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Dealing with brain injury

Author: James Harper
Published: Jan 4 2012

Recovering from a head or brain injury is a very difficult experience to deal with. Not only that but the effects from such an injury can have a dramatic impact on the behaviour and the personality of the victim, depending on the seriousness of the injury and the person involved. Living with a condition like this is tough, but imagine being a close friend or family member, watching someone that you love and care about change right in front of your eyes. Personality and changes in behaviour affect relationships, capabilities of the patient and their functional skills and it is hardly surprising that families struggle to cope or understand the changes.

Personality Changes A change in personality can range from enjoyment of a food the patient previously hated, to a complete change in character. More often than not, if there is a serious change to personality post-injury, it tends to be a more exaggerated and over-the-top version of the patients personality before the accident.
Sometimes there is a completely new personality, with a mild mannered person who exercises a lot turning into someone who gets angry easily and has no interest in exercising at all. For a person to have a successful brain injury rehabilitation, friends and family members should avoid making comparisons between the patient's new personality and their previous one. This only leads to pressure and frustration and a slower recovery as a result.

Memory Problems head injuries may result in short term or long term memory loss for the patient that could last for any length of time. The biggest challenge facing victims of head injuries is re-learning abilities and functions and remembering the things they knew before the accident. Short term memory problems are best handled by the patient's ability to concentrate, so friends and family should avoid noise and distractions when patients are trying to focus on a task. Tasks could be repeating names and places or writing lists to help them remember. The most important thing friends and family can do for victims of head injuries is to maintain a structured environment for the duration of the brain injury rehabilitation, to avoid stressing out the patient and make things easier to remember.

Change in emotional capabilities

Pre- injury a person could have easily laughed, cried or gotten angry depending on the situation but early on in the brain injury rehabilitation process the ability to express these emotions does not come as easily.
In some scenarios, patients could become emotionally unstable with mood swings and exaggerated reactions to normal situations. For friends and family, they need to recognise that the patient has little control over how they react and the best thing they can do for the patient is to encourage positive emotional reactions and note what situations make the patient unstable and try to avoid them until they have greater coping abilities.

For friends and family close to someone who is struggling with a brain injury, it is important to remember you are not on your own. Talk to doctors and carers about the best way to treat the patient as well as talking with support groups who are going through the same situations you are. This ensures a calmer and hopefully quicker recovery to those suffering with brain injuries.

This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Voyage who provide supported living and brain injury rehabilitation services.

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