Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of disability in Florida and across the United States. Survivors of a traumatic brain injury may be partially or fully disabled for the remainder of their lives. A TBI survivor may suffer from impaired thinking abilities, impaired mobility, memory loss, impaired vision or hearing, and personality changes that include mood swings and depression.
Any blow to the head suffered in a traffic collision, or some other accident could result in a brain injury and prompt medical attention is imperative. A good personal injury lawyer works to help accident victims recover the compensation they need to cover medical care and treatment. In Central Florida, TBI victims and their families can learn more about their legal options by speaking with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.
Traumatic brain injury can be difficult to understand. Often a TBI survivor may seem healthy and normal at one moment and confused or disoriented only moments later. It’s natural to want to say something or to offer advice. And when you care for a loved one with a brain injury, it’s also easy to get burnt out and to say the wrong thing out of frustration. Here are nine things you might find natural to say to a TBI survivor, but you shouldn’t:
1. “You seem fine.”
For a TBI victim, what you can’t see – chronic pain, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety – may be far more difficult to deal with than any physical disability. A TBI survivor may look normal, but ignoring the invisible aspects of brain injury – or insinuating that what you can’t see isn’t important – never helps. We only see what’s on the outside, but a traumatic brain injury often damages someone only on the inside.
2. “Just try a little harder.”
A TBI survivor’s lack of interest or motivation isn’t laziness – it’s apathy, which is a common disorder after a traumatic brain injury. It’s important to recognize apathy in a TBI patient and to treat it, because it can often be a barrier to a patient’s eventual recovery. Certain pharmaceuticals can be prescribed to reduce apathy, and setting specific, attainable rehabilitation goals has also been shown to help.
Depression, insomnia and other sleep disorders, fatigue, and chronic pain are common after a traumatic brain injury, and these conditions can look like or combine with apathy. The side effects of some pharmaceuticals can also mimic apathy. It’s important for healthcare providers to determine the precise cause of a brain injury patient’s apathy so that they can offer the appropriate treatment.
3. “How many times do I have to say it?”
None of us like having to repeat ourselves over and over to someone, but almost everyone who sustains a brain injury will have some difficulties with both short-term and long-term memory. Instead of focusing on the problem, try to develop a creative solution. Create a routine. Make the task easier. Many families of TBI patients find that it helps to install a memo board in the kitchen.
4. “All those drugs you take are the problem.”
Prescription drugs can have a host of side effects: insomnia, sluggishness, memory problems, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain — just to name several of many. Someone who has sustained a traumatic brain injury will be particularly sensitive to these side effects. But, if you blame everything on the effects of prescribed drugs, you might be unintentionally encouraging a TBI patient to stop taking a necessary medication. TBI patients and their families should routinely review prescription medicines with a doctor and ask about alternatives that might reduce or eliminate some of the side effects.
5. “Do you always have to be so grumpy?”
TBI patients almost always struggle with frequent irritability, which could be the direct result of the brain injury itself or a result of the depression, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders, or fatigue. It’s an irritability that seems to come and go without any pattern. Naturally, it’s difficult for anyone to deal with a person who is grumpy or irritable almost all of the time. Certain medicines, diet changes or supplements, and therapy can all help to reduce a TBI sufferer’s irritability.
6. “You should try to think more positively.”
Anyone dealing with depression, fatigue, or disability may find it genuinely difficult to think positively, and it’s even tougher for a brain injury patient. Obsessive negativity is actually quite common after brain injuries. It’s called “rumination” and it’s linked to depression and anxiety, so treating those issues may be the key to moving past constant negative thinking. No one can simply “think positively” on command like flipping a light switch, but focusing on positive and enjoyable tasks can at least distract a TBI patient from negative thoughts in the short-term.
7. “Here, let me do that.”
Yes, it’s often easier for you to do it than to let a TBI patient do it for himself or herself, but when it’s possible, regaining a sense of independence is imperative for anyone who has survived a chronic brain injury. Encouraging patients to do things on their own promotes independence and confidence and can even help the brain recover faster. At the same time, be careful not to push too fast when it comes to tasks like driving or even managing one’s own medications.
8. “Do you know how much I do for you?”
Remember, a TBI patient may be dealing with emotional problems generated by insomnia, fatigue, memory loss, and chronic pain. You may at times feel utterly exasperated, but placing blame or guilt is never helpful. TBI patients usually understand that others are making sacrifices, and they often feel guilt – already – as a result. On the other hand, when a brain injury is severe, a TBI patient may never understand how much others do. If you need to unload or express exasperation, do it with a friend or a counselor.
9. “You’re lucky just to be alive.”
This sounds like a positive statement, but a brain injury patient could easily misinterpret your good intention. Traumatic brain injury survivors are six times more likely to consider suicide than the rest of us, and some of them don’t feel a bit lucky as they look at the future. Instead of telling a patient that he or she is “lucky,” focus on the person’s strengths, persistence, and capabilities.
After sustaining a brain injury – or if you’ve been in an accident and there’s any possibility at all that you’ve suffered a brain injury – get medical treatment immediately. In Central Florida, an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney can handle your personal injury claim, address your legal questions and concerns, and recommend other important resources for brain injury victims.