When someone you love suffers from a brain injury, you may have to take on the role of a CDS caregiver. Though it may seem simple at first, all of the changes you’ll experience can take you on a roller coaster, leaving you unsure of how to deal with it. Thanks to support groups made especially for brain injury caregivers, you don’t have to go at it alone, knowing you have someone to lean on.
Below, we’ll share some changes that you may experience when caring for your loved one that’s suffered from a brain injury. We’ll also share some key things to look for in a support group and how you can seek help if you start to feel overwhelmed.
Physical changes for someone with brain injury
The brain is a complex organ, one that is unpredictable if damaged. When someone suffers from a brain injury, they can display a number of symptoms, some of which we’ve listed below.
Weakness usually only affects one side of the body. As a caregiver, you need to know the side and body parts affected for proper care.
Muscle coordination problems, including swallowing problems
Sometimes, the injury messes with the nerves, which could cause issues with certain muscles causing your loved one to spasm.
Full or partial paralysis
In some cases, paralysis occurs and can either be permanent or just temporary. Either way, those affected will not be able to feel or move the part that is paralyzed.
Changes in the senses
If you’ve known the patient’s tastes before, keep in mind they may have changed. They may not like the same things they used to and maybe sensitive to certain smells and tastes.
In some cases, patients can experience seizures. There is no way to determine whether they will be strong or subtle or whether or not they will be persistent or not.
Your loved one may begin to experience issues sleeping, either unable to fall asleep or sleeping most of the day. Likely, these symptoms will change as they heal.
Speech difficulties and word-finding problems
You may also notice that your loved one starts to have trouble communicating certain things. They could have difficulty recalling words or speaking in general.
Physical changes are not the only changes that one with a brain injury experiences. In addition, they can also experience cognitive changes. Some are more severe than others, and some can change the way that one lives for the rest of their life.
Cognitive changes for someone with brain injury
Not only are there physical effects that those with a brain injury experience but also cognitive changes too. Cognition has to do with thinking and acting based on those thoughts, both of which could be damaged in the event of an injury.
● Shortened attention span
● Memory problems particularly short-term memory
● Problem-solving difficulties and trouble following directions
● Poor judgment
● Partial or complete loss of reading and writing skills
● Language problems, including communication deficits and loss of vocabulary
● Inability to understand abstract concepts
● Difficulty learning new things
Some of these symptoms can appear very soon after the brain injury occurred while others may have a delayed appearance. Some could be permanent while others can go away over time, restoring the individual to the way they once were. In addition to physical and cognitive changes, behaviors can also change.
Behavior changes for someone with brain injury
When one has a brain injury, there can be several things affected. Because of that, caretakers may notice a change in mood, one that can completely change the personality or the typical mood of those injured.
● Difficulty with social skills
● Inability to empathize with others
● Tendency to be more self-centered
● Inability to control emotions, emotional lability
● Increases in irritability and frustration
● Inappropriate and/or aggressive behavior, easily angered
● Extreme mood swings
● Depression (individuals with TBI are considered to be at high risk for depression)
Just like other symptoms and changes that come as a result of a brain injury, behaviors may persist or may disappear or lighten over time. These changes are typical, though no two individuals have the same behavior changes. Caregivers should understand that these changes can occur and know some of the things they may experience when caring for those with a brain injury.
What caregivers feel when taking care of a patient with a brain injury
Because of all of the changes that could occur when one is healing from a brain injury, caregivers may begin to feel emotional during the process. They are there with the patient most of the time, monitoring them and ensuring that they are okay. It’s typical to feel emotional when dealing with a patient, and caregivers may experience any or all of the following.
The need to provide around-the-clock care can wear on caregivers, making them feel burdened by the task.
The number of changes happening and the constant switching of moods and attitudes can leave one stressed out, unable to relax.
Caregivers often experience anxiety, unsure of how to take care of their loved ones. They are often nervous and use caution with all they do.
It’s also common for caregivers to feel angry, especially if the injury was the fault of someone else. They may also experience anger due to a buildup of stress and anxiety.
Because there are a lot of emotions that could come into play when dealing with changes from one with a brain injury, caregivers could easily get worn out. When caregivers begin to feel overwhelmed and feel like they need a hand, there are ways that they can reach out for help.
As a caregiver, it’s good to know that you’re not alone. There are support groups and a lot of other resources out there that are there for those that need help. If you or someone you know is struggling with their role as a caregiver and looking for some relief, here are some key ways that they can find it.
When someone offers help, don’t refuse it.
See a doctor
If you’re experiencing issues, you can see a doctor for help, getting their recommendations.
See a therapist
Therapists are there to listen and provide advice, so see them if you feel stressed.
Go to a support group
Support groups will make you feel included, as you’re not the only one going through emotions experienced by caregivers.
Make time for self-care
There is never a bad time to care for yourself, so pencil some time in for yourself.
There are many resources out there aimed at helping those who have a role as a caregiver. Though there are lots of options, not all of them are created equal. Instead of guessing which is the best, there are key things to look for in a caregiver support group.
What to look for in a brain injury caregiver support group
When searching for a brain injury caregiver support group, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Below, we’ll share a few of those with you so you can know what to look for.
● Look for a professional group and leader
● Look for a group that’s been around for a while
● Look for a group with clear goals
● Understand who the group is for
Tips for being a brain injury caregiver
Caring for someone with a brain injury can be challenging but there are several strategies and tips that can help make the process easier and more effective.
Be Kind to Yourself: Many caregivers struggle with feelings of guilt or exhaustion from the demands of care. It’s important to take time for self-care and relaxation when possible. Remember, you can only provide good care if you’re also taking care of yourself.
Get to Know the Healthcare Team: Understanding the roles of different healthcare professionals involved in your loved one’s care can be extremely helpful. Maintain a notebook with all the health care information about your loved one.
Ask for Help: During the initial days, don’t hesitate to ask family and friends for support with chores or tasks you’re unable to complete due to hospital visits.
Manage Stress: Caregivers often face high levels of stress. Consider incorporating holistic strategies such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises into your routine to help manage stress.
Educate Yourself: Knowledge about the person’s condition can lead to better care. Understand the recovery tips for people who have had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Care for Yourself: As a caregiver, it’s crucial to make time for yourself. This can help you become a more effective career.
Model Calm Behavior: Try not to provoke further stress by responding to difficult behavior with criticism or demands. Instead, model calm behavior.
Join Support Groups: Connecting with other caregivers can provide emotional support and practical advice.
Remember, every person’s experience with a brain injury is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another. Always consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and treatment plans.