Loved Ones

How to Care for a Loved One With a Traumatic Brain Injury

When a son, daughter, husband, wife, parent, or grandparent suffers in incident that leads to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), their life changes forever. But as a loved one, your life changes as well. Do you know how to provide the proper care that allows them to recover and thrive? 

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

According to, an estimated 2.5 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries each year. The effects can range from minor and short-term to severe and chronic.

Traumatic brain injuries result from external factors such as: being struck by an object; suffering a sudden, violent jolt or shaking; and/or getting struck by an object that penetrates the skull. The symptoms of a TBI can include problems with memory and reasoning, issues with sensations (taste, touch, smell, etc.), problems communicating, and an inability to properly control emotions and social interactions.

“While some people can recover from TBI and return to normal lives, many others never regain normal functioning in the brain,” Salvi Schostok & Pritchard notes. “They may require ongoing care and treatment as well as assistance with basic living tasks. They may suffer from traumatic brain injury symptoms years later.”

4 Tips for Caregivers

As a caregiver, it’s helpful to have a game plan. While nothing can prepare you for walking alongside a loved one with a TBI, the following tips will enable you to step into the role and provide the right amount of nourishment and care:

1.Get Familiar With TBI

The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with TBI. Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts and presentations…the more information you consume, the better. As you gather insights from a variety of people in the industry, you’ll start to see and understand the big picture trends. You’ll also grow in your sympathy and learn to appreciate some of the nuances that come with TBI diagnoses.

2.Be as Patient as Possible

Brain injuries are complex and unpredictable. If you’re someone who likes routines and patterns, you may find this frustrating. Try your best to be patient – even when you have to say the same things over and over again. Your loved one is experiencing a rough time in their life and they desperately need your love, patience, and support. Do your best to provide copious amounts of each. 

3.Provide a Sense of Normalcy

In the days, weeks, and months after a TBI, your loved one’s world is turned upside down. Everything becomes foreign and disorganized. Make it your job to infuse a sense of normalcy into the chaos. You can do this by:

  • Establishing a daily routine
  • Encouraging regular rest
  • Being as normal and natural as possible
  • Including your loved one in all family activities
  • Keeping a calendar and letting your loved one know what to expect

Even if life doesn’t feel normal, you have to try. You’ll settle into a new sense of normalcy soon enough. 

4.Be Careful With Your Words

Be careful with what you say to a loved one who has experienced a TBI. Here are some things you should never say:

  • You seem fine.
  • Maybe you’re not trying hard enough.
  • Stop being so grumpy all the time.
  • How many times do I have to remind you?
  • Do you know how much I’m sacrificing for you?
  • You need to stop depending on these medications.
  • Just let me do it for you.
  • Stop being so negative – just think positively.
  • Do you realize how lucky you are to be alive?

When these thoughts enter into your mind, wave them goodbye. As much as you may feel like shouting them from the top of your lungs, they’ll do nothing but cause pain and frustration.

The Future is Brighter

Watching a loved one suffer through the negative symptoms and side effects of a TBI for months or years can be unbearable. However, you’ll find it encouraging to know that the medical community continues to invest millions of dollars into research to understand how the brain recovers and repairs. We’re close to some major breakthroughs that could provide hope and promise to millions of TBI sufferers and their families. You’re doing important work – don’t lose sight of this!