Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are injuries to the brain that occur as a result of a blow to the head. A TBI may also happen if you are hit with something that enters the skull, such as a bullet or sharp object.

A traumatic brain injury affects how your brain works. The symptoms of a TBI may impact your functioning and every part of your life.

People with a TBI may experience both short and long-term effects. Fortunately, there are effective treatments that can help people improve functioning and manage the symptoms of a TBI.

In this article, we will explore how family members and caregivers can support someone going through brain injury treatment. If you or someone you love needs brain injury treatment, reach out to the team at The Hartman Center to learn about our effective programs.

What Are Common Brain Injuries?

Thousands of people in the United States sustain a TBI. Research from 2020 showed that over 214,000 people required inpatient TBI treatment, and 69,000 people died from complications of a brain injury.

There are several types of traumatic brain injuries. Here is an overview of the most common types of TBI.

Blunt TBI

A blunt TBI occurs when something causes your head to twist or bounce inside your skull. This could occur if you bump your head or something hits your head. Common causes of a blunt TBI include:

  • Being involved in a car accident
  • Falling
  • Being hit in the head with an object
  • Playing sports
  • Being injured in an explosion

Medical professionals may also call this type of injury a “closed-head TBI” or “non-penetrating TBI.”

Penetrating TBI

A penetrating TBI occurs when an object punctures your skull and enters the brain tissue. The object may damage areas of the brain. Medical professionals may refer to a penetrating TBI as an “open TBI.” A penetrating TBI can occur if you are hit in the head by a bullet, knife, or other sharp object.

Medical experts also distinguish between mild, moderate, and severe traumatic brain injuries.

Mild TBI

Medical professionals may refer to a mild TBI as a “concussion.” More than 75% of TBIs are mild.

However, mild TBIs can still impair functioning and cause significant, long-term problems. People who sustain a mild TBI may need treatment and support before returning to their normal daily activities.

Moderate and severe TBI

Moderate and severe brain injuries can experience significant health issues that may last for a long time. People with moderate and severe TBIs may need significant intervention, care, and lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms of their brain injuries.

Symptoms of a Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury occurs when something causes your brain to bounce or twist inside your skull. This damages the brain tissue and injures blood vessels in the brain. These injuries can cause chemical changes in the brain that cause cells to stop working correctly.

Medical professionals use evidence-based tools to assess the severity of a person’s TBI. Traumatic brain injuries can cause a range of disruptive symptoms. Symptoms typically vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Symptoms of a mild TBI include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Poor balance
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Changes in sleep patterns–either sleeping too much or sleeping less than usual
  • Anxiety
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Feeling sluggish or slowed down
  • Irritability

Symptoms of a mild TBI may develop immediately after the injury or may not develop for up to a week after it occurs. It may be difficult to understand symptoms that develop long after the injury occurs. As the brain recovers, your symptoms will change.

Symptoms of moderate or severe TBI may include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vision or hearing issues
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty with communication
  • Changes in sensory perception
  • Coma
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Grogginess
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Sadness
  • Impulsive behaviors

People who sustain a moderate TBI typically lose consciousness for more than 30 minutes but less than 24 hours. A severe TBI causes unconsciousness that lasts more than 24 hours.

Treatment for Brain Injury

The treatment process for a brain injury depends on the type of TBI you have and its severity.

Treatment for mild TBI

Medical professionals may advise people with a mild TBI to:

  • Take OTC pain relievers to reduce headache
  • Rest
  • Minimize stress and stimulation
  • Have regular checkups for several weeks to monitor symptoms

People with a mild TBI may be able to return to work or school within a few days, depending on their symptoms and recovery progress.

Treatment for moderate to severe TBI

A moderate or severe TBI often requires intensive interventions and treatment. Medical professionals may:

  • Perform surgery to relieve pressure in the skull, remove debris after a penetrating TBI, and repair skull fractures
  • Place monitors in the brain to measure oxygen levels and pressure
  • Prescribe medications, including antiseizure drugs, pain relievers, stimulants, antidepressants, and others

After the initial interventions, doctors will help people with moderate to severe TBIs develop an ongoing treatment plan. Treatment plans may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Mental health treatment
  • Occupational therapy

People with moderate to severe TBI may experience long-term symptoms that affect their ability to work, live independently, and other core aspects of their functioning. People with severe TBIs may require ongoing professional and personal support to maintain their quality of life and manage their symptoms.

How Can Family Members and Caregivers Support the Brain Injury Treatment Process?

Family members and other caregivers play an essential role in the life of a person with a TBI. However, it can be challenging to provide the support and care people with a TBI require. If your loved one requires significant support and treatment, you may need help to know what to do.

Each person has their own experiences while supporting a loved one with TBI. Work with your loved one’s doctors and treatment team to identify what help the person will need as they go through brain injury treatment.

This guide will provide some practical steps you can take to help someone going through the brain injury treatment process.

Create structure and normalcy

It’s important to develop daily practices to help you and your loved one stay on track in treatment. Creating structure and normalcy means:

Putting frequently used objects within easy reach

  • Allowing lots of time for the person to rest
  • Talking to the person the way you used to
  • Including the person in social activities and conversations
  • Having a calendar visible and crossing off days as they go by
  • Labeling pictures of loved ones, familiar places, and special occasions

You may be aware of your loved one’s impairments, but it is important to instead focus on creating a sense of normalcy in everyday life.

Offer respectful support

A person with a TBI may need help doing things they could once do for themself. Provide respectful support by:

  • Calling attention to progress
  • Respecting their preferences when it comes to food, clothing, music, and other aspects of daily life
  • Explaining activities in simple terms before beginning them and reviewing steps as you go
  • Avoiding blame or anger if they make a mistake

Continue to talk to the person like an adult. Avoid talking down to them. Taking care to show respect will mean a lot to your loved one as they navigate the brain injury treatment process.

Reduce stimulation

Many medical professionals advise people with a TBI to avoid excessive stimulation. You can help with this by:

  • Limiting visitors
  • Advising people to take turns speaking to your loved one at a time instead of talking over each other
  • Using simple words and shorter sentences
  • Speaking in a soft voice
  • Avoiding crowded or noisy environments
  • Giving directions one step at a time
  • Allowing extra time for the person to process what you’ve said

People with TBI may become irritable or aggressive when overstimulated. Watch for signs that your loved one is overstimulated and take action to reduce their stress. Whenever possible, reduce stimulation in the environment.

Maintain a safe environment

People with traumatic brain injuries may have impaired judgment, confusion, fatigue, or other symptoms that can make them more prone to accidents. You can help to maintain a safe environment by:

  • Reducing clutter in hallways and stairs
  • Removing rugs or other objects that could cause your loved one to trip
  • Removing dangerous items, such as matches, firearms, and knives
  • Keeping all medications in a locked cabinet
  • Having your loved one wear an identification bracelet
  • Ensuring rooms are well-lit
  • Locking exit doors
  • Keeping your loved one’s bed low to the ground

Your loved one’s doctor will tell them when it’s safe to resume activities like work, cooking, sports, swimming, and more.  Until then, you can help to create a safe environment as your loved one navigates the healing process.

Find Brain Injury Treatment Midland Park

If you or someone you love has sustained a brain injury, effective brain injury treatment Midland Park is available at The Hartman Center. Contact our team of specialists now to learn more about our holistic brain injury treatment programs or to find support at any stage of your healing.