How Does TBI Affect Daily Life? What to Expect When Managing A Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is, quite possibly, one of the scariest injuries a person can endure. Unlike a broken bone or severe laceration, TBI can impact the entire body and the mind. Because TBI may severely limit a patient’s physical and cognitive abilities, it could cause the patient and their family members to wonder, How will TBI affect daily life now?
While recovering from TBI can be scary, frustrating, and exhausting, it’s important to understand how TBI influences day-to-day life so you or your loved one can make the appropriate accommodations.
How TBI Affects Daily Life
Here are some of the roadblocks to expect throughout the day, regardless of whether you have a TBI or are living with someone who has a traumatic brain injury:
The daily challenges of TBI can begin as soon as you wake up. Because a traumatic brain injury can lead to paralysis, muscle spasticity, chronic pain, and continence issues, walking to the toilet in the morning or going to the bathroom unassisted could become a challenge.
Some TBI patients also require assistance while bathing or brushing their teeth, as they may lack the motor control necessary to properly care for themselves on their own.
Getting dressed in the morning can also become challenging for someone with TBI. While physical limitations could be an obvious barrier to pulling on a pant leg or buttoning a shirt, cognitive issues could also create challenges while dressing. A traumatic brain injury could lead to slower mental functions, difficulty focusing, and even memory issues. These symptoms may make tasks as simple as remembering which drawer the socks are in quite difficult.
Living with TBI on a daily basis may require medication for a variety of reasons, as a traumatic brain injury could cause:
- Chronic pain
- Low Blood Pressure
- Muscle Spasms
- And more
All of these symptoms could require multiple medications, and missing a single dose could lead to a lower quality of life until the patient is fully recovered or takes their medication again.
A person living with TBI may benefit from a caretaker or family member organizing their medications or loading up their pill organizers ahead of time to assist in following their prescriptions.
Preparing and Eating Meals
Preparing and eating meals could become a challenge for two major reasons: physical limitations and cognitive limitations.
Physical limitations: Many TBI survivors experience difficulty swallowing, which makes eating challenging. Physical limitations caused by paralysis or muscles spasms can also make self-feeding difficult. Some people with TBI also experience changes in appetite, so they may be less willing to eat at mealtimes, which could lead to sudden weight loss. Finally, sensory issues, like temperature perception or loss of taste, can also create potential safety concerns.
Cognitive limitations: As with getting dressed in the morning, the mental demands of eating or preparing a meal could prove problematic. A task like boiling water requires multiple steps (finding a pot, filling it in the sink, placing it on the stove, and turning on the heat) that demand a complex blend of memory (Where are the pots stored?) and planning (What is the next step in this process?).
Traveling and Commuting
Traveling to and from work or school every day can also prove difficult. The physical effects of a traumatic brain injury can make driving or even sitting down in a car difficult. The cognitive challenges of TBI can also make navigation challenging, but many doctors recommend waiting 6-12 months before attempting to drive again if you’ve suffered a TBI that required a hospital stay.
School and Work
Returning to school or work can be especially overwhelming while recovering from a TBI. Because brain injuries can cause confusion, shortened attention span, memory issues, and slower mental ability, reentering the classroom or workplace can become worrisome. In addition, TBI can also lead to sensory issues like trouble hearing and blurred vision, which can create communication issues. But TBI can also strain relationships at school or work, as these injuries can also spark impulsivity, impatience, personality changes, or even inappropriate behavior.
Of course, the long-term physical effects of TBI may also change the way someone travels throughout school or the workplace, as they may require remote access, a wheelchair, or crutches.
Sadly, TBI can have a direct impact on a patient’s relationships with friends, family, classmates, and co-workers. TBI can lead to:
- Depression and anxiety, both of which can negatively influence relationships
- Sudden personality changes, including frustration and irritability
- Difficulty processing language or with reading comprehension
- Difficulty speaking or communicating
- Increased aggression
- Reduced inhibitions and impulse control, which can lead to inappropriate behavior
- Short attention span during conversations
- Impatience and difficulty waiting
If your loved one is recovering from a TBI or managing the long-term effects of a TBI, it’s important to remember that many of the negative behaviors they exhibit are likely uncontrollable for them. Fortunately, medication, counseling, and physical therapy can all assist in overcoming these TBI symptoms.
High-quality sleep is crucial when recovering from any sort of injury. Unfortunately, the trauma to the brain often means people managing TBI often have trouble sleeping. This lack of restorative sleep can exacerbate depression, anxiety, fatigue, and a variety of other TBI effects.
Because sleep is so important, TBI survivors should look for a bed that can fulfill a variety of needs. A fully enclosed bed like The Safety Sleeper®, for example, can provide additional comfort and safety to individuals who are at risk of falling out of bed.
Additional Assistance for Managing TBI
Because recovering from TBI and managing its long-term effects can be draining, pull assistance from multiple resources.
Your immediate network can be an excellent resource for relieving stress or accessing physical support. For professional psychological support, consider visiting a therapist with a background in brain injuries to help you sort through your emotions and develop new tools for moving forward. Of course, continue to keep appointments with your doctor to continue improving!