The impact of brain injuries on families and relationships

Have you or someone you love suffered from a brain injury? Find out how it can impact relationships and how to get support.

The latest data shows that here in the UK there is one admission to hospital for brain injury every 90 seconds.

As a result, there are hundreds of thousands of people living with the effects of brain injuries. In this article, we’ll take a look at how brain injury can affect families and relationships.

Living with a brain injury

Depending on the severity of the brain injury, the initial effects can range from a minor concussion to a coma. Longer-term, a severe brain injury can result in changes to the person’s behaviour, mood and personality. It can also cause difficulties with memory and communication as well as physical issues and fatigue.

Learning to live with a brain injury isn’t just difficult for the person who has suffered the injury but it also has an impact on those closest to them too. The UK’s Brain Injury Association, Headway offers support to those living with brain injury and their loved ones.

The impact on relationships

Having a brain injury is likely to affect all of the person’s relationships in their life, from their romantic relationship to their relationship with their parents, children and other family members as well as friendships and working relationships.

In fact, loved ones may struggle even more than the person themselves, particularly in the early days and weeks following a brain injury. This is because the brain injury survivor may not have an accurate insight into their condition, unlike their partner, family or friends who will more clearly be able to see the true extent of the injury on the person they love.

Romantic relationships can change as a result of serious brain injury, with lines between partner and carer becoming blurred and partners feeling as though they are no longer in a relationship with the same person they initially chose to be with.

This can be true of other types of relationships too, such as children, friends or parents. Loved ones are likely to experience stress, anxiety and depression and feelings of grief, sadness, anger and confusion.

The importance of family and friends after a brain injury 

A supportive network of family and friends can play a key role in a person’s recovery, rehabilitation and readjustment following a brain injury. Friends and family can offer practical support in the early stages as well as ongoing emotional support.

Longer-term, some people may step in as carers for their loved one with a brain injury or support them in other ways, such as financially, for example.

If you find yourself caring for someone with a brain injury, don’t forget to take care of your own wellbeing. As a carer, you are entitled to support, which may include an allowance and other benefits. Additionally, the charity, Carers UK can offer help and advice. 

How to support a loved one with a brain injury

In the early days, the person themselves will be supported by medical professionals and their closest family members. At this stage, practical support will mean a lot. When close family are busy with hospital visits, offering to pick up shopping, tidy around the house or cook a meal will be a big help.

Every brain injury survivor is an individual and their needs will depend on the severity of the injury and how it affects them personally. In the long-term, it’s important just to let them know that you are there to support them any way you can, even if it’s just listening to how they feel without judgement.

If they want to seek legal advice following a brain injury, this is also something you can help with, by contacting specialist brain injury solicitors on their behalf.

Brain injuries can affect all areas of your life

Serious brain injuries can impact every aspect of a person’s life, including their relationships and their family will also be affected.

Having a robust support network can aid a person’s recovery from brain injuries but as a loved one of someone with a brain injury, it’s important to ensure that you’re adequately supported too.

Photo by Carolina Heza