How to Support Your Loved One After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Our loved ones support us through our tough times, so it falls on us to help them when they are going through rough phases. Whether it’s being compassionate, patient, offering financial support, or being there for them during a traumatic injury, there are a plethora of ways you support them.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of death and disability, killing at least 166 people daily. If your family member or friend sustains a TBI, knowing how to help or react can be challenging. Let us guide you through the process, but first, it is crucial to understand what traumatic brain injury is and the treatment options available.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury
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A TBI results from a blow, jolt, or bump to your head. The damage can be non-penetrating, such as violently hitting your head after falling from the bed, or penetrating, such as a bullet wound. It disrupts your brain’s normal functions, such as physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and psychological functions. However, injuries vary in severity; you can recover within days, or in case of high severity, it may result in permanent brain injury. High-risk groups for TBI include:

  • Children younger than 14 and adults over the age of 65
  • People with dangerous jobs, which include military personnel, athletes, police and law enforcement officials, and construction workers
  • Victims of domestic violence or intimate partner violence
  • People with a pre-existing TBI (the brain is more vulnerable to injuries if it isn’t fully recovered)

Types and grades of TBI include:

  • Mild concussions: often includes feeling dazed or losing consciousness.
  • Moderate TBI: loss of consciousness between 30 minutes to one day.
  • Severe TBI: you lose consciousness for over one whole day.
  • Uncomplicated TBI: CT and MRI scans appear normal regardless of the grade of TBI.
  • Complicated TBI: CT and MRI scans show changes like swelling.
  • Non-traumatic: TBIs that result from strokes, seizures, or drownings, which can deprive the brain of oxygen. They are also known as hypoxic or anoxic brain injury.

For a diagnosis, you may have to undergo an imaging test which includes CT scans or MRI checks for bleeding. Click here to learn more about MRI and other advanced diagnostic services. Blood tests to check protein levels that may indicate TBI, or a neurological evaluation that contains your motor functions, sensory functions, and memory.

Signs, Symptoms, and Preventative Measures of TBI

Preventative Measures of TBI 
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Symptoms vary according to the severity of the injury but commonly include:

  • Headaches
  • Confusion and forgetfulness, such as repeatedly asking questions
  • Slow pulse
  • Speech difficulties, such as inability to articulate words or slurred speech
  • Coma
  • Breathing problems
  • Lethargy
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Paralysis
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Changes in hearing or ringing in the ear
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Inappropriate emotional response

It is important to remember that most falls or head injuries do not have long-term consequences, and their symptoms may overlap with other medical conditions, such as dementia. However, if they exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, or change in mental status, immediately seek medical assistance.

Preventative measures include fall-proofing your home, such as installing bathtub grab bars or clearing away toys and clutters. Ensure wearing a helmet when riding a bike or playing sports like football and wearing seatbelts or using booster seats for kids when driving, and avoiding driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Consider doing yoga or other balance exercises to improve your balance and getting your eyesight checked to upgrade your eyeglasses.

Exploring the Link Between Traumatic Brain Injury and Sensory Processing Disorder

sensory processing disorder
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After a traumatic brain injury, your loved one may be prone to experiencing sensory overload, particularly if the injured part of the brain is responsible for sensory processing. This can potentially lead to sensory processing disorder. However, more research is needed to confirm the link.

Sensory processing disorder involves difficulties in the brain’s reception and response to sensory information. Individuals with this condition may be oversensitive, undersensitive, or a combination of both to stimuli such as sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, movement (vestibular system), and body position (proprioception). These sensitivities affect daily activities and social interactions, with symptoms including heightened reactions to bright lights, loud noises, certain textures, or strong odors, and challenges in sensory discrimination and motor skills.

Treatment Options Available

You need to seek medical treatment for severe cases; options include:

Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation Therapies

Functional neurology is a treatment process that uses non-invasive techniques to rehabilitate your nerve cells and tends to target specific areas of the nervous system. It helps individuals with post-concussion symptoms, mild traumatic brain injury, early Alzheimer’s, tremor disorders, and more. You can learn more about functional neurology on this site.

They may use drugs or surgery to treat any abnormal nerve functions. They can also employ non-invasive stimuli, such as sensorimotor stimulation, to improve response to visual or auditory cues or balance therapy in the form of vestibular rehabilitation therapy, from northernillinoisrecovery (an exercise-based treatment program).

Rehabilitation therapies help you relearn skills, recover functions, and find innovative ways to do things. You may opt for physical therapies to restore energy levels, speech therapy to build communications skills or go for psychological counseling to learn coping skills or improve emotional well-being.

Emergency Treatment or Surgery

brain Surgery
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Emergency care is needed to stabilize the patient. Surgery is required to reduce brain damage, such as removing blood clots or pools, as bleeding in the brain can lead to clotted blood or hematomas, which can damage brain tissues. You may need surgery to repair skull fractures to start the healing process around the skull or to relieve ICP (intracranial pressure).

ICP compresses the brain structures, leading to potential impairment of brain function. The patient experiences headache, nausea, vomiting, changes in vision, altered level of consciousness, and neurological deficits. Treatment measures include optimizing cerebral perfusion and oxygenation. Continuous monitoring in intensive care settings guides treatment decisions and prevents neurological complications.

Medication

antidepressants
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Medication will help treat the symptoms and lower the risks associated with TBI. These medications include antidepressants to treat mood instability, diuretics to remove fluid that increases pressure in the brain, and anticonvulsants to prevent seizures.

Maintain a consistent daily schedule for taking medication to stabilize levels in the bloodstream. Additionally, keeping a detailed record of medications, dosages, and any experienced side effects is important for monitoring treatment progress. Informing healthcare providers about all medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, is essential to prevent potential interactions.

It’s advisable to avoid alcohol or other substances that may negatively interact with prescribed medication. Regular monitoring for changes in symptoms or side effects is necessary, with any concerns promptly reported to a healthcare provider. Lastly, disposing of expired or unused medications safely according to local guidelines ensures responsible medication management.

How to Support Your Loved One With a Traumatic Brain Injury

A patient with TBI may find everyday tasks challenging, so help them by breaking down their jobs. For example, for grocery shopping, make a grocery list for your loved one, go to the store with them, and help them put away groceries. If there are tasks they can’t handle, such as driving, take that responsibility off their plate and drive them to their appointments.

To assist someone with a TBI that may be triggered or overwhelmed by certain stimuli, learn what triggers or overwhelms them and help them disengage and recharge. Common triggers may include loud noises, conversations involving multiple people, and bright lights. Give them extra support as they go through treatment, including helping them remember appointment details, ensuring they eat well and go to bed on time, arranging transportation, and helping them with any at-home therapy exercise.

Endnote

Remember, they are their own person, and while it is essential to help them and offer support, you can’t do everything for them. They need to get into the practice of doing things on their own. They are prone to mood swings and irritability following a brain injury, so don’t take their behavior too personally. Times may be challenging, but you must extend love, care, sympathy, and patience to those around you.