Corina Notyce, DCoE Public Affairs on March 7, 2013
Lance Cpl. William Taylor practices the speaker-listener technique during a relationship class where couples learn new communication techniques and ways to keep negativity out of their communication. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Raquel Barraza)
Family and friends play an important role in the care and rehabilitation of individuals with traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex injury with a broad range of symptoms including cognitive, emotional and physical disabilities. Further, the effects vary greatly from person to person. It’s natural for those who love and care for individuals with TBI to be confused and unsure at times of what to say to them or more importantly, what not to say. That’s what makes this article we found on brainline.org titled, “9 Things Not to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury,” so meaningful.
Here’s an abbreviated look at the author’s suggestions on what not to say:
1. You seem fine to me.
Your loved one may look “all better” because he or she has no visible injuries, but that doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing symptoms of TBI that aren’t so obvious, such as memory and concentration problems, fatigue, insomnia, chronic pain, depression or anxiety.
2. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough (you’re lazy).
Is your loved one really being lazy? There’s a chance they are suffering from apathy (lack of interest, motivation or emotion), which is a disorder common after a brain injury. If not recognized and treated, apathy can often get in the way of a person’s rehabilitation and recovery.
3. You’re such a grump!
Irritability is one of the most common symptoms of a brain injury.
4. How many times do I have to tell you?
Having to repeat yourself multiple times is frustrating. But, not remembering doesn’t mean they don’t care about what you said or asked them to do. It’s common for individuals to experience some memory problems, even memory loss, after a brain injury.
5. Do you have any idea how much I do for you?
Yes, your loved one is probably aware of how much you do and feels incredibly guilty about it.
6. Your problem is all the medications you take.
Prescription drugs can cause all kinds of side effects that your loved one may be sensitive to. But, if you blame everything on the effects of drugs, you might be encouraging your loved one to stop taking an important drug prematurely and be overlooking a genuine sign of brain injury.
7. Let me do that for you.
Encouraging your loved one to do things on their own will help promote self-esteem, confidence and quality of living.
8. Try to think positively.
Instead of telling your loved one to stop thinking about a certain negative thought, find a task that’s especially enjoyable for them. It will help redirect their negative thinking with more encouraging, positive thoughts.
9. You’re lucky to be alive.
Instead of calling it “luck” because someone with a brain injury may not feel very lucky to be alive, talk about how strong, persistent or heroic he or she is for getting through their ordeal.
Be sure to read the article for more information, and share it with others.
Visit brainline.org or brainlinemilitary.org (specifically for military members) to learn about brain injury symptoms and treatment, rehabilitation, and family issues associated with TBI care and recovery.