Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of those “hidden wounds” that goes unnoticed by many. It’s also one of the signature wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
And while many times the wound is not visible, a brain injury comes with real side-effects that make it difficult for the injured persons.
A recent article on brainline.org written by Marie Rowland, PhD, EmpowermentAlly, details 9 Things NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury.
Rowland focuses her advice for the caregiver who, out of frustration and exhaustion, may say something to the brain injured person without realizing its impact. Here are Rowland’s top 4 Things NOT to Say:
1. You seem fine to me.
What does not show is the fatigue, depression, anxiety and pain that may accompany a brain injury. Something like a memory problem can be far more disabling than a physical wound like a limp.
2. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough (You’re lazy).
Lazy is not the same as apathy (lack of interest, motivation, or emotion). Apathy is a disorder and common after a brain injury. Apathy can often get in the way of rehabilitation and recovery, so it’s important to recognize and treat it. Do beware of problems that mimic apathy. Depression, fatigue, and chronic pain are common after a brain injury, and can look like (or be combined with) apathy.
3. You’re such a grump!
Irritability is one of the most common signs of a brain injury. Irritability could be the direct result of the brain injury, or a side effect of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders, or fatigue. Think of it as a biological grumpiness — it’s not as if your loved one can get some air and come back in a better mood. It can come and go without reason.
4. How many times do I have to tell you?
It’s frustrating to repeat yourself over and over, but almost everyone who has a brain injury will experience some memory problems. Instead of pointing out a deficit, try finding a solution. Make the task easier. Create a routine. Install a memo board in the kitchen. Also, remember that language isn’t always verbal. “I’ve already told you this” comes through loud and clear just by facial expression.