Strategies to Help Reduce Stress Caused by Brain Injury

For Brain Injury Patients

Take advantage of local support groups for families of brain injury (BI) survivors. See separate list for support groups/contact numbers.

Balance stressful activities with more enjoyable activities. Take advantage of other individuals who you trust to help with the responsibility of caring for the BI survivor. Use that free time to do something for yourself.

Help the BI survivor complete certain tasks more independently. You can do this by providing instructions, pictures, anything that helps him/her become more independent completing a certain task. Before you try getting the person to do a task more independently, make sure that the patient has the ability to do so.

Try to become educated in the area of brain injury. This increased knowledge base will help you understand why the injured person is no longer the same person he/she was before the accident, what you can expect in the future for this person and ways you can help in the recovery process of a BI survivor. The BI team can assist in providing resources/education for you and your family

Talk openly amongst family members about feelings, concerns, stresses, and ways you can help each other deal with these things.

Make a list of activities the family enjoyed before the injury and do at least one of these things once a week.

Ensure that you are eating a healthy diet, participating in a form of exercise you enjoy, and allowing yourself enough time for sleep, as it is very difficult to have the energy to care for someone else if you do not have the energy to care for yourself. Allow yourself to have rest breaks away from the hospital setting.

For Family

When a brain injury occurs, the family suffers with the patient. Many family members and friends find that their reactions are quite similar to the grieving that occurs after a death. In fact, some claim that a severe brain injury can be more difficult to deal with than a death. The person they love and may depended on is alive, but different. Family members may spend day after day at the hospital and see very little improvement, or they may see coma change to aggression, agitation and confusion.

Dealing with Feelings During Intensive Care and Acute Rehabilitation Phases

In the first days and weeks after the injury, family members and friends experience disorientation and anger as they try to come to terms with this overwhelming crisis. Strong feelings, that are difficult to accept or express, seem to overwhelm them. Although these experiences are quite normal, loved ones may feel guiltily and confused.

Feelings During the Phases of Intensive Care and Acute Rehabilitation

Although these feelings are presented in an order, each individual reaction may differ. One may experience these emotions in a different order or may go back and forth between feelings.

Generally, the first reaction after sudden brain injury is panic and fear. While physicians and nurses are busy assisting the patient and providing emergency care, family members can only sit and wait. When details become available, their fears intensify since the news often presents life-threatening injury.

Until the patient becomes medically stable and the imminent danger of death has passed, physical and emotional feelings of panic may continue to resurface. People may feel dizzy and short of breath. They may breathe rapidly, be unable to eat or sleep, or have an upset or nervous stomach and a constant lump in their throat. Some people cry frequently, and some feel numb inside, as if everything around them is unreal. They find it difficult to concentrate and are unable to remember answers to questions they asked just an hour to two ago.

Health care staff realizes that family members are under great strain and often encourage starting a journal to help remember conversations with staff/doctors and the answers to questions. In most hospitals, case managers, psychologists and/or chaplains are available to help families at this time and through the various stages of adjustment and reaction after a brain injury.