If your loved one has suffered from an acquired brain injury (ABI), it can change their world – and yours – forever.
What is an Acquired Brain Injury?
An acquired brain injury (ABI) results from damage to the brain that occurs after birth.
The term “ABI” is better understood as an umbrella term, with many potential causes of injury to the brain. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) such as those from a car crash or a sporting accident are well known examples, but acquired brain injury may also result from other challenges such as strokes, drugs and diseases.
This means two people can have an acquired brain injury, but look very different. One individual has an ABI resulting from drug use and changes to brain chemistry, while another has a stroke in one section of the brain.
It is also possible for one to have multiple ABIs, such as a brain injury from a car crash and then later a neurological disease.
What is the Impact of an ABI?
Because ABIs can be so different, the same can be said for their effects.
Different areas of the brain are responsible for different tasks, meaning an ABI in one part of the brain impacts a different task compared to an ABI in a different part of the brain. There are some general categories though including:
- Medical difficulties such as seizures;
- Altered sensory abilities;
- Impaired cognitive abilities;
- Altered personalities;
- Physical difficulties such as reduced movement.
An individual with an acquired brain injury might experience several of these effects, as the brain is a complex and interconnected organ.
How can I help my loved one with an ABI?
Regardless of the circumstance, there are ways to help a loved one who has experienced an ABI.
- Gain Knowledge: The better your understanding of the individual’s ABI, the better your understanding of why they are the way they are. We have all had moments when we have been frustrated with someone because we could not ‘get’ why they were acting that way. It is only when someone tells us why that the frustration decreases. This knowledge will also help you know what changes you need to make regarding how you interact with the individual, so the relationship can be the best it can be.
- Think Differently: It can be easy to fall into a thinking pattern that if we do x, y, or z that the ABI will be solved or the person will be like they were before. Unfortunately, ABI’s rarely have a solution. It is better to think of a change in the journey with the individual, and enjoy being with them as they are, while moving forward.
- Know what your Boundaries are: When someone changes, we then often change in response. Perhaps you find yourself doing more of the chores or checking in with the loved one a lot more than you used to. Sometimes these boundaries can become hazy, and result in you doing a lot more than your capacity, or feeling frustrated with the loved one. Having a discussion regarding boundaries can result in clearer boundaries and a stronger, positive relationship.
- Find other support: Any acquired brain injury may cause increased stress financially, physically, emotionally, and socially. This stress can be a reminder that we are not meant to go though life challenges alone, and that there is nothing wrong with asking for further support, whether from friends, not-for-profit organisations, government sources, etc.
- Self-Care: Never forgot that you need to take care of yourself as well. It can be easy to focus on the loved one and what needs to be done, to the point it costs you more than it should. Try and do one self-care activity regularly, whether it is a daily walk, a weekly bath, coffee or beers with your friends or something completely different. This will help recharge you and give you the strength to continue.
Will it ever Get Better?
There is no easy answer to this question.
Some cases of acquired brain injury can be treated and symptoms reduced – but not all. Regardless, with the right support and care, a new way of living can be created which is as fulfilling as the one before the ABI occurred.
Author: Hannah Jensen-Fielding, BA (Psychology) Hons, M Couns., PhD Candidate.
Hannah Jensen-Fielding is a Brisbane therapist working from a strengths-based integrative approach, as she believes more momentum is gained by looking forward at the future and who we can become. She utilises mindfulness in therapy where appropriate, to help her clients reduce stress and achieve greater perspective.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
- Gold, M. S., Kobeissy, F. H., Wang, K. K. W., Merlo, L. J., Bruijnzeel, A. W., Krasnova, I. N., & Cadet, J. L. (2009). Methamphetamine- and trauma-induced brain injuries: Comparative cellular and molecular neurobiological substrates. Biological Psychiatry, 66(2), 118-127. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.02.021
- healthdirect. (2017). Acquired brain injury (ABI). Retrieved from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/acquired-brain-injury-abi