The entire family is impacted when a person sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI). According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated 5.3 million Americans, or 2% of the population, live with physical or psychological disabilities related to their brain injury. TBI is most often caused by falls, blunt trauma, motor vehicle accidents, and violence, and males are more than twice as likely as females to experience a TBI. Caring for a person with a brain injury can be very stressful, with spouses, partners, parents, siblings, and children often taking on new roles and greater responsibilities with little time to adjust.
The aftermath of the injury is often a period of wrenching uncertainty for family members. Often the prognosis for the person who has suffered the TBI is not immediately clear, and his/her recovery can be slow and challenging. Besides physical problems the person may experience, such as headaches, dizziness, problems with walking, and memory loss, personality changes are also common. Neurological damage may result in aggressiveness, extreme mood swings, and impulsive or erratic behavior. These changes may be permanent, and can cause family members greater distress than the person’s physical or cognitive limitations.
Families frequently report a range of emotions as they adapt to their changing roles. Disbelief, anger, grief, and sadness are normal reactions following the person’s injury. Difficulty balancing caregiving responsibilities with work, financial pressures, and fear about what the future will hold can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Support services are critical for caregivers, and may include the following:
- Home care services, such as home health aides, personal care assistants, and companions
- Respite care
- Brain injury support groups
- Counseling to deal with stress and manage change
Professionals such as care managers and social workers can assist families in navigating the system of care, applying for entitlement programs, and locating the right resources for the person with TBI and for themselves.
The Brain Injury Association of America –Texas Division provides treatment options, resources, and information on local services. Disability Rights Texas provides legal assistance and helps to ensure full access to education, health care, programs, services, and assistive devices available to people with disabilities.