Being a caregiver to a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) victim is probably a task you were not prepared to undertake. However, it may be one of the best ways to help your loved one recover. As a caregiver, you can offer support, guidance, and encouragement to the injured to aid in their recovery. Additionally, it would be best to cooperate with the medical professionals by following their advice regarding the victim to ensure that the treatment plan goes as expected.
At times you may feel scared, overwhelmed, or even angry at the situation. In other cases, you may also feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities. These feelings are quite normal, and you should consider confiding in a friend, consulting a mental health practitioner, or joining a support group. This guide offers a detailed look into a caregiver’s guide to traumatic brain injury victims. Read on to learn more on how to have a smooth journey as a caregiver to a TBI victim.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Before getting into the caregiver’s guide, it is vital to understand the meaning of TBI and how it manifests.
Traumatic Brain Injury, also known as craniocerebral trauma, is an injury that occurs when an object hits the head hard or makes it move quickly. Such injuries may result from motor vehicle accidents, falls, physical assaults, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
What Happens After a TBI?
In the days following the injury, the victim’s brain tissues may swell or bleed. In some cases, the victim may also experience changes in their brain’s neurochemistry system. These injury aftermaths call for emergency surgeries to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain and help restore the neurochemistry system.
A brain injury can affect different aspects of an individual’s life. It can have physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional impacts. They include:
- Bowel and bladder control
- Moving certain body parts
- Balance and coordination
- Confusion (disorientation)
- Thought processing
- Acting out
- Doing or saying inappropriate things
- Mood swings
How Long Does TBI Take To Heal?
It would be best if you understood that the recovery time varies from one patient to the other. Some people take little time to recover while others take much longer. Additionally, depending on the severity of the impacts, some patients may face a few long-term side effects while others may experience lifelong challenges. Therefore, the recovery time may take weeks, months, or even years.
Which Are the Modes of TBI Treatment?
Treatment depends on the severity of the injuries. It may be administered through medications, rehabilitation therapies, exercises, education, and support.
Understanding the TBI Recovery Journey
It is one of your responsibilities as a caregiver to understand the state of your loved one. Doctors use scales to determine the responsiveness of a TBI victim is after an injury. One of the scales used is the Glasgow Coma Scale, which ranges between 3 (completely unresponsive) to 15 (responsive). The other scale used is the Rancho Los Amigos Scale, which runs on a scale of level 1 to 10.
Depending on the severity of the injuries, your loved one can be put in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or normal wards in rehabilitation centers.
In the intensive Care Unit (ICU)
Most patients in the ICU are usually in need of constant care and monitoring by medical practitioners. They are usually in a state of total unresponsiveness or minimally conscious. The first sight of your patient here might be scary. Please take note of the following:
- Do not be scared by the number of tubes and wires you see connected to the patient’s body. Each serves a purpose in monitoring the body’s functioning and in delivering medications and food.
- You might see a part of their head shaved and with visible bandages or stitches. Don’t worry; their hair will grow back!
- The swellings and bruises on their head and body should not scare you away. They will heal and, in some cases, fade away as the patient recovers.
- If you find your loved one restrained in the hospital bed, do not be upset. It is a way of keeping them calm and still during the treatment process.
- Do not complain about the limited visiting hours in the ICU. The doctors and nurses will advise you on the appropriate visiting time.
What You Should Do
When your loved one is in a coma, in the ICU, here is what you need to do as a caregiver:
- Bring in some everyday items such as clothes, toys, music, or pictures to refresh their memory.
- Assume that they can hear you and talk to them about familiar events in a calm and soothing tone. Be careful not to say anything that may upset or irritate them.
- Ask them to try doing simple things such as opening their eyes, smiling, or squeezing their hands.
- Take control and limit the number of visitors getting into their room.
- Please do not overdo it. Take time and rest in between the visits.
In a Rehab
As your loved one’s state improves, the doctors may recommend a transfer into a rehabilitation program. Here, the main goal is to increase their physical strength and speed up their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral healing. Most of the patients in rehabs are usually more responsive and stable but are sometimes confused and agitated.
Here is what you need to do for your loved ones in a rehab setting:
- Give them enough time to rest.
- Please provide them with a quiet and peaceful environment.
- Do not take their inappropriate behavior personally. Negative behavior is common after TBI.
- Talk to them on a calm note using short and simple sentences.
- Please do not argue with them as it may make them more agitated.
- You can bring them their favorite items such as pillows, blankets, or pictures to help make them more comfortable.
Being a caregiver can be a challenging task if you are adequately prepared for it. Besides learning how to take care of your loved one in the ICU or rehab, these additional tips will be of great help.
- If possible, accompany the doctor attending to your loved one during medical visits. Ask them any questions regarding the patient and offer detailed information on their improvements and progress.
- Choose a spokesperson: Family members, friends, and colleagues may need updates about the patient, and it may be exhausting repeating the same information to different people. You can choose a person to take notes and provide updates to the others on your behalf.
- Keep records: It is important to document some vital information. This may include any questions you may need answers to, the doctor’s feedback, medical insurance, and other financial information regarding the patient’s treatment.
- Learn more about TBI: You can learn more about TBI either from the internet or by visiting a library. This will help you understand more about the recovery journey and your role as a caregiver.
- Take care of yourself: Do not be neglect your self-care. Take note of issues such as fatigue and mental distress, and be ready to ask for help. Ensure that you take time to rest and reconnect with yourself.
If you feel overwhelmed by your role as a caregiver, consider adopting the guide’s tips for a smooth experience.