We often need the support and loyalty of our family and friends. This holds true, perhaps even more so, when an individual and their family endures an injury, illness, death or other life transition.
A key element in healing physically, emotionally and even spiritually is that we need to activate a support system. Our personal network of support includes friends, family, extended family, co-workers and acquaintances. They rally around us to offer their company, food, help, and good wishes when we need it.
Many brain injury survivors live many years after the injury. Some continue to make progress and do well, while others develop more health problems. There is a new way of thinking about brain injury that has implications for all survivors and their caregivers. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is striving to have brain injury reclassified as a chronic disease.
It is summer and the heat wave that has covered the United States makes it harder for the elderly and people with chronic health and respiratory issues. I drove home from an appointment today in 102 degree heat. The car always registers a bit hotter, but my neighbor said her car read the same. The humidity sucks the breathe right out of you.
I wasn’t planning on getting another dog, that fine June day, when I found Rico. Or maybe it is better to say when Rico found me. “No dog is better than the wrong dog,” I tried to explain to Katie, a young teenager, who didn’t quite believe me. Her mother, Sheila, had tried to explain to Katie that I was very serious and that she should NOT pressure me to get another dog. Somehow, Katie did not really believe her mother or me.
It is very challenging to get motivated when you are not feeling good about your situation. It’s normal for individuals to experience a drop in motivation following loss. Survivors may also experience a lack of motivation resulting from the injury to their brain. In any instance, a lack of motivation can result in the person becoming isolated and taking a direct hit to their self-esteem. It’s a vicious circle… don’t feel motivated, feel awful about myself, feel awful about myself… don’t feel motivated. Breaking the cycle isn’t easy, but it can be done. It requires determination, creativity and most of all, patience.
The recent economic status of our country has brought the need to acquire or attain skills to the forefront of people’s minds. With the competitive job market, the more one has to offer, the greater are their chances to succeed. It has become evident that skills are needed in all aspects of life. Life skills are needed to live independently; specific work skills are needed to do a specific type of job (i.e., a carpenter is needed to build), social skills are needed to interact in society; relational skills are needed to maintain healthy and meaningful relationships and so on. Napoleon Dynamite even noted the need for skills when he stated, “You know, like nun chuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills…girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” The reality is that skills are needed in all aspects of life, but not all skills are needed as much as others. Social skills for example, are not only needed, but one must really work to attain so that they can continue to reach new levels in their life.
When our son was born severely brain injured, it felt as if our world had crumbled. Every dream we had had for him was put on hold. Instead, we had new hurdles to climb and they weren’t going to be easy.
To gain a perspective is to gain another point of view. In a relationship, it is important that we try to understand where the other person is coming from or where they are at in their life. Seeking to understand first before being understood is a challenge for most people, but if you can approach a situation from this angle, I guarantee you will gain a new perspective.
In the contract work that I do in the brain injury field, our goal is always to ‘work ourselves out of a job.’ This means that we strive to help the individual move towards independence and to living a life that is filled with meaningful activity, positive interactions with others, and achievements.
Family caregivers move through several seasons or stages as their loved one progresses through treatment in the intensive care unit, to inpatient rehabilitation, and finally back home. But we know that’s only a new beginning- not a finish line. Each stage comes with its own emotional responses and tasks to master. Fortunately, there are skills and strategies that a caregiver can learn to help maintain his/her own health, and make the job easier.