Traumatic Brain Injury Affects the Whole Family, Not Just the Victim

Brain Injuries: we hear about them fairly regularly, particularly regarding sports figures. Many of us don't consider concussions to be completely debilitating but the fact is that multiple concussions over time have a devastating impact on victims. While high-profile cases are often heard about in the news, many people, not just the famous, can suffer a debilitating TBI. Unfortunately, these injuries not only impact the victim, they also have a tremendous impact on the family.

What causes traumatic brain injuries?

Too many people believe only those who participate in aggressive sports have the potential to suffer a TBI. This is simply untrue. Your children could leave home on their bicycle with the right equipment to protect them, get struck by a car and wind up suffering a traumatic brain injury. In fact, adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 make up one of the three groups most likely to suffer from TBI according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, it's often a surprise to find out what actually causes some of the 1.7 million annual TBIs. Some of the common causes include:

Victims and families suffer

Naturally, the first concern for nearly everyone is the victim's well-being after a head injury. However, since many victims of TBI require long-term rehabilitation which may occur in a facility, ongoing therapy to aid in their recovery and extensive mental health counseling, the family also has a role to play.

Let's assume for a moment the head of your household was involved in a car or motorcycle accident, and they were thrown from the vehicle and suffered a serious head injury. You may be unprepared for the long-term problems you will have to contend with after this type of injury. The first problem naturally, is the loss of income while your loved one recovers. For some, recovery will never occur; they will suffer lifelong disability as a result of their injuries.

Family members, who already have their own responsibilities will now have to pick up the slack for a family member who is recovering from a brain injury. In addition, they may also find themselves cast in the role of caregiver; a challenging role even when someone has a short-term problem.

Serious TBIs may result in victims requiring around-the-clock nursing care. Additionally, victims may also need specialized equipment in the home; at a minimum a hospital bed and depending on the severity of the injuries, they may need breathing equipment and other medical equipment to ensure they are kept as comfortable as possible.

Physical and household changes are not the only issue

While there is no doubt the financial burden of losing income from a head of household, and dealing with the physical changes a TBI can cause, there are other issues which family members might have to deal with. For example, it is not unusual for someone who suffers a brain injury to suffer from depression which impacts everyone in the household. Depression can also lead to mood swings which can cause sudden and violent outbursts, anxiety issues and other forms of aggression. These issues can be very difficult for family members to understand and deal with.

Those who are suffering long-term problems associated with TBI often have problems communicating. Because the brain is so integral in day-to-day actions like speaking, that we take for granted, family members are often at a loss to understand when a loved one needs something; communication skills including speaking and understanding may be compromised after a serious head injury.

Financial issues which impact the entire family

There is little doubt that providing care for a family member who suffers a traumatic brain injury can be expensive. Chances are the victim will need long-term medical care, may require speech and other rehabilitative therapy and may also require mental health care. All of these forms of care cost money; when the head of household is unable to work, the family is already under a financial strain and when the injury has caused a long-term disability, these financial challenges become even more difficult.

While it is true that someone suffering a permanent disability is eligible to apply for disability, there are far more financial concerns which cannot be addressed simply by gaining income from disability payments. Victims and their families need to be able to pay for ongoing medical care; this care can get expensive, in fact, by some estimates a serious traumatic brain injury could result in expenses as high as $3,000,000 for a single patient.

Video by Shepherd Center: Understanding TBI

Long-term health issues also impact the family

Unfortunately, the long-term health outlook for someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury are dire. Oftentimes, victims acquire additional health disorders as a result of their TBI including epilepsy, may be more likely to suffer a stroke and could be more prone to Alzheimer's disease. For family members, this can be devastating whether the victim is living in the home or in a rehabilitation facility. The additional stress and strain of watching a loved one suffer after a TBI can cause children to act out and put a serious strain on a marriage.

Our brains control our body movements, our ability to recognize our loved ones, how we communicate and how we act. When your loved one has suffered a brain injury any one or all of these functions (as well as others) may be permanently altered. In addition to seeking medical care for a loved one suffering from a traumatic brain injury, family members who are helping care for their loved one, children who feel shoved aside because one parent is no longer as active in their lives because of injury may also need mental health care. There is no shame in this; there is a lot of stress in your home when you have a loved one facing a prolonged recovery or the potential of never recovering from a traumatic brain injury. Unless someone has cared for a loved one with a traumatic brain injury, it is nearly impossible for them to understand how traumatic it is for the entire family. Not only is the injured person a victim, the entire family is victimized.