Brain injury can be confusing to people who don’t have one. Often when we’re trying to be helpful, we say the wrong thing. Or as a carer, it is easy to say things out of frustration and tiredness. It happens all the time. This Brain Awareness Week 2019, we offer our top 7 tips on what not to say to brain injury survivors:
#1 You seem fine to me
The effects of brain injury are often hidden. A person can look fine on the outside but struggle on the inside with problems like memory, fatigue, concentration, mood. Too often we judge disability on what we can see. Acknowledging these difficulties helps a brain injury survivor feel validated and accepted.
#2 How many times do I have to repeat myself? Or I’ve got a terrible memory too!
We all forget things from time to time and it can be frustrating having to repeat yourself. But after a brain injury, it’s more than the usual forgetfulness, the memories may no longer stored. Avoid saying ‘I told you already’ and try practical tips like setting reminders or writing it down.
#3 Let me do that for you
Rebuilding independence and confidence is vital after brain injury. Your natural instinct may be to help when someone is struggling. Stepping in to complete a task is undermining and will prevent progress in rehabilitation. Try to stand back and offer words of encouragement and support.
#4 You’re lucky to be alive
You may think you’re encouraging positive thinking, but the reality is that not everyone feels this way after a brain injury. Some people may not feel very lucky at all. It’s important to allow the person to have their feeling. Depression, anxiety and negative thinking are common after a brain injury. Like anyone experiencing a trauma that changes their life, there is a lot to process and come to terms with. Encourage them to talk to a professional about how they’re feeling or to participate in peer support.
#5 You can’t be tired already!
Fatigue is a very common symptom after brain injury. It’s completely understandable. Tasks that someone did automatically before their injury, now require major effort and concentration. It’s exhausting. Fatigue can also go hand in hand with depression and apathy. Developing a routine with plenty of rest breaks is important to help brain injury survivors manage fatigue.
#6 Are you in a mood?
There’s nothing worse than being asked if you’re grumpy, when you’re feeling out of sorts. Irritability is common among many brain injury survivors who often feel frustrated with their injury or are suffering from fatigue. Who doesn’t get a bit grumpy when you’re tired? Working on personalised goals help hugely with motivation. Or talking with a psychologist or engaging in peer support after brain injury.
#7 Do you know how much I do for you?
Caring for someone after brain injury is not always easy. Psychologically many families feel bewilderment, guilt, frustration. Offloading to your loved one may add to their guilt about needing more help after their injury. Or quite simply, because of their injury, they may never understand and have no clue how much of your effort it takes to care for them. Your emotional health is very important. It’s good to unload your burden to a good friend or a counsellor.
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