Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are often caused by motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, construction incidents, and incidents that cause a forceful blow to the head. Victims often require a lifetime of medical care with different types of medical providers, including doctors and therapists. Many TBI patients suffer physically, emotionally, and cognitively.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, about 2.5 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury each year. Currently, about 5.3 million Americans live with a brain injury disability. TBIs are most common among adolescents (aged 15-24) and older adults. TBIs contribute to more than 30% of all injury-related deaths in the United States.
While the focus on TBI incidents is often on the doctors and the therapists, attention must also be paid to the caregivers of the TBI victims. Most caregivers are spouses, children, parents, relatives, and friends. Caring for someone who has a traumatic brain injury requires a lot of understanding about TBIs, patience, love, and strength.
Caregiving also involves a lot of stress, anxiety, and depression. The stress is due to helping a loved one while also having to care for other family members, working at a job, and having social relationships.
The anxiety and depression are often due to:
- Not knowing how to help;
- Frustration that the progress of a TBI recovery is usually very slow; and
- Loss of companionship and relationship with the loved one.
Recognizing that your loved one has a TBI
Many TBI victims do not even know they have suffered a TBI. While many victims are seen in an emergency room immediately after the accident, some do not seek immediate care. TBIs are considered mild, according to the VA Caregiver Support Program, when the victim suffers a “brief change in awareness or consciousness” when the incident happens. The most common type of TBI is a concussion. Even mild TBIs can have lifelong effects, which can be improved with medical care and rehabilitation.
Moderate or severe TBIs typically involve a longer period of unconsciousness or amnesia/memory loss. Often, with a moderate or severe TBI, it takes some time to fully understand the long-term effects. Many mild TBIs are not diagnosed at all.
The VA caregiver support program regularly works with caregivers because many of our veterans suffer TBIs in combat.
What are the signs and symptoms of a TBI?
Caregivers who notice any of the following symptoms should encourage their loved one to seek immediate medical care. As a practical matter, everyone in any type of incident involving a head injury should seek ER care or care by their family physician.
- Physical symptoms. Symptoms include vision loss, lack of coordination, tiredness, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, headaches, and pain. Other physical symptoms include hearing loss, loss of sense of touch, loss of taste, difficulty with speech, and difficulty swallowing. Some victims suffer partial or full paralysis.
- Cognitive difficulties. Symptoms include lack of concentration, memory loss, difficulty learning, difficulty making judgments, language difficulties, and slower thought processes.
- Emotional symptoms. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, difficulty with social functions, and self-centeredness.
The role of the family caregiver of a TBI patient
Health providers believe that working with a family caregiver is one of the most critical parts of a TBI patient’s recovery. Caregivers help ensure that the medical treatment plan for the victim is carried out. This includes ensuring that the patient sees his/her medical team at scheduled appointments, that the patient takes his/her medications, and that the patient completes any at-home exercises or therapies that are suggested. Caregivers offer support and encouragement for patients who often struggle for months, years, or even a lifetime.
TBI patients often work with physiatrists or rehabilitation doctors, neurologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, neuropsychologists, and vocational therapists. That means a lot of appointments of which to keep track.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Many caregivers feel scared, alone and exhausted. Caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed or confused should speak with other family members and friends. There are also many TBI support groups that caregivers can join. Caregivers may also benefit from speaking with a counselor.
Suggestions for TBI caregivers
The VA caregiver support program recommends that caregivers:
- Help your loved one do one task at a time. Help him/her organize by using memory notebooks and lists. Keep a calendar of daily tasks to complete.
- TBI patients get easily fatigued. Understand that TBI victims often need to take a rest break.
- Try to keep on a routine. Schedule the most important tasks for the mornings when patients have the most energy.
- Understand that your loved one will have good days and bad – both physically and emotionally. There is no linear recovery. There are a lot of starts and stops.
- Research available resources. Speak with health professionals, support groups, and others about the local TBI resources.
- Ask to attend some of the sessions the TBI incident victim has with their doctors or therapists to better understand what your loved one needs.
- Understand that you will need to be an advocate for your loved one or friend.
- Be sure to take care of yourself. You cannot help your loved one or friend if you are in bad health yourself. Make sure you get the rest you need and see your own physician when needed.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our Georgia TBI lawyers are strong advocates for anyone who suffers a brain injury due to the negligence of a driver, property owner, construction site owner, or others. We work with your doctors to fully understand all the long-term medical care you or your loved one will need. We understand how important a role caregivers play in the recovery process.
We demand compensation for a TBI victim’s pain and suffering, change in quality of life, medical bills (hospitals, doctors, therapists, and medications), lost income, and other damages. We have a strong track record of successful outcomes in TBI lawsuits. To discuss your TBI case or a case involving a loved one, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or fill out our contact form.
Jed Manton is committed to representing individuals and business that have been harmed by the actions of others. With a solid track record, Jed has helped numerous clients who have been seriously injured or who have lost a loved one obtain justice, while holding the wrongdoer accountable.
Read more about Jed D. Manton here.