In the blink of an eye, your world changed forever. The plans and goals you had for the future you have set aside indefinitely, perhaps forever. This is the result of an accident that left your loved one with a brain injury. While the outcome of these catastrophic injuries can vary widely depending on countless factors, if your loved one now suffers from cognitive, physical or emotional deficits, the role of caretaker is now yours.
You must prepare for a difficult period of adjustment, but that does not mean you must give up all hope. With the right help and resources, you and your loved one may still share an optimistic future with a high quality of life. The first step is to learn what you can expect as a caretaker of someone with a brain injury.
One day at a time
Since everyone’s brain is unique, it is practically impossible to know how the injury will affect your loved one. Nevertheless, doctors can predict certain outcomes based on the severity and location of your loved one’s injury and your loved one’s age and overall health. Take advantage of any information or assistance doctors offer so you can provide the best possible care without burning yourself out. The following suggestions could help you achieve that goal:
- Urge your loved one to remain active, exercise, and participate in therapy and rehab to gain more independence.
- Allow your loved one to do as much as possible without your assistance; this will help the brain repair itself and learn to compensate.
- Recognize less obvious signs of brain injury, such as anxiety, fatigue and depression.
- Understand that difficulty communicating does not necessarily mean your loved one’s intelligence has decreased; it is important to be patient and compassionate.
- Find ways to supplement your loved one’s memory issues, such as using a white board or sticky notes.
- Log every accomplishment, no matter how small, and find many reasons to celebrate and encourage.
Keeping your emotions and needs in check is one of the difficult aspects of being a caretaker. It is important for your own well-being that you take care of yourself, find a support system and schedule time away by yourself. As much as you will need to be patient with your loved one, you also much be patient with yourself. This is a role you were not expecting, and your loved one may not be able to express how deeply he or she appreciates your loving care.