Brain Injury: After Care and Managing the Home
When a loved one has suffered a brain injury, you might feel that the biggest hurdle is over once you know your loved one will live and is ready to come home. Getting through medical treatments and rehabilitation is a big step, and now you’re looking forward to returning home and getting back to normal. But even at home, you’ll find that life is very different. What are some things you can do to support him or her?
First, understanding that life will be different is half of the battle. Your loved one will have difficulties. Some of the most common challenges for patients living with brain injuries are the ability to plan and organize the day, the ability to stay on task and the ability to recall information. Here are a few ideas for ways to help.
Planning and Organizing
If necessary, consider making the following changes to help with daily tasks:
- Select and lay out clothes for the morning.
- Label drawers to indicate which items are inside: socks, underwear, shirts, etc.
- Set up a nightstand organizer so easy to lose items all have a place: glasses, wallet, cell phone, keys.
- Set out toiletries so they can easily be found.
- Write index cards or print out bullet-pointed steps to remind your loved one which daily morning routines take place in which order – for example: take out toothpaste, apply to brush, brush teeth. You also might have reminders for what needs to be brought to the bathroom for a shower (towel, soap, shampoo).
Some people with brain injuries have difficulty with memory. Try to make things easier on him or her by providing information when you ask questions. Instead of “What did you do yesterday?” Try “I heard you went to the movies yesterday. Tell me about what you saw.” The more cues and reminders you can give, the more easily your loved one can communicate.
If your loved one has memory difficulties, try to place as many notes and cues around your home as possible. For example, consider post-it notes or index cards with simple cues for making cereal or toast if necessary. Caregivers also recommend posting photos of familiar faces with their names underneath so that your loved one can differentiate between friends and strangers, if necessary.
Try to give your loved one as much structure to the day as possible. There may be physical therapists or doctor’s appointments. Perhaps you can even involve him or her in a volunteer position within your community.
Watch for any physical or health changes you may see. Seizures are not uncommon. Know how to handle them and be sure to notify health care providers if you’re seeing health changes – whether they are positive or negative. Be sure to attend follow-up appointments and keep up with physical therapy as prescribed.
Remember that changes are difficult but with a little structure, guidance and cues you can make the adjustment to life at home that much easier.
A physical therapist and educator, Cynthia graduated with a BS in physical therapy from the University of Pittsburgh and a masters in exercise physiology from Temple University. She served as a staff physical therapist at the Annapolis Naval Hospital and chief physical therapist at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital.
She owned and operated Squirrel Hill Physical Therapy in Pittsburgh PA for 30 years. She is extensively trained in osteopathic techniques, Myofascial Release, Lymphatic Drainage, Nasal Release Technique, and PEMF. She sees patients privately and teaches continuing education for health care practitioners around the world. Visit www.conquerconcussion.com for more information.