A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can devastate an entire family. I’ve met many families struggling to understand and help their loved one function after such an injury. For some families, TBI changes can be tremendous. Several years ago, I read the story of a wife caring for her husband who suffered a life-altering TBI as a soldier in Iraq. That wife described the many changes in her husband and their relationship. She called it, their “new normal.” A family forever changed.
I’ve heard similar stories from relatives of my clients injured in industrial accidents and car crashes. Whether a life-changing TBI occurs on the battlefield, a construction site or a highway, entire families often suffer permanent changes.
TBI victims often suffer in silence to the outside world. The injured person struggles with their changed reality. So do their close loved ones. Many close relatives impacted by a loved one with a TBI will agree — Unless you live with someone who has a traumatic brain injury, it’s difficult to understand the impact of it.
People suffering traumatic brain injuries often “look” healthy to others. Yet, “looks” really are deceiving. A TBI victim can undergo a complete change in personality or function that affects everything in his life, including his family, his friends, and his work. The closest family members often face great difficulties providing care and continued support.
When I investigate a personal injury case involving a TBI, I want to speak with the person’s family, close friends and co-workers. Why? These are the people who interact with the injured person on a daily basis and can tell the rest of us about the true extent of his or her injury. Their stories are often very emotional. In some cases, these stories involve spouses with a TBI who can no longer control their emotions or compulsions; who can no longer make decisions; who can no longer perform activities of daily living. Other family members may not have suffered the actual TBI but they do suffer a tremendous loss.
In Alabama, we are fortunate to have some valuable treatment, research and resource organizations. One advocacy and information group is the Alabama Head Injury Foundation. The Foundation provides a lot of helpful TBI information. This includes information for families of those suffering a TBI injury. The following quote from the Foundation talks about the impact on families:
Initially the family’s sense of relief that their loved one is still alive changes to an uncertainty about the future, followed by a growing awareness of potential changes in physical, cognitive, behavior, emotions, social skills and communication. Gradually the full extent of the damage caused by brain injury becomes clearer. The person may behave differently, no longer functioning as before, and may seem as a totally different person. Even those closest to the person may only realize later that the brain injury has changed the course of their lives as well. Life’s usual expectations no longer apply and the future becomes blurred resulting in uncertainty for all involved
People with brain injury want to move forward in their lives again after brain injury. The desire to regain full or partial control over one’s life and to make something out of it can be very powerful. Facing an uncertain future can be overwhelming, but with the help and support of friends and family, as well as understanding from a caring community, and partnerships with helping professionals, life can take on new meaning.
Traumatic brain injuries take a toll on entire families. We must consider and support the close family members and caregivers who face great difficulties caring for their injured loved ones.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm handles serious personal injury claims across Alabama. The month of March is recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month. Throughout March, we focus on bringing awareness to brain injuries and the families facing them.