Adjustment to Brain Injury

Posted on August 16, 2020

An injury to the brain can happen almost suddenly, but it affects a family for a lifetime. Adjusting to a brain injury is much like accepting death, and most families and individuals go through stages of grief, unique for each member of the family. 

The initial reaction is usually denial. This may pose a problem if the person refuses to acknowledge and get help for the long term effects of the injury. Anger and frustration may follow and may be directed at doctors, family members, or friends or even at oneself for the feeling of helplessness. Depression and withdrawal set in when the long term consequences of the injury become evident. And finally, acceptance of the injury, not that this will make the grief any less, as it can be heartbreaking to see a loved one suffer.

How families adjust to a brain injury

An injury early in childhood can disrupt brain development, especially if the injury occurs before school-going age. It can also lead to behavioral problems as toddlers cannot express their feelings. An ABI or TBI in a child can have far-reaching effects on the family as a whole. It can isolate the family from social events for the fear that others will not understand the child’s special needs. This may even put pressure on other siblings to be a ‘perfect child’ in response to the family’s struggle and may also have to adjust with a brother’s or a sister’s additional attention needs.  

For those children affected during school years, families have to look out for special education services and schools that offer Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Section 504, Child Study Team (CST), and alternative settings where the child can perform optimally. In the process of grieving, parents also have to explore new strategies so that their child can learn and function in school. The child may struggle with previously learned material, need guidance to complete tasks and assignments that require planning and organizing information, note-taking, retaining knowledge, and verbal communication skills.

A neuropsychological assessment and/or a cognitive rehabilitation consultation can help in an appropriate placement and education program. Similar challenges may be faced by parents of children who are injured during adolescence. Adolescence is a sensitive time for both the individual as well as the family, and a brain injury may become very stressful and complex. The fear of being unable to lead an independent life can cause anxiety, depression, and anger.

Adjusting to the needs of a brain injury victim requires careful evaluation right from diagnosis and initial treatment through discharge and return to home, school, and community. This may include:

  • Specific medical equipment, home modifications
  • Special resources for caregivers or in-house services
  • Follow-up care and check-up schedules
  • Financial reliefs and assistances
  • Communication with school or community about the child’s needs.

Dealing with a brain injury victim calls for a lot of support not only from every member of the family, parents, siblings, caregivers, extended families, friends, but also the community at large. 

Relatives and friends can ease the burden of adjusting with a brain injury victim by helping with shopping, pick and drop, insurance claims, paying bills, and so on. While parents gain as much information as they can on the special needs of their child, learn to deal with behavioral and cognitive changes and arrange to attend a support group that may help boost their child’s confidence.