Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a common consequence of serious accidents. It can result in memory loss, inability to focus, mood swings, and general confusion. For many families, supporting a loved one with TBI can become like a second job due to the effort and time it requires.
Thankfully, modern technology has made helping loved ones with TBI easier. While people with TBI still contend with major obstacles, they at least have access to better tools and support through their family members and caretakers.
Below, we talk about simple ways we can help our loved ones navigate their TBI on a daily basis.
1.) Share a Calendar App
Keeping track of appointments and events is overwhelming for someone with memory problems. By sharing a calendar, you can send text and reminders on a daily basis to help your loved one stay on track. Doing daily reminders also spares them from the gnawing feeling that they're forgetting something.
2.) Check-In Every Day
Carve out a dedicated part of your day to go over the day's schedule with your loved one. Make sure the time isn't being "shared" with anything else because multi-tasking can cause undue stress for people with TBI. Eliminate distractions; don't even eat while you meet!
This will take some trial-and-error, but try to pick the best time for your loved one to get maximum focus. Use the time to address their questions (otherwise, their concerns will hang over their heads for waytoo long). It also gives them a chance to tell you what they need. Take some notes about what you covered so they can review it later!
3.) Label Locations of Important Items
The best thing you can do for someone with TBI is to minimize the need for remembering. One way to do that? Label all your light switches, cupboards, bathroom cabinets, and drawers. Side note: if your home isn't very organized, now would be the time to organize your drawers/cabinets.
For extra help, create laminated cards with instructions for using appliances in the kitchen, especially blenders or stovetops. The key here isn't to operate everything for your loved one, but to empower them to do it on their own. Instruction cards help them avoid confusion (which only adds to their frustration).
4.) Create a Quiet Space for Sensory Overload
People with TBI often struggle with too many "inputs" and not enough mental processing power. When your loved one deals with sensory overload, they need a space to quiet their minds and take a break from constant stimulation. Make the space as relaxing and comfortable (and secluded) as you can manage. Equip it with headphones, an iPad or laptop, or books–whatever your loved one needs to relax.
If you're visiting someone else's home (or you're taking a trip somewhere), create a "mobile quiet place" by equipping a backpack with noise-cancelling headphones, a book or e-reader, and a tablet. You might even want to think ahead and designate a quiet place for where you're headed.
5.) Be Generous with Waiting Time
People with TBI take longer to focus, put their thoughts together, make connections, and complete tasks. In order for our loved ones to avoid frustration and pressure, we need to let that be okay. That begins with how we schedule our days. Make sure every task or event has decompression time or transition periods between them. Give your loved one adequate mental rest, and give them plenty of time to finish tasks.
This will not only help them avoid mental fatigue but will improve their overall quality of life. People with TBI often get overwhelmed by once-simple tasks, and struggle many of them struggle with feelings of inadequacy. This leads to consistent tension and anger, making life harder for both fo you.
Simply carving out more time for daily tasks makes life easier.
In conclusion, have generosity and patience for their sake and ours. Remember that people with TBI are aware of their capabilities and become frustrated when they can't do things like they used to. Rather than treating them like a nursing home patient, we need to act like assistants. In a way, we should become like a prosthetic brain for them: we remember the things they need so they can focus on getting better.
We hope you found these tips helpful! Handler, Henning & Rosenberg fights to help all of our clients get the resources they need to restart their lives. If your loved one suffered a TBI through no fault of their own, we may be able to help your family get what you need to move forward.
Call (888) 498-3023 or send us a message to tell us what happened to you.