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Tips for Family Members

Tips for Helping the Person with ABI Become Independent

  • Give your loved one the individual freedom to increase his or her independence.
  • Provide opportunities for them to do things for themselves, even if it’s questionable that they can succeed. Doing so will allow them to rebuild their confidence and help them get back their sense of self-reliance.
  • Don‘t expect to understand everything that happens to your loved one following an acquired brain injury. ABI is unique to each individual.
  • It can be helpful to take a “detective” approach to try and get to the root cause of a problem. For example, if your loved one is aggressive and challenging, perhaps he/she has undiagnosed pain, cannot tolerate noise or is over-tired. Your rehabilitation team will work with you to identify possible causes and assist you to eliminate these.
  • Assist your loved one to monitor energy and tiredness levels. If you imagine that the average person has energy or a “battery pack” of 15 hours per day, a person with ABI may have energy or a battery pack of just 4 or 6 hours per day or even less.
  • Assist your loved one to Maximise Ability and Minimise Disability by setting small realistic goals or stepping stones to greater independence.
  • Encourage the use of a calendar or diary.
  • Remind your loved one not to use drugs or alcohol: these only dull the brain.
  • Encourage the use of a daily schedule. This establishes routine and helps make life predictable.
  • Encourage your loved one to look after themselves and take responsibility for their own wellbeing.
  • Encourage the use of Post-It Stickers and the use of the To Do List facility on the mobile phone.
  • Join a peer support group with ABI Ireland


 You cannot offer effective assistance to your loved one if you are not taking care of yourself. Many family caregivers tend to spend all their time caring for their loved ones and don’t take care of themselves. The individual with an injury is often the focal point for days, weeks, months and years following the injury. As a caregiver, you deserve and need your personal time too.

Recreational and social activities can relieve some of your stress.

Other family members should encourage caregivers to find ways to meet their mental and physical needs too.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

It is easy to become overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks involved in taking care of your loved one.

  • Ask for help with the daily care of your family member.
  • Seek assistance in dealing with the emotional impact the injury has had on you and the rest of the family.
  • Request that other family members or friends help with the daily care.
  • Find someone to talk to about how having so much work is making you feel. Psychologists, social workers, and counsellors are some of the professionals who can offer support.
  • Join a peer-support group of other family members who are dealing with their loved one’s brain injury. ABI Ireland may be running a family support group in your area which you can access.
  • Take care of yourself. Rest when you can, eat right and make time for “just you” away from the person you are caring for.
  • Try to get and keep things organised. Some people find making lists and keeping a calendar of appointments and everything else they need to do can help.
  • Most importantly, take everything one day at a time.

“I Feel More Like a Nurse Than a Partner!”

What can you do to feel more like a partner? Taking care of a partner with a brain injury can be very difficult. Since the injury, your relationship with your partner may have changed dramatically. These devastating changes may have affected your financial stability, sexual intimacy and the emotional support you once shared. You probably have had to take on the dual roles of partner and nurse, at least some of the time.

You will need time to adjust and to redefine the parameters of each role.

  • Take breaks from your caregiver role as often as possible so that you can take care of yourself.
  • Make time for activities together that have nothing to do with his or her care. Enjoy one another as life partners and as friends.
  • Seek professional help from a Social Worker or Case Manager to deal with these issues, if you need to.
  • The roles of other family members, including siblings, parents and grandparents, can change. Their once independent loved one may need more family support, from everyone in the family, or have changed needs as a result of their ABI.

Family members also go through different feelings and reactions throughout the recovery period.

Family members can become overwhelmed with the crisis and the changes in behaviour as well as physical and cognitive changes of their loved one with a brain injury. It is important to remember: there is no single, correct way of dealing with the person’s changes following an injury.

What can I do to help?

Be patient

Keep in mind, your loved one may be disoriented and confused for some time. He or she will begin to compensate for some of their deficits in time.

Give them support

Use a buddy system when trying a new activity. Offer support and adjust the level of support to accommodate their current abilities and skills.

Get counselling for your and your family

Everyone can benefit from counselling services. Counselling may help alleviate a variety of built-up emotions, feelings and thoughts.

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