A brain injury does not just affect the person who experienced the injury — it has an impact on the lives of family and loved ones. Symptoms that persist after the injury (such as with post-concussive syndrome) can have a significant impact on quality of life and an individual’s ability to live independently.
In these instances, such as when someone is convalescing from an injury or has experienced a change in autonomy and independence, a caregiver may be called on for assistance. According to CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons), more than 8 million Canadians offer informal care to a family member or friend. This means that many of us may be needed to help a friend or loved one during rehabilitation or with daily living.
Why is a caregiver important?
A caregiver provides the support an individual needs while dealing with the impact of their symptoms or injury. For an individual who has experienced a traumatic brain injury, this type of help in invaluable. From taking care of physical needs to providing emotional support, a caregiver has an integral role for an individual living with the symptoms of a brain injury.
Caregivers can be considered essential during the recovery process or adjustment to a new way of life. Resources, like this page from the National Alliance for Caregiving, can offer some ideas and networking.
While this type of work can be rewarding, it has its own set of challenges. Providing this support can be exhausting, placing considerable strain on someone in a caregiving role.
How to Help (While Taking Care of Yourself)
There are ways to help while taking care of yourself as well. Depending on the needs of the individual you are assisting, you may be called on to:
- Prepare meals
- Assist with eating or bathing
- Provide transport to appointments
- Offer emotional support
While you are assisting someone in their recovery, consider doing the following to prevent burnout:
- Join a support group
Helping you to connect with other caregivers, support groups can offer you advice as you care for your loved one. Groups also help you find local resources and services to help lighten the demands on your time and support your own schedule.
- Remember to take a break
As the primary caregiver for your loved one, it may feel like it’s up to you to cover care 24/7. But you aren’t alone! Consider asking a friend or relative to come in and visit for a few hours so you can take some time for yourself. Think about going for a walk to help clear your mind or grabbing a coffee to catch up with someone. It’s important to take time away from being “on call” to allow yourself a chance to relax too.
Remember your support groups! They may offer options for meals, home care or transportation to help you with your daily tasks.
- Set a routine
As much as possible, try to set and stay with a routine. Simple tools like to-do lists help you stay on track with what needs to be done and provide some structure to your days.
Keep emergency numbers and contacts together with important documents around medication. Being organized can give you peace of mind as you care for your loved one.
- Take care of yourself too!
Good care starts with you. Establish a good sleep routine and stick with it so you are refreshed for every day. Try and fit in exercise to keep a positive attitude. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and eat healthy for the best source of energy.
Curious about Heuro™ Programs and how they may be able to help someone experiencing persistent symptoms resulting from a mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury (mmTBI)? Visit our FAQ page for answers to some common questions or find out how to get a referral if the person in your care could benefit from acute treatment of chronic balance deficit due to mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury (mmTBI).