Brain injuries have an enormous impact on the individual as well as their immediate and wider family. All can experience a great deal of change in their lives, physically, mentally and financially.
If the main salary earner suffers the injury, one of the immediate effects of trauma includes loss of financial stability. This in turn has repercussions throughout the family and can add extra tension to an unchartered situation. Breakdown of relationships isn’t uncommon either because members can’t cope with the monumental change to their roles and positions within the family unit. And without loved ones there to support and look out for each other, mental and physical survival can be so much harder.
Researchers and clinicians are starting to look at the family as a whole when considering post-trauma therapy. That will help understanding of how relationships are affected between partners, and with children, and how the injured party deals with their altered position in the family.
Helping Traumatized Families is a 2013 study by C.R. Figley and L. J. Kiser. This considers the family unit as a whole who work together and therefore can also cease to work together, should one of them suffer a traumatic injury. The study shows how effectively a family responds to trauma may depend on how they interacted before the injury, including how each of them viewed their roles, as well as the resources they received post-trauma. Those that tend to adapt more effectively are those who continue to meet all member’s needs, and don’t shift all their focus on to the injured party.
It’s so important to remember that following a traumatic or acquired brain injury, all individuals and family members retain the need for affection, security and growth. Overlooking these means a higher likelihood of the family adapting poorly, resulting in the family unit breaking down. But allowing everyone to grow, feel secure and loved will allow the family to adapt and have a stronger future that is likely to be more beneficial to each person.
We recently spoke to someone who suffered an ABI in 2012. He acknowledges that recovery from brain injury is about so much more than the individual receiving rehabilitation care. It requires the support and strength of the family who in turn need to be cared for and helped to readjust to life post-trauma. Kevin says:
“Through all these years, I have been the one to receive all the attention and sympathy and well wishes. But it’s my family, friends and especially my wife who deserve to be recognised. Without them I wouldn’t be here today, and I can only imagine what they’ve been through. Sometimes I think being on the side lines is scarier than being in the operating room.”
Support for families, post-trauma
As research increases, resources should follow. For now, families can seek support from several different avenues. These include:
- Brain injury workshops and webinars: any education on brain injury, the short- and long-term effects, recovery phases, life adaptations and expectations is important. Being armed with knowledge can be empowering and help manage such an emotive time.
- Extended family network: family and friends can be invaluable in the case of sudden trauma. People don’t offer help and support unless they mean it. They can help with some of the practicalities, such as meals and childcare as well as emotional support.
- Family and individual therapy: it’s always good to find out about what is on offer. Talking can help enormously as can practical advice and coping strategies. It may be easier to talk to a person one-step removed from the family as well.
- Financial support: some brain injuries result from negligence in which case there may be a financial claim to be made. Any financial help will assist hugely with loss of income, costs of care and support services and rehabilitation. Families may also be put in contact with a case management company who will be able to look after all post-trauma medical needs.
- Support from charities and brain injury groups: there is a great deal of invaluable information, advice and resources to be found from brain injury groups and charities, such as the Brain Injury Group and Headway. There is also benefit from speaking to other people in similar situations.
Whatever the cause of the brain injury that affects a person and their family, it is important to remember that there are people and organisations out there who want to help families survive and manage.
Written by John Ainscough, Ainscough Associates
Ainscough Associates have a team of highly experienced and dedicated case managers with backgrounds in nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, and social work. With a robust approach to supporting clients who wish to directly employ care and support staff, Ainscough Associates have their own dedicated HR professionals who work directly with the client and family.
To read more about Ainscough Associates, view the Brain Injury Group brain injury services directory listing for Ainscough Associates – www.braininjurygroup.co.uk/services-a-z/ainscough-associates/
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