When someone experiences a brain injury, many areas of their life can be affected. One question that often comes up is how to explain the injury and the resulting disabilities to those around them.
Before that can be done, it is important to understand what a traumatic brain injury is. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is basically an injury that affects how the brain works. It is known as an acquired brain injury because it is caused by events that occur after birth, not something one is born with.
Trauma can occur from a blow to the head, falling and hitting one’s head, a loss of oxygen to the brain due to drowning, a loss of blood to the brain as in a stroke, or any other event that causes damage to the brain tissue.
Sometimes, full healing occurs, and a person recovers completely from their TBI. Some others suffer from what is known as post-concussion syndrome for months. And still others suffer irreversible damage that cause long-term, chronic, and or severe disabilities.
Disabilities from a brain injury can be categorized into 3 groups.
- Speech problems
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Sensory issues
- Hearing/vision issues
- Muscle weakness
- Memory issues/loss
- Problems concentrating
- Trouble communicating
- Learning difficulties
- Mood changes/swings
- Agitation or combativeness
- Trouble controlling behavior
Some of these disabilities are more visible than others, which is why being able to explain the disabilities can be key to further understanding. It can also help those suffering from the long-term chronic effects of a TBI to receive the resources they need to live a healthy productive life.
When explaining a brain injury disability to someone, it is important to recognize who you are talking to. To a child, the explanation may be very simple: “Grandpa had a stroke, so his brain is hurt, like when you fell and broke your arm. It’s going to take him a while to feel better, but we still love him and he still loves us, even if his brain makes him act different.”
To others, they may want to know more details, especially if they are very close to the person and want to know how to help.
If applying for government aid or assistance – or for various programs that assist TBI survivors, you can be more detailed and specific. More details are even better in these situations so that a person can receive the best help customized for their specific needs. And if a person isn’t able to communicate for themselves, it is important they have someone who understands the situation to advocate on their behalf.
The most important thing to remember when explaining a brain injury disability is that the person is still the person they were before the injury. They are still someone’s child, parent, friend, colleague, neighbor. They are more than just the effects of their injury.