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Tips to Care for a Brain Injury During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — March 31, 2020 — 4 min read
Especially with the current societal climate it is important to bring awareness to an important topic this month – Brain Injury Awareness. More than 5.3 million Americans are affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI). These injuries result from forces outside the body such as falls, contact sports, car accidents, violence or from injuries sustained in jobs such as military service. Other forms of brain injury called non-traumatic brain injury result from changes inside the body such as stroke, lack of oxygen, substance overdose or brain tumors.
Some people face severe brain injuries and have lasting effects. Most people recover from mild brain injuries or concussions, but a small percentage continue to experience ongoing effects. Regardless, most people with a brain injury need some level of rehabilitation. It can take a long time to find a “new normal.” And now, while we all deal with the life-changing impact of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), those who are living with a brain injury may need added support from their friends and loved ones.
People with brain injuries often have ongoing effects from their injury, such as confusion, loss of memory, physical challenges, vision changes, a hard time sleeping, or mood changes such as depression and anxiety. The impact of a brain injury is unique to each person, so the help they might need can vary, too.  
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What to do to help

One thing that many people with TBI share is a feeling of being alone. That feeling is something that can get worse because of “social distancing.” Staying home to try to stop the spread of the virus might add stress, especially if they live alone.
The biggest help you can offer right now is to make sure the person knows you’re there for them and find ways to keep your loved one in their normal routine as much as possible.
A routine can aid all of us in times of chaos, but it’s especially good for someone whose life has already been changed by a brain injury. Encourage good sleep hygiene by helping them get up and go to sleep at the same time each day. Encourage routine, structure and engaging in healthy habits such as bathing regularly, eating healthy foods, and refraining from smoking or using alcohol or other substances. If you can, keep their exercise routine going. Try to get some fresh air every day.
You can also curb social isolation by seeing if they’d like it if you set up online tools so they can stay in touch virtually with their friends, family members and other people on whom they rely. It is critical that the person with a brain injury maintains their social support system. This can be done using FaceTime, online video chats or other such tools. Seeing a person on the other side of the screen and being able to take a moment to check in and connect can be a great mood booster.
These are all things that help us stay in top mental health any time, but are especially important to maintain a sense of control while COVID-19 “social distancing” rules are in place.
Another thing you can do is to find out how your loved one’s doctors, therapists and other care team members are changing their appointments. Many are still able to offer telehealth services over the phone, computer or other devices. Even if support groups aren’t meeting in person, for example, explore whether they’re set up to meet online.
Check your loved one’s supply of medicines too. If possible, you may want to have three months’ worth of prescription refills on hand, so they don’t run out.
And finally, be upfront with your loved one about why their schedule may have changed. Some may find it hard to adjust to a new routine, so try to be patient. But if it all gets to be too much, reach out for help! You can call our Access and Crisis line 24/7 at 1-800-939-5911. We’ll pick up the phone within 30 seconds.
These are stressful times for everyone, especially those dealing with brain injuries and other mental health issues. But if you’re caring for a loved one, know that support is here for you.

About the Author
Dr. Patricia Babin, Clinical Director, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare

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