Support for Families & Carers

Families and brain injury

It is well-recognised that brain injury affects whole families and not just the injured person.

There are several stages that a family will go through, from the initial shock to the final acceptance that things will from now on be different from how they were, for the whole family.

 

Living with a brain-injured family member

There are some people who say that families suffer even more than the injured person, because family members have full insight into the problem and the injured person may not have that complete insight.

Here are some useful things for family members to know:

  • Close family members are susceptible to anxiety and even depression during the years that follow the injury. Relatives can get worn down over time and become less able to cope, especially with emotional and behavioural problems.
  • Spouses often feel that their relationship no longer meets their own emotional needs. Being married to a brain-injured person has been described as “neither married nor single”. It can put the relationship under a lot of strain, even causing the end of the relationship in some cases.
  • Children may find that their own needs are neglected as the brain-injured person places such a caring burden on the family. This can impair their performance at school, and cause emotional problems.
  • Families need to be helped as a whole, not solely focussing on the person with the brain injury. Some families cope better than others – see below.


Families that cope

There are two qualities that have been seen in families that cope best with a brain-injured member:

  • Flexibility. Families who let go of how things “should be” and accept things as they “are”, embracing change, taking up the challenge, are more likely to cope well.
  • Communication. Families that have open and honest channels of communication, expressing both negative and positive emotions, recognising their own and others’ needs within the family, and more likely to cope well.

In fact, with these two qualities, a family may do more than simply cope; they may grow in strength and begin to shine in a way that they didn’t do before the injury. The fragility of life can give a new perspective and intensity to love and relationships; and having a brain-injured person in the family can give a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity to other family members.