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Tips for living with an acquired brain injury

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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Top tips for living with an acquired brain injury

Brain injuries can occur at any stage of life and can have a long-lasting and life altering effect on those who suffer from them and their families. Read our top ten tips for those who have or those who care for someone with an acquired brain injury. 

  1. Seek support from organisations which specialise in assisting people with acquired brain injuries. Organisations such as Headway, Brain Injury Trust and regional organisations affiliated to neuro-rehabilitation centres can provide invaluable support  and advice to you and your family. 
  2. Talk about it with friends and family members – people who have suffered an acquired brain injury often experience difficulties with communication. Perhaps you can’t find the right words or have difficulties expressing yourself and this will frequently lead to frustration. Ensure your family and friends understand that you have difficulties with communicating as a result of your brain injury and provide them with literature to help them to support you. Read Headway's booklet: coping with communication problems after brain injury for further guidance.
  3. Adopt strategies to cope with memory problems. Often simple adaptations can make the world of difference. Label kitchen cupboards and doors to remind you what is contained within. Follow a set routine and pattern each day and consider following an itinerary. Ask someone to assist you by setting reminders and notifications on your phone to remind you when it is lunchtime etc. Read Headway's booklet on how to cope with memory problems following a brain injury.
  4. Adopt strategies to cope with anger issues – remove yourself from the situation and go into another room to enable you to have the time and space to calm down and make decisions. Find a technique which helps you to calm down, perhaps it is a particular piece of music. Have this to hand on your smart phone and play it when you are feeling your anger levels rise. If it is not music, it could be a photograph which makes you happy so keep this in your possession and take time to look at it.
  5. Problems at work – if you have an acquired brain injury and are in the workplace then make sure your employer is aware as they have a duty to support you. If they don’t know then they could wrongly perceive you as being a trouble maker and this could lead to disciplinary action. Seek advice from an employment solicitor or other organisation such as ACAS or CAB to enquire what reasonable adjustments should be made by your employer and what adjustments you could have to your working practice or hours to assist you.
  6. Therapies – ask your GP or your neurological team to consider what therapies may be available to you. Talking therapies can be a very useful tool for people with acquired brain injuries, especially if they are being provided by professionals. Perhaps you will need access to these therapies on a frequent basis rather than just one course.
  7. Be active – physical wellbeing can improve your health generally and can ensure that you stay in touch with friends or colleagues. Find an activity that is suitable and enjoyable for you and invite friends along.
  8. Carry a brain injury survivor card with you – this will assist you should you find yourself in any difficult circumstances whilst out in public, especially if you are alone. By producing the card, it will often quickly diffuse any heated situation. The charity Headway have cards which you can access.
  9. Fatigue is common following a brain injury – be realistic in what you can achieve and do not set yourself unachievable targets for the day. In your daily itinerary, give yourself “down time” to relax and reflect and acknowledge that you may not be able to do as much as you did previously. Take a sleep if you need one and plan this into your daily routine to recharge your batteries.
  10. Seek professional help – there are loads of organisations who are dedicated to helping people with acquired brain injuries. These range from the services provided by the NHS, charitable organisations and trusts, government grants and financial benefits. Do not suffer alone or think that there is no prospect of improvement. Coping strategies and techniques can make a significant difference to day to day functioning and in turn improve mood and perception.