The role of a caregiver is extremely important and unique. Over 20% of people in the United States are acting as caregivers for someone else at any given point in time. Many of them are doing it alone. We have some tips for primary caregivers to help manage time and stress.
Learn About Your Loved One’s Injury
When someone is in an accident that causes brain damage they may experience sudden and unexpected changes and they may not understand what has happened even though they feel different. Brain injuries are particularly difficult to quantify in any one category because the brain controls so many aspects of life. Symptoms will vary depending on the location of the injury, the type of injury and how much time has passed since the initial trauma. We have free information on our website, such as A Layman’s Guide to Brain Injuries, to aid in your understanding of traumatic brain injuries.
By understanding the effects of the injury, you can learn how to better aid your loved one. For example, difficulty multitasking and confusion are common side effects of an impact to the parietal lobes. If your loved one has brain damage in either parietal lobe, he or she may need to focus on only one thing at a time and be spoken to slowly. Knowing this will help you in his or her care.
Additionally, injuries to the frontal lobe are often paired with personality changes and extreme emotions. If your loved one is behaving differently than he or she used to, the injury may be the cause. You should understand that mood swings are part of the injury and not related to you.
Keep in Touch with Friends
Caring for someone around the clock takes a toll on your personal life. You may not be able to do all the activities you once enjoyed. This doesn’t mean you need to completely lose contact with your friends though.
Find someone who can spend time with your loved one while you go to lunch with a friend. Some people find simply running errands with another person can help reduce their stress levels.
Invite people to come see you at home if you can’t leave your loved one with a brain injury. Try to include your brain injury survivor in activities with friends. They may be feeling just as lonely as you. Having a few people over for a potluck dinner will give you both a chance to socialize with other people and relieve you of cooking an entire meal.
Take Care of Yourself
One of the most important things you need to do as a caregiver is care for yourself. This goes beyond eating three meals a day (although you should be eating properly). This means you need to get away sometimes. Ask friends and family to help out with your loved one so you can go to a movie, hit the gym or take a nap. Your life may have completely changed when you became a caregiver but you cannot let it completely stop.
Friends and loved ones might think you seem to be handling things really well, and you are! But, you probably still need a little time off.
You may hear things like, ‘I don’t know how you do it,’ or ‘You make it look so easy.’ It is easier to pretend you are okay and bear the burden of care giving on your own than to admit you could use help. Be brave. Tell your inner circle when you need help. No one can read your mind.
Why Do You Need Breaks?
Breaks are essential for your physical and mental health. Treat yourself as an athlete preparing for a game. An athlete takes breaks between lifting and running so his body can recharge for the next activity. Without rest, he would lose the energy needed to keep going.
Taking care of someone isn’t very different. If you are constantly monitoring your loved one’s actions, administering medications and handling all the housework and chores without any breaks, you will eventually burn out.
The simple truth is you will be a better caregiver when you return from your break.
Log Progress in a Journal
Keeping track of small victories on a daily or weekly basis will help at appointments with medical professionals. By writing things down you will be sure to have the information ready when you are updating the doctors.
You may choose to write down physical or behavioral improvements, areas of difficulty, questions you plan to ask the doctors and dosing and frequency of prescriptions. Technology has made keeping track of medications and appointments easier by allowing you to set reminders that will ring or buzz. Take advantage of anything that will make caring for your loved one easier.
If your loved one has memory issues as a result of the brain injury, encouraging him or her to maintain a written journal in addition to any records you keep may help to improve their memory and remind them of upcoming appointments. It could also give them back a feeling of control over life.
Find a Support Group
Until someone is in the position you are in, caring for a loved one 24/7, they don’t know what you are going through. There are plenty of support groups specifically for caregivers in Florida. You can meet with other people in similar situations and discuss tips to help manage life as a caregiver.
We have a list of resources for brain injury vicitms and their loved ones. Resources.caregiver.com also allows you to search for support groups, assisted living facilities, adult day care and other services by city.
Even if you can’t make it to a routine meeting, try to schedule time to have a friend or family member visit regularly. This will give you a chance to get out of your role as caregiver and be yourself, if even for a little while.
Traumatic brain injury is one of the leading causes of death and permanent disability in America. Falls, firearms and motor vehicle accidents account for roughly 80% of all TBI related deaths.
Have You Suffered A Brain Injury Due To An Accident?
If you've suffered a brain injury following an accident you should speak with an experienced brain injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.