What to Expect When a Family Member Has Sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury
When a loved one sustains a traumatic brain injury, the entire family is immediately affected. During the acute period, there is often a fear of the unknown. Family members will rally around their loved one while they try to understand what has happened and what the future will hold. All family members will experience the disability in some way and eventually they must all learn to cope with the reality of living with someone who has suffered a brain injury.
Following the acute period, there will be a period of rehabilitation for your loved one. That rehabilitation may be in a rehabilitation hospital setting or at home with a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals assisting with daily needs and working towards the goals of recovery.
A brain injury is unlike other illnesses or injury. There are varying degrees of brain injury and individuals demonstrate brain injury symptoms in a variety of ways. These include, but are not limited to, change in personality, anger, frustration, cognitive difficulties, depression as well as physical and neurological deficits. Family members will have many questions about what happens next. They should not hesitate to put all of their questions to the medical professionals.
Regardless of the effects of the brain injury, the burden and stress felt by the family members is real and cannot be ignored. Some family will take on the role of primary caregiver. These caregivers are often at risk of experiencing significant depression within the first year after injury and must be careful to avoid burnout. Family members should consider periods of respite, brief breaks throughout the day, and longer breaks for change of scenery and time to rest.
If the brain injury was caused by a motor vehicle accident in Ontario, there is help for family members through The Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule — Effective September 1, 2010 (“SABS”). Application may be made by direct family members that allow them to access much needed support such as adjustment counseling, other mindfulness modalities and, at times, income replacement benefits if they are unable to work due to the psychological impact.
When a loved one sustains a traumatic brain injury, life for the entire family changes in an instant. Family members will change with it and assist their loved one while they all begin the unique journey of healing, adaptation, and learning to live the best life possible following a serious injury.
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