What to look out for if a friend or relative has an Acquired Brain Injury

Depending on the type of brain injury and where the brain has been affected the overall effect of the injury will vary from person to person, although there are often common symptoms which are associated with the condition.  These include cognitive problems.

When a brain injury is particularly severe, it is likely that the sufferer will slip into a state of coma. This means that they will be unconscious and although they may look as though they are asleep, it can take days, weeks or even longer for them to ‘come round’.  The sufferer will be unable to physically or verbally respond to any questions or instructions when they are in the coma.  It’s likely that the person in a coma will have some reflex muscle twitches.

During this time, it is difficult to know how the sufferer will come out of the coma as it depends on where the brain has been damaged and how severely. 

Whether the brain injury is traumatic or non traumatic, the physical, cognitive and behavioural consequences can be complex and difficult to manage. In these instances, the person suffering will often need brain injury rehabilitation from a specialist rehabilitation team in order to maximise their future quality of life and their ability to function to their maximum capability. 

What are the physical problems of an ABI?-

As the brain instigates all purposeful movement in the body and is responsible for co-ordinating movements, physical damage to the brain can cause:

  • Muscle weakness for example being unable to lift everyday objects
  • Spasticity that is carrying their arms or other limbs at an abnormal angle because of the tightness of the muscles
  • Restricted range of movement due to spasticity, muscle weakness and balance function
  • Difficulty with swallowing, speech or vision
  • Difficulty controlling coordination
  • Feeling extremely tired due to mental fatigue

All of the above can affect a person's independence and can often lead to problems carrying out functional activities such as walking, talking, feeding, eating and dressing.

What are the cognitive problems of an ABI?-

A person suffering from a brain injury can often struggle with their cognitive ability in the period following, which reduces their brain's ability to function properly. This includes problems with their memory, concentration, problem solving ability and self monitoring.

  • Poor memory that is often finding it difficult to recall memories in the short term
  • Difficulty remaining focused lack of attention and concentration on a task
  • Inability to problem solve or find solutions to problems

What are the behavioural problems of an ABI?-

  • Reduced judgement for example not seeing or understanding the consequences or repercussions of actions
  • Poor reasoning skills that is not being able to weigh up pros and cons for example, or being unable to make well informed choices.
  • Anger and aggressive behaviour when in an emotional state. It is difficult to control these emotions meaning that it is common that swearing, hitting and, punching are actions which the sufferer exhibits due to frustration.
  • Acting inappropriately for example making, socially unacceptable gestures or comments. This can be particularly difficult for friends and relatives to cope with as it can be difficult to explain why this type of behaviour is wrong.

A person's behaviour can become dramatically different following an ABI or an acute brain injury, which can be one of the most difficult aspects for family and friends to cope with during the recovery process. Impulses are often acted upon by sufferers and they will fail to understand the consequences of their behaviour. They may also become irritable, aggressive or even very placid. Mood swings are very common and patients can find it difficult to express their emotions.

7 tips on living with a friend or relative with an ABI:-

1.   Be patient when coming to terms with the fact that your friend or relative has changed. Nobody is ever prepared for a brain injury, and it is often understood that the relatives and friends of the sufferer are additional victims to ABI.
2.   Try to be flexible, accept and embrace the change that you’re going through. It will be a challenge, but with the right support it can be overcome.
3.   Communicate with other relatives and friends who are experiencing the same thing. Be honest with each other and try to recognise individual needs.
4.   Keep speaking with health professionals about the condition. The more you know about the condition, the more you can deal with any challenges that may come in your way.
5.   Try to establish structure into your life. Consistency and a structure can help to offset some problems by giving a fluid and dependable way of life.
6.   Look to be involved in the rehabilitative process as much as possible so you can learn techniques and processes which will benefit the sufferer of ABI.
7.   Make time for yourself. It can be easy to throw yourself into caring for the friend or relative and to forget about your life.

For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding acquired brain injury (ABI), please call 0845 277 4679. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here