A traumatic brain injury (TBI) not only affects the patient, but it can have a devastating impact on the patient’s family members. Every injury is unique, which means every victim suffers from different symptoms. The recovery process varies significantly, as factors like the type of injury, severity, patient’s age, and even economic status can impact a person’s ability to return to their pre-injury status.
While the TBI survivor will have their recovery to focus on, loved ones may feel at a loss as to what the future looks like or what to do. Unfortunately, doctors rarely provide the education loved ones need to fully understand what their loved one is going through and what they can do to help. Because of that, we’re here to provide you with some information so you feel more in control of what’s happening in your life.
Understanding Your Brain Injury Rehabilitation Team
It’s likely you’ll want to be at your loved one’s side as they’re recovery from their brain injury. During their hospitalization and after, you’ll come into contact with numerous doctors. You may meet some physicians who neglect to tell your family why they’re there or how they’re going to help your loved one. Remember that you can ask as many questions as you’d like, and you have the right to verify who’s treating your family member. While every case is different, a typical brain injury rehabilitation team could involve the following members:
- Neurologist. The main physician your family will be dealing with is likely to be a neurologist. They work with the brain and nerves. They’ll conduct tests to measure the electrical activity in the brain, which will tell them if something abnormal is going on. They’ll be able to track the patient’s progress as time passes and provide treatment plans.
- Neurosurgeon. In the event a TBI requires surgery, it will be done by a neurosurgeon. If, for example, a patient has a bruise on their brain (also called a contusion), the pressure could prevent important parts of the brain from working. The surgeon will stop the bleeding and remove the contusion.
- Internal Medicine. An internist looks at how the system in your body interacts. With a TBI patient, they may offer an initial consultation to provide referrals.
- Dietitian. Depending on the head injury, the patient may not be able to participate in the same level activity as before. A dietitian can help plan a healthier diet to avoid excess weight gain. It’s also important to eat a balanced diet to promote the healing process.
- Physical Therapist. A brain injury can impact a person’s ability to walk and move. Physical therapy is challenging, but a person may be able to regain movement in their arms or legs. Physical therapists are also able to help with problems like neck or back pain.
- Plastic Surgeon. An open brain injury requires immediate medical intervention. If the patient survives, it’s likely they’ll need reconstructive surgery.
- Psychiatrist. Experiencing any degree of TBI can challenge a person’s psyche. If a patient is experiencing emotional or behavioral problems, a psychiatrist can help them recover with the use of medication.
- Speech/Language Pathologist. If a cognitive issue arises as a result of a brain injury, a speech therapist can work on attention, memory, organization, planning, sequencing, reading, writing, and more.
- Occupational Therapist. A TBI patient is likely to experience difficulty completing tasks that were previously easy. An occupational therapist can help with the activities of daily living to ensure the patient lives the highest quality of life possible.
Preparing Yourself and Your Family for Life with a Brain Injury
It’s important to understand the ways in which the TBI could affect your loved one. There could be physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, communication, or social impairments. Their medical team will be able to address many of those issues, but not all are as easy to tackle as others.
There’s no one or right way for a family to react after a brain injury. While some family members may be comfortable in a hospital setting, not everyone is. The circumstances of the injury may create tension, but it’s important for family members to talk about issues as they arise—instead of bottling everything up.
Once you’ve gotten over the emotional shock, you’ll need to start thinking about the chances of your loved one making a full recovery, whether or not communication will be difficult, what your financial situation looks like, and how you can help maximize your family member’s chances of recovery. There are a number of resources offered in British Columbia to help.
Important Resources for Family Members of a TBI Patient
As your loved one tackles the recovery process, you’ll benefit from taking advantage of the numerous resources Vancouver has to offer for TBI patients. If, for example, the patient is your child, the Community Brain Injury Program for Children & Youth in British Columbia can help your child with returning from the hospital, going back to school, and more.
For individuals with mild TBIs, there’s the Concussion Clinic at Fraser Health Authority. They provide early intervention and follow-up services for patients eligible for their services. If your loved one’s brain injury is work-related, WorkSafeBC offers Community Brain Injury Services. There’s also the Kamloops Brain Injury Association. There, patients and families have access to support groups and programs to get their lives back on track.
If your family is struggling after your loved one sustained a TBI, our lawyer may be able to help. If their injury was the result of someone else’s negligence, there may be grounds for legal action. To learn more about your family’s rights and options, schedule a consultation with our office today.