caring for a loved one with traumatic brain injury

Caring for a Loved One with TBI

Simply put, a traumatic brain injury or TBI is a change in the normal functioning of the brain due to an external force. The force may have occurred in an auto accident, a fall at work, or as the result of an attack or a blast. Essentially, any external force that causes the head to strike an object can lead to a TBI.

There can be several immediate results:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of memory
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neurological changes such as weakness, loss of balance, an inability to articulate, either speaking or writing.
  • Alterations in the mental state including confusion, slowed thinking, and disorientation

It is one of the worst injuries you or a loved one can suffer and it generally means there will be a long recovery with no guarantees the person will ever return to who they once were.

Traumatic Brain Injury

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TBI is a major cause of death and disability in the U.S.

In 2014, there was an average of 155 deaths every day from injuries that included a TBI. 

In 2014 there were also 2.87 million ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths due to TBI. That includes 837,000 children.

Those who survive a TBI may expect to experience the effects for anywhere from a few days to the rest of their lives.

Caring for Your Loved One with a TBI

As a caretaker, you no doubt will feel overwhelmed at the prospect of the new normal for this family member. In the hospital, the injured may not even remember what led to his injury, which can be a form of relief.

You may find that he/she has problems thinking, difficulty speaking, concentrating, and problem solving. Physical problems may include a loss of strength and coordination.  Movement and swallowing may be a challenge.

A traumatic brain injury may impact one’s senses such as the ability to smell, see, hear or even feel touch.

Emotionally, you may find your loved one experiences mood changes and exhibits tendencies such as impulsivity and irritability.

What can you do? As a caretaker, you might want to reduce stimulation in the room.  Family and friends should limit visits and make them short. Do not overwhelm the injured with emotion as he/she may not be able to process all of the stimuli. Use short sentences when communicating with the TBI victim.

Patient rehabilitation will involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Expect the patient to receive at least 3 hours of therapy a day with breaks in between for 5-7 days a week. A recreational therapist will work on finding new recreational activity that is part of recovery.

Caring for a Child vs. Caring for an Adult

The healing timeline and the demands placed on you depend largely on whether you are caring for an adult or a child. Children’s brains are still growing, which can be both good and bad when it comes to a TBI. It is good because children’s brains have excellent plasticity, which means that they can recover from injuries by creating new neuronal pathways and adjusting for sudden losses in function. It is bad because an accident that impacts an area that is currently growing can lead to extraordinary deficits. Adults’ brains are not quite as “plastic” as children’s, so their brains’ ability to recover is not as strong. As a result, your caretaking responsibilities may become permanent or your loved one may experience slower progress.

Providing for Everyday Needs

Depending on the severity of your loved one’s TBI, you may find that much of your day is spent providing for their daily care needs. Those with severe TBIs may be unable to feed themselves, drink on their own, use the restroom independently, or ambulate. If you are unable to meet these needs on your own, which often happens if the patient is larger or stronger than the caretaker, you may need the assistance of a CNA or PCW.

If your loved one has a milder form of TBI, they may still be able to meet their own daily needs. However, they may need reminders, help managing their time, or assistance working through frustration and other emotions.


If your loved one’s accident has left them temporarily or permanently unable to ambulate and they require a wheelchair, don’t forget to set up transportation. Few people simply have a wheelchair van waiting to be used, so you may need to set up a temporary rental or secure the services of a local paratransit provider. These trips often need to be scheduled well in advance, so discuss your needs with a social worker.

Financial Concerns

For many TBI patients, financial concerns are second only to health worries. Those with mild, moderate, or severe TBIs may find themselves suddenly unable to work and without the financial support they need to get medical care. If you have to take time away from work to be their caretaker, you may also be plagued by financial issues. This is why it is important to get in touch with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident to discuss compensation. The costs of a TBI can be exorbitantly high, and if someone else caused your loved one’s accident, they may be responsible for covering those costs. There are also social service programs set up to assist those with TBIs or other serious injuries.

Community Resources for TBI

For the individual caretaker, a social worker will focus on making a transition easier to return to your community by accessing community resources. He/she will help you determine eligibility for Medicaid and Social Security support.

Besides accessing community resources, a legal guardian and/or professional case manager may be placed to advocate with the community services and hospital and insurance companies.

As a caretaker, you will need ongoing supportive counseling to help you adjust to your new circumstances as will the brain-injured patient.

You may need also to adjust to the fact that though the injured person can still function in the world, he/she may never return to the person they once were.

A Compassionate Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer

We understand that this is not the time for judgment but to seek compensation from the at-fault party. The additional stress of an injured breadwinner makes our job that more urgent.

You may also hear from lawyers representing the at-fault party. We strongly suggest you do not communicate with the insurer for the other side, because they do not have your best interests at heart.

The attorneys at Mann & Potter will want to begin the conversation about your personal injury needs, so we can obtain the maximum compensation for both economic and non-economic damages to help you with the road ahead.

We are here to provide you with the legal guidance and personal support you need at this difficult time. Please call our Birmingham office at 205-627-3186 so you can schedule a complimentary consultation with a member of our legal team.

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