Living with a Brain Injury: What Families and Caregivers Need to Know

by John McKiggan

While the road forward may be challenging, it is important for families and caregivers to know what to expect when it comes to living with a brain injury. Returning home after sustaining a brain injury—no matter how severe—can be a complex and emotional experience. For many, returning home is a sign of triumph after rehabilitation, and since home is a place of safety and security, is where they find their old selves once again.

Brain damage can result in confusion, memory loss, poor organizational skills, disinhibition and poor reasoning skills and judgment.  Individuals who have been affected by a traumatic brain injury may appear to have changed dramatically. It is important that friends, family members and caregivers understand that the individual does not want to feel or act differently than they did before the injury.

As brain injury lawyers, McKiggan Hebert has represented hundreds of survivors and helped their families understand the impact that a traumatic brain injury can have. With this in mind, we have compiled a basic list of things that families and caregivers should know when a brain injury survivor returns home, prepares to return to work and wishes to return to a normal life.

Preparing the Home

It is important for family members and caregivers to assess the state of the home before an individual returns home from rehabilitation in order to ensure that it is a safe, accessible environment. Each brain injury is unique, and accommodations may vary based on the severity of the injury.

Some examples of home alterations that can be made to help a survivor include:

  • Ramps for getting in or out of the house;
  • Roll-in showers can allow wheelchair-bound individuals some form of independence in daily hygiene-related tasks;
  • Door openers can help open and close doors automatically to allow for entering and exiting the house unaided. Many units include options such as keypads, electric strikes, various switches and outdoor access; and
  • Door widening allows for those in wheelchairs to navigate and safely maneuver through the home in their wheelchair.

Returning home following a brain injury can necessitate the negotiation of boundaries and responsibilities that existed within the family before brain injury occurred. This can lead to further financial, physical and emotional complications that must be navigated in order to ensure that recovery is as quick and painless as possible for the survivor.

Returning to Work

After sustaining a brain injury, the survivor may have some difficulties in performing their job safely, or in the same manner as before they sustained the injury. Some may need to find other employment, while others may be able to request accommodations in the workplace to make their jobs performable.

Having a conversation with the survivor’s employer, supervisor or human resources department is a good opportunity to discuss various options and needs once the survivor is ready to return to work. Once they return to work, it is important to ensure that communication remains open for both parties in order to make sure that the adaptions are working for both parties’ benefit, or if additional changes are necessary.

Some accommodations that can be made to help a survivor returning to work include:

  • Returning to work gradually, or working from home for a period of time;
  • Returning with shorter hours;
  • Taking more breaks throughout the day;
  • Returning with less workload; or
  • Taking on a different role

Some survivors may hire the services of a  Vocational Rehabilitation Professional. These services are meant to help survivors work towards their personal and professional goals with an acute sensitivity to the unique needs of a brain injury survivor.

Relationships

Brain injury can—and likely will—impact every relationship that the survivor has between friends, families and caregivers. Phone calls, text messages and emails may go unanswered for extended periods of time, but it is vital to remember that a brain injury affects everyone in the family. Roles within the family may change substantially as a result of a brain injury, and giving the survivor space to cope is key to helping them get their lives back in order.

As a family member or caregiver, one of the most important things to realize is that life must go on. Even if a loved one is at home recovering, there is always work to be done. Caregivers might have other responsibilities, including employment outside the home, cleaning the house and taking care of children. Family members might have jobs and families of their own, or simply cannot be around enough to take care of the survivor as much as they’d like.

Regardless of the circumstances, managing relationships is important for the survivor—even if they are in a period of isolation during the recovery process. At some point, they will probably want to see their friends and loved ones. This can be a valuable opportunity to introduce variety into the daily structure of life during the rehabilitation period, and should be taken advantage of as a way to re-develop social skills as necessary.

Legal Options for Brain Injury Survivors

As a brain injury lawyer, I am regularly contacted by brain injury survivors from across the country. Although I represent brain injury survivors across Canada, I simply can’t represent everyone that asks me for help.

After spending years as a board member of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia (Halifax) I saw how few resources there are for brain injury survivors.

I wanted to make sure that people who may have a potential brain injury claim receive the facts they need to make an informed decision about whether to pursue a claim. That’s why I wrote Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims—to provide a legal resource to survivors of brain injuries, and to help families and caregivers understand how life can change after a brain injury.

