression and/or hardships.