The idea of a family member with traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be devastating. The person you loved and knew is still there, but they’re not the same. They may have personality changes or memory problems. It’s hard to know how to help them recover when they’re struggling so much on their own. And it gets even harder if that TBI survivor has kids: What do you tell your children about their parents? How do you explain why Mom or Dad isn’t acting like themselves anymore? How will you make sure everyone in the family feels supported and understood? This article explores four decisions families of TBI survivors will need to make.
Who Would Take Care of the Survivors?
When a family has to take care of someone with TBI, everybody’s lives are changed. Who takes care of the survivor? Do you put them in brain injury treatment facilities, nursing homes or hire caregivers? This is one of the top decisions families of TBI survivors will have to make.
Family members who live close by can take care of their loved ones with TBI as much or as little as they want. If you don’t go see the survivor very often, it’s a good idea to have them visit your home so they can learn how to navigate around on their own. It’s a good idea to have open communication with them so they know what you expect from them.
But if family members aren’t nearby, or if they live too far away to help every day, a nursing home may be the best option. Nursing homes can provide around-the-clock care for TBI survivors who need special assistance with their medical or personal care. Staff can also help the survivors with their daily tasks so family members don’t need to worry about it.
Who Would Foot The Bills?
The person’s medical bills can be brutal. If they have health insurance, the insurer will pay some of the expenses. But there may be out-of-pocket costs: co-pays for medications or treatments and uncovered services like physical therapy and skilled nursing care. Make sure you know what your family’s policy covers so you’re prepared if the bill comes due.
Other big expenses are personal care costs. If your loved one requires help with daily tasks, like dressing or getting in and out of the bathtub, you may need to hire caregivers. These people are called home health aides. Some live with the survivor in their home for part of the week while others come into someone’s house on a daily basis.
Depending on the person’s coverage, they may be eligible to receive home health care through Medicaid or Medicare. You can work with medical providers to see if your loved one qualifies for these government-subsidized services. The National Institute on Aging offers an overview of the different types of services that are available.
What Would Happen to the Survivors’ Kids?
Does your TBI survivor have kids? How are they coping with their parents’ new challenges? Many times, the children are left in charge of their parents. It can be hard on them because they never expected to become caregivers while still in school or early into adulthood. They may also feel guilty about their parents’ condition.
If your loved one has TBI, her kids may be looking to you for answers. First of all, make sure they know that it’s not their fault. It might also help them to learn about brain injuries and how to deal with the physical and emotional issues that can come along with them.
Talking with a therapist can help too. A professional can support your loved one and her children as they come to understand the changes that have taken place with TBI.
What Will You Tell Them?
People don’t always display their emotions easily, especially if they’re struggling to cope with a disability that only they know about. But kids are experts at reading their parents’ emotions. They know when something’s up, even if their mom or dad tries to hide it.
Tell their kids about the injury in a way that will not cause them anxiety. If possible, let them know soon after it happens so they don’t hear about it through gossip or social media. Don’t treat it like a big secret, because it’s likely they will sense that something is wrong.
Most importantly, make sure to reassure them that their mom or dad still loves them and wants to spend time with them. Have your TBI survivor set aside some quality alone time with each of his or her children so they can enjoy each other’s company and rebuild their relationship.
The families of TBI survivors will have to make hard decisions. It’s important that everyone in the family has a say in these decisions because each decision affects them all.