Caron Gan, RN, MScN, AAMFT Clinical Member & Approved Supervisor
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist
Family Support Service, Brain Injury Rehabilitation Team
Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
How can I help my loved one come to terms with their brain injury?
This is a difficult process for both the loved one and family members. The person with the injury will need to grieve the loss of how life used to be. Feelings of guilt, despair, anger and sadness are common after a brain injury. Unfortunately, there are no timelines for grieving the multiple losses that accompany brain injury. The loved one may also lack insight around the limitations brought on by the brain injury. The important thing is to acknowledge the losses and the changes and provide opportunities to talk about the myriad of feelings that may arise for yourself and your loved one.
How do I explain to my friends and co-workers about my loved ones injury?
Because brain injury can often present as an ‘invisible disability’ to many people, others may not fully understand the impact of the brain injury on your lives. It’s not uncommon for friends to say “he looks so great!” when in fact, your loved one’s personality, cognitive abilities, emotions, or behavior have drastically changed. Provide friends and co-workers with reading materials about brain injury. A good web resource is www.brainline.org. Another book that might be helpful is Getting Better and Better After Brain Injury: A Guide for Families, Friends, and Caregivers available through the Ontario Brain Injury Association.
What is “caregiver burn-out”?
Caregiver burn-out is when the caregiver’s emotional and physical reserves become so depleted that they have little left to give to others, including themselves. Signs of burn-out can include:
- Decreased ability to think and solve problems efficiently
- Physical ailments (e.g. headaches, digestive problems)
- Sleep difficulties
- Low energy and lack of motivation
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, sad and blue
- Decreased productivity
- Irritability, short temper, impatience, and withdrawal from others
If you notice that you have many of these signs, it’s important to slow down, reach out to others, and get some help.
How do I take care of my-self?
Here’s a check-list to help you gauge how well you are taking care of yourself. Answer True or False to the following questions to find out how well you are taking care of yourself.
- I try to get enough sleep and rest
- I eat things that are good for me
- I have hobbies or activities that I enjoy on a regular basis
- I get together with friends and/or family regularly
- I ask others for help when I need it
- I avoid taking on too much when I feel overwhelmed or stressed
- I talk to people I trust about my worries and concerns
- I have a fitness or exercise program
- I give myself credit for reaching my goals and taking small steps forward
- I avoid alcohol and drugs
- I know how to focus on what’s important and don’t sweat the small stuff
- I watch my health and see a doctor when needed
The more items you answered True, the better you are doing at taking care of yourself.
How do I make sure my other children still feel loved and get the attention they need when so much of my time is spent taking care of my child with a brain injury?
Make sure to spend alone time with the other children in the family. Make a special date with the other child(ren) to spend some quality time together. It is important that this be time devoted exclusively to that child. Try to avoid discussions related to the family member’s brain injury.
How do I support my child in school?
There are many resources that could be used to help teachers better understand your child’s brain injury. A helpful resource is Educating educators about ABI: Resource binder¸ which is downloadable through www.abieducation.com. Another helpful resource to help you navigate the school system is http://free.braininjurypartners.com. These resources offer helpful tips for students with brain injury as well as tips for dealing with school systems.