The aftermath of an injury can be confusing, more so if you are dealing with an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence. Acting quickly and swiftly can make all the difference.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If there are other parties involved, and, should you need to take your case to court, the other person could claim that your worsened your injuries by failing to seek care promptly — and this could hurt your chances to receive compensation.
Following an accident, you must seek immediate medical attention. Even if you feel perfectly fine, a car accident or a fall could have still caused unseen damage. Getting to a doctor quickly, you will be able to get a professional opinion on any injuries you may have sustained.
Record Your Version Of The Story
Again, if your case ends up being taken to court, you will need a record of everything. Careful, accurate records are your first line of defense to ensuring you get fair compensation for your injuries.
- Get contact information for everyone involved. In the case of a car accident, you should also get information on the vehicles involved, as well as insurance information.
- Collect your memories. You should do this as quickly as possible, to ensure that you do not forget any details. Nowadays, smartphones are equipped with cameras and voice recorders, as well as many diary-style applications being available for them. Use these to your advantage, and take a detailed “snapshot” of your accident.
- Report the accident. In the case of a car accident, you should call the police. For slips and falls, have management file an accident report. Reporting your accident can help you make sure that every detail of the story is taken into account.
Keep Proof Of Everything
Hard evidence is difficult for courts to ignore. Make sure you keep copies of everything related to your injury — any medical bills, any x-rays of tests results, and anything that could help you explain the extent of your injuries.
Remain Calm — You Can Get Through This
Being injured is scary. But, if you remain calm, take careful notes, and contact help quickly, you can ensure that your life after injury is that much easier.
Caring for an injured person can put stress on their families, and disrupt relationships — research shows that divorce is more prevalent in couples where one partner suffered a brain injury. It is obvious, then, than one of the main goals of rehabilitation should be to reduce stress — not just for the injured, but for the family.
But how can you reduce stress in life after injury?
No guilty feelings
The first step to coping with the stress of your new “normal”, is to realize that you are not to “blame” for anything you might feel.
It can be easy to grow frustrated, even angry, with an injured person. Our drive to see them recover — to see things go “back to normal” — can set off emotions in everyone involved. This entirely, and completely, normal. You are not a bad spouse, parent, child, or friend, for feeling these emotions.
Communication is key
In dealing with life after injury, communication is key. Help the injured — and yourself — by keeping clear, simple instructions to tasks the injured needs help with.
This can greatly reduce frustrations, since everyone can quickly refer to the written instructions when in need — even the injured person. It can be a very small step that reduces a lot of the everyday stress those caring for the injured face.
With a little help from our friends
Pride can sometimes be exactly what is holding us back. When facing life after injury, you might feel like you need to “do it on your own”. That this is a test, and you have to prove how strong your family is, by overcoming this without anyone’s assistance.
Allow yourself to accept help. Network, make friends. Working together, so that no one person bears the entire burden of keeping things together, can reduce everyone’s stress.
It’s not always easy
Life after injury is not always easy — as many say, it is a journey in discovering a new definition of “normal”, with many ups and down. There are, however, things you can do to help you and your family cope.
If you have a loved one who suffered a brain injury, you might be asking yourself — What should the goal of rehabilitation be? What can I do to ensure that I am helping, not hindering, the process?
There is no “going back to normal”
The first thing to understand about brain injury is, full recovery — “going back to normal” — is highly unlikely. A brain injury is not a broken bone, and, thus, we should not expect it to just “heal up”. While we should not underestimate the extent to which the injured person can recover, we must remain realistic in our expectations.
The first step for setting rehabilitation goals is to redefine what “normal” will mean to you and your family. Communicate with the professionals — doctors, care staff — that are working with your loved one. Ask them questions.
- What can the injured be expected to do?
- What can they be expected to, eventually, be able to do?
- And, most importantly, what can they be expected to not ever be able to do?
