Although I do not have a brain injury myself, I live with someone that does. Every day has its challenges, and as the person living with the individual living with the brain injury, it is my job to help with the ebb and flow of the universe. Since the accident that left my husband with a brain injury, we have spent countless hours trying to buffer things around him – kids, dogs, appointment schedules, busy days and workouts – all of these can have a negative or positive effect on how he does during the day. Our job as a family is to try to create a supportive environment that leads to the best possible out come of the day.
For us, reducing chaos is the number one challenge that we have – with four kids, two dogs, two cats and two frogs, you can only imagine how much work it takes to keep things on even keel. We all know Dad has a brain injury, it certainly is not a secret, and we speak about the things that might make him irritable. For each person this could mean something else – for us, it is arguing, repetitive loud noises, yelling and too much chaos. Kids play outside or downstairs, and if that is not an option, moving Dad to another room, usually our bedroom with a shut door, can help cool down the energy in the room.
Taking breaks is a huge step for many people with brain injuries. Knowing that you might need a break, and then actually taking one, is two separate things. Individuals may know that they should step away from whatever they are doing, but the compulsion to just push on through is there for many people. Unfortunately, pushing through often has negative consequences for someone with a brain injury; things like reduced cognition and memory skills, reduce ability to interact, and less tolerance of stress and anxiety. A reminder in a phone or an alert to prompt a break are important, but actually taking the break is just as important.
As the adult without the brain injury, I try to watch for things in the day that may lead to aa build up of stress, leading to a stressful evening for the entire family. We all get tired toward the end of a day, but when an individual with a brain injury has had a long day, the brain can not longer keep up. Simple tasks become difficult, things that are typically easily completed are now difficult, and the world becomes frustrating. Circumventing these moments becomes important to keeping the family unit together and asserts everyone with having a successful end to the day. Many of these end of day struggles can be avoided with breaks during the day to give the brain some time to recharge.
Brian injuries are complex, and no one brain injury is exactly like another, just as no recovery is the same. Understanding the things that are difficult, and finding ways to support those difficulties towards successful results can be rewarding for everyone. Sometimes the largest rewards come from find a new pathway to something and creating success, where once only frustration lived.