Dealing with an injury is stressful in various ways—even more so when a brain injury occurs. Even the mildest brain injury can be a serious matter that can have lasting effects. It takes time and dedicated focus to overcome a brain injury, and this occurrence negatively affects the person with the injury and those around them.
The road to recovery may be long and winding, but there is hope. Here’s everything you need to know about moving forward after a brain injury.
What Constitutes A Brain Injury?
First, it can be helpful to understand what is a brain injury and how it occurs. Most forms of physical trauma causing damage to the brain are avoidable, and prevention is critical. However, accidents happen.
A TBI often happens after hitting a hard object. That object could be something external, like the edge of a bathtub, or one’s own skull during a sudden stop.
Acquired Brain Injury
A TBI falls under the umbrella of Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI), but it’s not the only cause. An ABI generally refers to a brain injury that takes place in relation to an event. In addition to a TBI, this can be caused by a medical issue or incident resulting in a lack of oxygen, such as a baby getting a cord wrapped around its neck during birth or a stroke.
Inborn Brain Injury
Inborn Brain Injuries (IBI) are the opposite of an ABI. These neurological defects happen in utero, either through development issues or external factors such as maternal drug abuse.
How Traumatic Brain Injuries Happen
Most people experience a TBI when dealing with a brain injury. These events have various causes and can range in severity, depending on where the trauma takes place and the extent of the trauma.
Here Are The Most Common Causes Of TBIs.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
One of the most common causes of TBIs is a motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents (getting hit by a vehicle). TBIs caused by motor vehicle accidents can be a silent injury, with the individual not knowing they’ve been hurt. The adrenaline released in the body during an accident makes it hard to remember the details, like if you stuck your head during the collision.
You can also experience a TBI without hitting your head during an accident. The sudden stop can cause your brain to impact your skull, similar to what happens during whiplash.
A seemingly innocuous slip and fall accident can also cause head trauma. Seniors with balance and mobility issues are especially at risk of these occurrences. Slip and falls often go hand-in-hand with workplace accidents as well.
Finally, TBIs are quite common in contact sports, such as hockey and football. Fortunately, many sports agencies have put protocols in place for identifying and treating concussions when they occur. They also adjust contact rules to prevent concussions.
Brain Injury Severity and Symptoms
As mentioned previously, all brain injuries are inherently serious. However, there are still different levels of severity when rating brain injuries and evaluating their potential impact.
Mild Brain Injuries
Mild brain injuries typically have highly treatable, short-term impacts on one’s health. Still, seeking immediate medical attention is a must. Concussions tend to be a mild brain injuries, although recurring concussions are another issue entirely.
Moderate Brain Injuries
Moderate brain injuries are those in which a full recovery is expected with additional time and support. Someone with a mild brain injury may have to work with an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a psychiatrist, or undergo surgery to recover fully.
Severe Brain Injuries
Severe brain injuries can be life-altering. Depending on the severity, the patient might experience a coma or go into a vegetative state. Those who survive severe brain trauma have a long road to recovery ahead of them and may never regain some abilities or functions.
Seeking Compensation and Financial Support
As one might expect, experiencing a brain injury creates significant financial strain on those impacted. In some situations, brain injuries occur after unavoidable accidents. However, if the injury is sustained due to someone else’s actions or neglect, it’s worth pursuing financial support to help offset the costs.
This includes the initial treatment when the injury takes place and any ongoing rehabilitative treatment over time. In severe cases, the person might also require ongoing care for the rest of their lives.
While brain trauma patients have to spend on the direct costs of brain trauma recovery, they may also face a loss of employment. Even a mild concussion can be triggered by computer screens and noise, leaving office workers unable to perform.
The combination of less income and more expenses can add up quickly and create a precarious financial situation.
Seeing A Brain Injury Attorney
Pursuing claims for brain injuries can help the impacted parties get the financial support they need to recover without additional financial stress. Even if it appears that no one is at fault, it’s still worth discussing your options with an attorney to see if you can claim for damages.