For more information about receiving a free copy of Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims, or to discuss a potential claim with a compassionate brain injury attorney, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Brain damage can result in confusion, memory loss, poor organizational skills, disinhibition and poor reasoning skills and judgment, and individuals who have been affected by a traumatic brain injury may appear to have changed dramatically. It is important that friends, family members and caregivers understand that the individual does not want to feel or act differently than they did before the injury.

As brain injury lawyers, McKiggan Hebert has represented hundreds of survivors and helped their families understand the impact that a traumatic brain injury can have. With this in mind, we have compiled a basic list of things that families and caregivers should know when a brain injury survivor returns home, prepares to return to work and wishes to return to a normal life.

Preparing the Home

It is important for family members and caregivers to assess the state of the home before an individual returns home from rehabilitation in order to ensure that it is a safe, accessible environment. Each brain injury is unique, and accommodations may vary based on the severity of the injury.

Some examples of home alterations that can be made to help a survivor include:

  • Ramps for getting in or out of the house;
  • Roll-in showers can allow wheelchair-bound individuals some form of independence in daily hygiene-related tasks;
  • Door openers can help open and close doors automatically to allow for entering and exiting the house unaided. Many units include options such as keypads, electric strikes, various switches and outdoor access; and
  • Door widening allows for those in wheelchairs to navigate and safely maneuver through the home in their wheelchair.

Returning home following a brain injury can necessitate the negotiation of boundaries and responsibilities that existed within the family before brain injury occurred. This can lead to further financial, physical and emotional complications that must be navigated in order to ensure that recovery is as quick and painless as possible for the survivor.

Returning to Work

After sustaining a brain injury, the survivor may have some difficulties in performing their job safely, or in the same manner as before they sustained the injury. Some may need to find other employment, while others may be able to request accommodations in the workplace to make their jobs performable.

Having a conversation with the survivor’s employer, supervisor or human resources department is a good opportunity to discuss various options and needs once the survivor is ready to return to work. Once they return to work, it is important to ensure that communication remains open for both parties in order to make sure that the adaptions are working for both parties’ benefit, or if additional changes are necessary.

Some accommodations that can be made to help a survivor returning to work include:

  • Returning to work gradually, or working from home for a period of time;
  • Returning with shorter hours;
  • Taking more breaks throughout the day;
  • Returning with less workload; or
  • Taking on a different role

In addition, Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) exist, and survivors of brain injuries are entitled to apply for vocational rehabilitation. These services are meant to help survivors work towards their personal and professional goals with an acute sensitivity to the unique needs of a brain injury survivor.

Relationships

Brain injury can—and likely will—impact every relationship that the survivor has between friends, families and caregivers. Phone calls, text messages and emails may go unanswered for extended periods of time, but it is vital to remember that a brain injury affects everyone in the family. Roles within the family may change substantially as a result of a brain injury, and giving the survivor space to cope is key to helping them get their lives back in order.

As a family member or caregiver, one of the most important things to realize is that life must go on. Even if a loved one is at home recovering, there is always work to be done. Caregivers might have other responsibilities, including employment outside the home, cleaning the house and taking care of children. Family members might have jobs and families of their own, or simply cannot be around enough to take care of the survivor as much as they’d like.

Regardless of the circumstances, managing relationships is important for the survivor—even if they are in a period of isolation during the recovery process. At some point, they will probably want to see their friends and loved ones. This can be a valuable opportunity to introduce variety into the daily structure of life during the rehabilitation period, and should be taken advantage of as a way to re-develop social skills as necessary.

Legal Options for Brain Injury Survivors

As a brain injury lawyer, I am regularly contacted by brain injury survivors from across the country. Although I represent brain injury survivors across Canada, I simply can’t represent everyone that asks me for help.

After spending years as a board member of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia (Halifax) I saw how few resources there are for brain injury survivors.

I wanted to make sure that people who may have a potential brain injury claim receive the facts they need to make an informed decision about whether to pursue a claim. That’s why I wrote Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims—to provide a legal resource to survivors of brain injuries, and to help families and caregivers understand how life can change after a brain injury.

For more information about receiving a free copy of Brain Matter: The Survivor’s Guide to Brain Injury Claims, or to discuss a potential claim with a compassionate brain injury attorney, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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