The last one is, possibly, the most important question. If the injury has, for example, severely impaired the person’s motor skills, then it is unlikely that they would be able to go mountain climbing. Getting an honest view of what to expect can be crucial in avoiding future disappointment and frustration.
Each step is a step forward
Setting unrealistic goals can blind us to the small but meaningful improvements the injured makes. This is why our goals should be realistic, keeping in mind with the injured’s condition. Redefining “normal”, and striving for the most productive, independent quality of life possible is the best strategy — and the building blocks to life after injury.
“Where can I find the best rehabilitation program in the country?” is a very common question, one that families of those recovering from injury often ask — and it is easy to understand why. If there was a place, anywhere in the world, that would help our loved one get “back to normal”, who would not want to give it a try?
The problem with seeking the “best” facility or physician is, “best” has no real definition. What we must understand is that every injured person will have different needs, and our search should, instead, be focused on finding the right professionals for their needs. Every patient is different, and while someone might benefit from more physical rehabilitation, another patient might need more help relearning social cues and appropriate behaviors.
So, what can you do to help your loved one find the right team for their rehabilitation?
The Brain Injury Association Of America offers information for families and friends of brain injury victims. In their guide to selecting and evaluating rehabilitation services (.pdf), they include some helpful tips:
- The patient and their family know best. You know the needs of your loved one, and you can decide what aspects of their care are important.
- Be involved. Stay in constant communication with the staff at the facility, and be a part of the decision-making process.
- Make sure everything you agree upon with the staff is put in writing, and keep all records up to date.
- Shop around! The first — or even fanciest — facility that you find might not always be the right one. Listen to the patient’s opinion, too.
Deciding who to entrust with your loved one’s rehabilitation is a very important decision. With the right professionals, the injured person will feel at ease and taken care of — and, when their needs are met, the success of rehabilitation increases, improving the patient’s life after injury.
Much has changed in the way we view, treat, and help brain injury victims. Many misconceptions, such as the myth that injury victims recover in only one year, have been disproved; and, every day, new research gives us insight into how we can better help those with brain injury.
In her article, Recovering From Brain Injury, Judith Falconer, Ph.D., discusses some of the new (and old) ways in which medical professionals believe we can maximize an injured person’s chances to lead a fulfilling, successful life.
Head injuries make the injured individual different but not necessarily worse.
One of the first things families of the injured should realize is that brain injury will not necessarily make the victim a “worse” person — while it is true that brain injury victims might have trouble with impulse control and show impaired social skills — with patience, acceptable behaviors can be learned.
Professionals now agree that the first step to rehabilitation is to, first, help the injured regain control of their behavior and emotions. Learning how to cope with sadness, anger, and frustration should be one of the main goals — considering these are very valid, frequent emotions when dealing with injuries.
Consistent and frequent practice of new skills is also key. Brain injury victims often have trouble translating skills from one place to another — for example, skills learned in speech therapy might “disappear” outside the therapist’s office. It is important, then, that each new skills is practiced constantly and consistently, so that the patient can eventually generalize it and apply it to different settings.
When injured individuals are transported to another city or state, much of what they learn cannot be applied when they return home: the familiar cues which facilitated recall in the treatment setting disappear and the new behavior cannot be elicited. Therefore, whenever possible, rehabilitation should occur in the individual’s home and community.
It is also important, in helping brain injury victims rebuild their lives, that those around them do not unconditionally accept the inappropriate behaviors that might show up.
Head injured individuals have enough problems without increasing their burden by accepting any and all behavior. If family members tolerate behavior which drives others away, the injured individual becomes increasingly isolated from human contact and the burden on the caregiver becomes immense.
It is possible for a victim of brain injury to relearn old skills, and even acquire new ones, that will facilitate their daily lives. It is, however, an on-going process. Families and loved ones of the injured must, above all, never believe that the patient has hit a “plateau”, or that further recovery is not possible. Not losing hope, and remaining realistic in our expectations, is the first step to life after injury.