Long-Term Changes Caused by A Brain Injury
The brain is the driving force behind who we are and what we do. Experiencing brain damage can impact everything from one’s motor skills to their personality. Here are some of the changes you might see in yourself or a loved one after a brain injury.
During the initial hours and days after a brain injury, many people experience loss of consciousness or motor control. Brain trauma often results in nausea and vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. It’s also common to see changes in sleep habits, balance issues, and numbness in extremities.
It’s common to experience emotional changes after a brain injury. Even those with a mild concussion could experience bouts of moodiness and stress caused by feeling unwell. More severe cases may result in ongoing emotional issues, from angry outbursts to depression. An estimated 33% of those who experience a TBI develop major depressive symptoms in the year following their injury.
Cognitive and Communication Changes
Unsurprisingly, a TBI can impact how someone thinks and processes information. Common cognitive side effects include difficulty focusing, shortened attention span, memory loss, and speech impairments. These issues can be acute or chronic, depending on the severity of the trauma.
Many people who experience extensive brain trauma struggle to pick up on social cues and filter their thoughts before speaking to others. This can create a sense of displacement and isolation.
Brain Injuries and Relationships
ABIs brings challenges for both the person affected and their loved ones, especially their partner. The potential physical and mental changes, financial stress, and caregiver burden may put a lot of strain on even the healthiest relationships.
Non-romantic relationships, such as those with friends, parents, and children, also bear the stress of a brain injury. Here are some common relationship issues that arise in the face of an ABI.
Personality changes have huge implications for relationships after an ABI. Someone who starts experiencing angry outbursts will likely experience difficulties with their children and partner. As a result, those people might feel resentful of being the target of these outbursts and guilty in realizing that it’s a result of the injury.
Sometimes, the personality changes are so severe that they no longer want to be in their pre-trauma relationships. This occurrence can create feelings of loneliness, sadness, anger, and grief for the person they once were.
Caregiver and Patient Stress
Stress is often referred to as a silent killer, even among healthy individuals. A brain injury can be so stressful for all involved that it can strain relationships. Those pushed into the caregiver role often lack time for self-care, while those experiencing the injury feel as though boundaries have been blurred. The additional financial pressure on both parties exacerbates these issues.
Coping With Stress After A Brain Injury
Coping with stress is paramount for recovery and long-term health for both patients and their loved ones. Here are some practical strategies for mitigating stress and promoting longevity after an ABI.
Everyone has triggers in their lives that elicit an emotional response. After a brain injury, it’s important to reflect and learn what those triggers are. Once the triggers are identified, it’s possible to put a plan in place to help avoid them or process them healthily when they happen.
For example, many people with a TBI experience additional stress when they have trouble sleeping. By practicing proper sleep hygiene and seeking medical assistance as needed, they can minimize this trigger.
Setting boundaries is crucial for the injured party and their loved ones; those boundaries should apply to themselves and others. Learning when to say “no” and how to cut yourself some slack are simple yet incredibly effective ways to manage stress. It’s also essential to know how to ask for help.
Supporting A Loved One After A Brain Injury
If someone you love is experiencing a brain injury, you’re probably ready to offer as much help as possible. Here’s where to start when trying to support someone with a TBI.
Take some time to read about brain injuries and the specific issues your loved one is facing. Educating yourself will help you prepare for the road ahead.
Sometimes in our desire to be helpful, we overstep and make the person feel overly dependent or incompetent. Encourage independence whenever you can, and ask if you can assist before jumping in.
Caregiver burn-out is a real issue. Be sure to take time for yourself to do the things you love and practice self-care. Remember that taking time away isn’t selfish; you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Overcoming Brain Injuries: The Ongoing Process
Recovering from brain trauma is different for everyone. Even identical twins could experience brain injuries in the same accident and have entirely different experiences.
As the recovery process goes on, prevention of further injuries is essential. Work with the person’s physical and cognitive changes to put preventive measures in place, such as putting safety bars in the shower, minimizing substance use, or wearing a seatbelt.
The length and process of recovery are different for each person. If you’re dealing with a brain injury, cut yourself some slack and trust the process. If your loved one is injured, remember to take care of yourself as well.
With a little heart, you can move forward after a brain injury.