Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a condition that affects millions of Americans each year. More than 5 million individuals in the US live with a TBI-related disability, and nearly 3 million individuals go to the emergency room or are hospitalized every year for a new brain injury. Approximately 50,000 individuals die from this condition annually.
TBI is not only hard on those who suffer from it, it has a profound impact on those around them as well. Family members may suddenly be thrust into the role of caregiver, and many of them have little to no experience dealing with this type of situation. This is especially difficult for children who have always viewed their parent as a strong and protective provider, and because of their brain injury, they have to try to find their own inner strength as the roles become reversed.
TBI is unique in that it manifests itself differently in each individual case. The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, and it controls numerous functions. Depending on the type of event that resulted in the injury, the severity and location of the injury, and other factors, those who suffer from traumatic brain injury can end up with a wide range of symptoms. These may include:
- Severe headaches;
- Ringing in the ears;
- Dizziness and/or loss of balance;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Memory loss;
- Problems with focus and concentration;
- Difficulty speaking;
- Frequent drowsiness and fatigue;
- Anxiety and depression;
- Compulsive behavior;
- Unusual mood changes or mood swings.
Some cases of TBI are mild, these are commonly known as concussions, and the symptoms usually last for a few days up to maybe a few weeks or so, unless the person suffers multiple concussions within a short period of time. Other cases can be moderate to severe, with symptoms lasting for several months or longer, and in the worst cases, becoming permanent.
Adjusting to Becoming a TBI Caregiver
For those who experience a moderate to severe brain injury, there is likely to be a long road to recovery. During this time, it can be very difficult for family caregivers to adjust to the situation. From now into the foreseeable future, your role in the life of your loved one drastically changes, and this can become an emotional draining experience.
Here are some important tips to help caregivers who have a loved one with a TBI:
Patience is a word you will be hearing a lot in the days to come. Those who have been through the experience of caring for a loved one with TBI will tell you that infinite patience is required. Some days will be good, and some not so good. Some days, it will seem like your loved one is improving, then the next day, they seem to take a step backwards. Prepare yourself mentally for the ups and downs of this journey and do your best to try to take it day by day.
Get Plenty of Rest and Relief
Being a caregiver for a TBI sufferer is draining both physically and emotionally. To take on this role, you will need to get plenty of rest. This might mean taking time off from work, which you are allowed to do (unpaid at least) for up to 12 weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Some organizations provide paid family leave, and if you are fortunate enough to work for one of these, be sure to make use of your paid leave during this difficult time.
Another way you can help ensure you get the rest you need is by enlisting the help of others. Caregiving is a monumental task, especially for someone who does not have a healthcare background and is not experienced with this type of work. You should not have to do this alone, and you should be able to draw on your support network of family and friends to help you through it.
Ask others who are close to you if they can help with the caregiving duties, so you can have a break. And if you cannot find anyone in your own circle to help you, consider hiring an in-home care agency to provide a professional caregiver for even just a few hours a week to help out.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
Because of the uniqueness of TBI, the path to recovery is far less predictable than with most other conditions. This makes it extremely essential that your loved one follows your doctor’s advice to the letter. The doctor will most likely advise that your loved one gets plenty of rest, refrain from using alcohol and tobacco, and create a more simplified routine to help them get through the day. Depending on the situation, they may also advise that they wait a certain amount of time before going back to work and resuming other activities. Your loved one’s doctor is the person who knows more about their specific condition, symptoms, etc. than anyone else, so you will need to rely heavily on their guidance.
Talk to Young Family Members about the Situation
When someone in the family suffers a traumatic brain injury, everyone in the household deals with the situation in a different way. For example, children often have a hard time accepting what has happened, and they might be holding these feelings inside in order to “stay strong”. Do not automatically assume that being silent means your children are doing okay with everything. Talk to them, ask them how they feel about it, what questions they have, etc. In some cases, it might also be good for them to get some outside help to cope with the situation.
Find Out if you Qualify for a Medicaid Waiver Program
In many states, those who suffer from more severe cases of TBI are eligible for a Medicaid waiver. This means that they can receive medical help for the condition through Medicaid even if their household income would normally be too high to qualify for the program. In Pennsylvania, this is known as the COMMCARE waiver program.
Obtain Strong Legal Guidance
If your loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury because of someone else’s negligence or reckless actions, they may be entitled to compensation. This could include damages not only for direct economic losses such as medical bills, lost earnings, and loss of future earning capacity, but also for noneconomic losses such as pain-and-suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. To find out your legal rights and options, it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the injury.
If you are in Pennsylvania, we invite you to contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for assistance. Our lawyers have several decades of experience successfully representing clients who have suffered a TBI, and those who have sustained all other types of injuries that were caused (at least in part) by another party.
Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!