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Assisting a Loved One with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

October 15, 2020

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by an external force that injures the brain.

A TBI can happen when a person’s head is hit or when the body is shaken hard enough to cause the brain to forcefully contact the skull, such as in a serious motor vehicle accident.

Research shows that roughly 2.8 million people experience traumatic brain injuries each year in the U.S. Of those, 282,000 are hospitalized, and 50,000 die of their injuries. TBI accounts for 30% of all injury deaths in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment is a critical way to prevent these deaths.

What are the Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

There is a wide range of TBI symptoms. These symptoms depend on the type of injury and the extent of the brain damage.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Mild TBI symptoms can include the following:

  • A short loss of consciousness (however, many people with mild TBI remain conscious after the injury);
  • Headache, dizziness, and lightheadedness;
  • Confusion;
  • Issues with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking;
  • Fatigue or lethargy;
  • A change in sleep patterns;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Ringing in the ears;
  • A bad taste in the mouth; and
  • Behavioral or mood changes.

Moderate or Severe TBI Symptoms

If you experience a moderate or severe TBI, you may have any of the symptoms listed above, as well as these symptoms:

  • A persistent or worsening headache;
  • Convulsions or seizures;
  • An inability to wake from sleep;
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Weakness or numbness in the extremities;
  • A lack of coordination;
  • Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation; and
  • Pupil dilation (bigger than usual dark center of one or both eyes).

How is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Diagnosed?

To make a diagnosis, a physician will do the following:

  • Inquire as to your symptoms and the details of your injury;
  • Perform a neurologic exam;
  • Conduct imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI;
  • Use a tool such as the Glasgow coma scale to determine the extent of the TBI (This measures the ability to open your eyes, speak, and move.); and
  • Conduct neuropsychological tests to determine how your brain is functioning.

How Can a Loved One Help a Family Member With a TBI?

Here are some ideas that can help families care for someone who suffers from this type of injury:

1) Have Patience. TBIs affect individuals in different ways, so there is no set pattern for how your family member will behave. Because the effects of TBI injuries are varied and frequently unpredictable, the most important thing that a caregiver can do is to stay as patient as possible.

This can be a challenge because the patient will have good days and bad days. You may have to repeat the same thing several times.

Finally, don’t take it personally if the patient becomes agitated or angry with you. Expressing confusion, frustration, and other negative emotions is a common response for patients after they suffer a TBI.

2) Help With Organization. Frequently, TBI patients experience memory loss as a common side effect. If your family member has memory issues from their injury, they may have difficulty recalling where they put things, keeping appointments, and remembering how to accomplish everyday tasks. You can help them become more organized if needed. A few of the ways that you can help include:

  • Helping them create lists so they stay organized;
  • Labeling cabinets, drawers, and containers to assist them in recalling where they can find items they need;
  • Providing explanations when possible prior to engaging in activities and reviewing each of those steps as you’re doing them;
  • Showing them how to set calendar reminders on their smart phone; and
  • Offering to drive them to their appointments.

3) Take Your Family Member Out of the House. After a TBI, it’s not uncommon for a patient to want to remain at home and do nothing. But this can, in combination with their physical injury to their brain, create feelings of anxiety or depression. It’s important for them to get out of the house even for a few hours. A quiet, scenic spot might be best.

4) Give the Patient a Sense of Normalcy and Structure. A TBI is life-altering. Your family member will find themselves in an unfamiliar situation. He or she will likely feel out of place, uncomfortable, and uncertain about how to act or react. Some ideas to help them with this include:

  • Act as naturally with the person as you can to help them to maintain their former status in the family;
  • Create and maintain a daily routine;
  • Talk to them in your normal tone of voice and don’t talk down to them;
  • Involve them in conversations to help them continue to feel involved and social;
  • Include them in family activities; and
  • Keep a photo album with labeled pictures of friends, family members, and familiar places.

5) Make Sure They Have Some of the Comforts of Home. If your family member is staying at a hospital (perhaps in a coma) or is residing in a rehabilitation center, it will be an unfamiliar environment. They are likely to feel frightened, overwhelmed, and confused. Help them feel more comfortable by providing them with some familiar and comforting items, like a favorite blanket. Also, spend time with them so they don’t feel alone, but allow them time to rest and recover.

Finally, understand that your loved one may require help but may not want to ask for it for fear of looking helpless. You can ask them instead of waiting for them to ask you. That way, you’re assisting them with what they need while allowing them to feel a greater sense of independence.

Contact Us

If you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury or TBI in an auto accident or as a result of medical malpractice in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. We will help you pursue compensation against those who are responsible.

For a free consultation with an experienced auto accident attorney in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital, to accommodate you.

Contact us today!