Following a brain injury, it’s common for individuals who are returning home to rely on family members to provide care and assist with basic living skills, safety awareness, transportation, and financial support. But for family members, this may mean caring for a loved one who is now very different than they were prior to their injury. Regardless of whether these changes are caused by physical or cognitive deficits, family caregivers require extensive education, training, and support to learn their new roles.1
As therapists who are caring for people following a brain injury, we must equip family members with training and resources aimed at teaching them how to best care for their loved one.1 People who have good family support during recovery have demonstrated better long-term outcomes.2
How You Can Support Families
For the best outcomes, therapists should provide families with:
- Education—The education you provide should include easy-to-understand information both about how the brain functions and brain injury recovery. The more family members understand the complexities underlying brain injury and recovery, the more they can develop empathy for their family member’s struggles.
- Support—Family members suffer a loss following a loved one’s brain injury. Relationships are often strained and adjusting to the new set of circumstances can be difficult. But with professional help in first dealing with and mourning their own loss, caregivers can provide better support for their loved one.1
- Resources—As therapists, we may be the people spending the greatest amount of time with the individual with the brain injury and the family, so we are in the best position to provide information about support groups, community-based supported employment or volunteer activities, and places for wellness activities—as well as other resources that will be helpful when it comes to supporting their loved one.1,2
Coping with the long-term changes that can face a person with a brain injury is a challenge for everyone involved. New physical, cognitive, emotional, and communication difficulties require family members to become caregivers seemingly overnight. But building a strong support network and providing resources to help family caregivers through this process will help the whole family cope with their new circumstances and offer the best chances for positive long-term outcomes.
- Brain Injury Association of America. (April 29, 2017). Family and caregivers: Brain injury affects the whole family. www.biausa.org.
- Stocchetti, N. & Zanier, E.R. (2016). Chronic impact of traumatic brain injury on outcome and quality of life: a narrative review. Critical Care, 20, 148.