Seeing someone dear to you suffering from a brain injury is heart-breaking. Believe me, I know. I was responsible for my dad when Alzheimer’s cruelly started taking him away. However, whilst I knew his condition would only get worse, that isn’t the case for all brain injury survivors. Many TBI patients will see some improvement, and the recovery process can go on for years.
One of the most distressing parts of this scenario is how the brain injury survivor can lash out so much at their loved ones. We all know that when someone is in distress, it’s often the people closest to them that they take it out on. It’s not fair, but it’s a quirk of human nature. This is made worse when the brain is struggling to control emotions and inappropriate behaviour. Usually, we filter out some of our responses as we learnt to as a child. But this filter is one of the delicate processes that can take a hit when the brain is injured.
I’m telling you this because I know many of you are feeling like you are their punch bag at times, and that you can’t seem to do anything right in their eyes. You’re trying to help, and sometimes that includes having to tell them things that they don’t want to hear. Yes, it hurts, and you deserve better, but please know that they don’t really mean it. You are so important to them and they need to feel your unconditional love more now than ever before.
You have become their reluctant mini-boss in effect. To try to make this period more manageable here’s some suggestions to keep things running smoothly:
App to maintain some of their independence
Most brain injury survivors find their working and short-term memory can be an issue. Most people have had that moment of walking into a room and realising they can’t remember what they were going to do. But imagine that happens every 10 minutes, how would you get anything done? That’s when loved ones can feel like they constantly have to nag the survivor, and their relationship becomes strained. But don’t worry, here’s an idea for you:
There’s an app that I’m a fan off (and no I’m not an affiliate of theirs and they don’t pay me to review their product.) Qcard was developed by a brain injury survivor, and so it really does help because they understand how quickly a thought can disappear. It allows you to set up reminders that will keep coming back until the person confirms that they have completed the task. Plus, you can write instructions on how to perform the task, so they don’t have to keep asking you every time. I used it to remind me how to use the dishwasher as I struggled to remember where to put the rinse aid and salt. And the best bit is you can have it notify you that the survivor has completed the task, so you don’t have to keep asking them. You can put in appointments and have it keep reminding them the days/ hours/minutes beforehand, so it’s less of a surprise. This allows them to feel less of a burden because they can still be useful and you don’t have to nag them so much. It’s available on Android and iPhone. See http://www.qcard.ca/ for further details.
Know where they are using GPS
Another common symptom of a brain injury is losing a sense of direction. I found that I recognised places, but couldn’t think where places where in relation to each other. Thus, I would get lost in town. I knew where I was but didn’t know how to get anywhere else. My dad didn’t have a smartphone so trying to direct him over the phone when I wasn’t sure where he was made it extremely difficult. Now you can get apps such as Life 360, which will show you where they are on a map, so you can go pick them up if you need to. Again, this is available on Android and iPhone. For more details on Life 360 see https://www.life360.com/. Just try to make sure they always have their
phone on them. Using a lanyard so they can hang it on themselves works pretty well as it means they can’t put it down and forget to pick it up again.
These are just a few ideas that hopefully mean you can feel like you again, rather than just their carer. It’s important that you use any little tricks you can to simplify things, so you don’t burn yourself out. These at least reduce some of the many things you have to worry about and will help you find a little more balance in life.
Nothing in this blog should be taken as providing medical advice or recommendations. Please always consult your doctor for medical advice and before taking any medication or supplement. Any opinions expressed in this article are of the author and not CFG Law Limited.