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- A Study of Living with Traumatic Brain Injury in Rural Communities
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- Winter 2013
based on "Change and Adaptation: Families Adjust to Brain Injury" by Robert Sivley, Jr. Psy. D.
When a brain injury happens, the family goes through changes. This may include the shock and trauma resulting from the initial injury, the extra demands placed on family members, the absence of the injured person from the home, the additional family duties, financial stress, depression, dealing with children’s reactions, and much more. The family is now different. Many marriages, involving one partner with a brain injury end in divorce.
Families are systems in which each member affects, and is affected by, every other member. A brain injury changes all members of the system. One researcher coined the term "hidden patients" to refer to family members of people with disabilities.
How Can We Deal With This Change?
Family members need to first deal with the strong emotions associated with the brain injury. These may include disbelief, denial, a sense of chaos, guilt, and anger. Talk about what you are going through. This helps to make some sense out of what has happened and to create a plan for the future. No one understands your situation better than other family members who share a relationship with the injured individual.
Gather information about brain injury. Talk to physicians, nurses, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and anyone from whom you can learn. Learn everything you can about the brain, its functions, what happens when it is injured, and how it recovers from damage.
Support groups are useful for gathering information and sharing emotions. People who have been through the same kinds of difficulties you are facing often have practical ideas that can help immensely.
Finally, do not be afraid to seek help from professionals who are trained in the art and science of helping families. Family therapists can provide valuable assistance and help to foster a "safe" environment in which family members can express their feelings.
While brain injury can seem devastating, you can survive. A family can cope with brain injury when everyone works together. Address the emotions involved, support each other, be willing to take on new responsibilities and roles, take care of yourself, and above all, be strong and flexible in facing the challenges before you.
Source: 1996 Resource Journal