Dependence, Independence, Interdependence after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog by Janelle Breese Biagioni

August 8, 2011

Dependence, Independence, Interdependence

 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. 

Immediately following a brain injury, it’s not uncommon to be completely dependent on those around you. It is necessary at that point to rely on someone or a group of people or things (i.e., equipment) for support so you can get through the day. 

Independence, on the other hand, is where the person reaches a place that they no longer rely on someone or something to support them in doing what they need and/or want to do. When we are independent, we are free from the control and influence of others as well. We hold all the power and our behaviours, thoughts and actions are of our choosing and doing. We feel in control of our own destiny, so to speak. 

When striving to achieve independence, it isn’t uncommon for the individual and/or family to overlook the value and role of interdependence. Interdependence is about working with others at some point in life or in certain situations. Interdependence is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean that you are not independent or that you cannot achieve independence. And truthfully, everyone (regardless of abilities or disabilities) benefits from interdependence in life. We all need support at some time in some way and working in collaboration with others to achieve our goals does not mean we aren’t independent. 

Interdependence does not obliterate self-determination. The individual retains the right to self-advocacy, decision-making and to determine the goals. Interdependence is part of life and sometimes it is key in moving forward.

4 responses to “Dependence, Independence, Interdependence after Brain Injury”

  1. Because my son, Adam, suffered a tbi in 1991, we opened Adam’s House in Arizona to provide residential settings for tbi survivors. Losing independence is one of the most difficult challenges my son and others in our homes have had to face. Adam may never be able to live independently again, but as with all new residents, we try to encourage the possibility that their lives can indeed improve and be fulfilling.

  2. Marilyn Lash says:

    All of us will some time in our lives when we lose our independence and find ourselves in an unexpected dependency upon families, friends or caregivers. For most of us, fortunately, it is a temporary illness, recovery from surgery or some temporary condition that changes our life style and relationships – temporarily. But for so many in the brain injury community, this change in roles and relationships is not temporary and it is both a lifestyle and life changing event. Your article really reflects on these changes and helps us better understand the challenges that so many caregivers, survivors and families face as they rebuild their lives. Thank you.

  3. Janet Cromer says:

    Thank you for this important distinction, Janelle. Interdependence is at the heart of healthy friendships, work relationships, and even marriage!

  4. Ginger says:

    We are working on this Janelle. Thank you for sharing this. There is so much that families and survivors need to know to move forward to any of these levels. Bill was upset today that I was taking my medically enforced time out this afternoon to leave the home and get healthier. He needs me here. I will read this to him when he is up from his rest and hope it helps him to feel more secure when left with the aide.

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