How Severe Brain Injuries Affect Couples and Families
By Nathan Williams, Staff Writer
In my most recent post, we discussed the effects a severe brain injury can affect someone in the long-term. However, this is really only one piece of the puzzle.
Not only does a TBI impact the individual who sustained the injury, it can also have dramatic impacts on family members as well. These changes can be very emotional for both the TBI victim and his or her loved ones.
While most brain injuries are relatively minor and don’t cause major changes in a relationship, severe brain injuries often mean significant changes in a spouse’s life, as well as family members’ responsibilities at home.
For example, someone with a severe brain injury will not be able to take care of many of the things he used to do. He will need to focus his entire energy on getting better, which is why a spouse and any children will have to take on new responsibilities. Besides managing the survivor’s care, common household chores like yard work, cleaning, cooking, financial management and other tasks will need to be handled by other family members.
Taking on new responsibilities and learning how to take care of things the injury victim used to handle will undoubtedly add stress, which can increase tension in the household. To alleviate this tension, the individual who is recovering should try his best to acknowledge the contribution of his spouse and other family members - take a moment to say “thank you.”
Also, the spouse and kids should occasionally take time away, even if it’s only for an hour or two.
Relationship roles can also change dramatically when dealing with a severe TBI.
For example, perhaps the mother was the primary parent for speaking with teachers at her child’s school. After suffering a brain injury, the wife may not be able to handle this task effectively, so the father will need to step in.
It’s important for everyone to openly discuss these role changes. While someone may not be able to handle certain tasks anymore, he may be able to offer advice. One important thing to keep in mind is to be careful with criticism on how someone is handling a new task.
Day-to-day tasks and relationship roles are significant enough, but communication is by far the biggest change that affects couples and families dealing with a TBI.
A spouse can easily be overwhelmed with new responsibilities of taking care of the home and loved one at the same time. This of course can lead to changes in communication – people who liked to talk may talk less, and when they do, their language may be much more intense and urgent than before the injury.
These communication changes can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It can be really hard for either the TBI survivor or the spouse to communicate their feelings. In some cases, they will simply go to a friend, and in other cases, they will completely keep these feelings to themselves. A therapist can also be a big help in some situations. Of course, these things cost money, which is why it is important to hire an experienced brain injury lawyer to help pursue your claim.
Also, personality changes in the TBI survivor could lead to tension between the couple. Mood swings or anger are challenging to deal with in an already difficult situation.
Communication changes are considered the most significant because of how they can impact other parts of the relationship, including the changes in roles and responsibilities.
To deal with these challenges, couples should be patient with each other and find points of agreement rather than focusing on where they disagree. Instead of saying what immediately comes to mind, write your thoughts down and come back later after you’ve had a chance to think about it.
The big thing to keep in mind when dealing with changes caused by a TBI is patience – if you’re a spouse, understand that your loved one is going through a tough period and needs some room.
If you’re a TBI survivor, understand that your loved one is similarly going through a tough a stressful time. Be patient as he adjusts to the new responsibilities, and understand when he needs room to breathe as well.
If your loved one’s TBI was caused by another party’s negligence, we encourage you to search our directory for a qualified brain injury attorney in your state today.