Five years ago I had no idea what a brain injury was, let alone how to help someone with a brain injury. I discovered that a lot of people don’t know what it means to live with a brain injury or how they can help.
Nowadays, people regularly tell me to let them know if they can help me with anything. I never know how to respond to this offer. Were they just being polite or did they mean it? What can or can’t I ask of someone? When does my request turns into a burden? What kind of help do I want?
However, the truth of the matter is that people definitely can help. Especially in social settings. By trial and error I’ve learned a couple of things that help me. Thus I thought it would be a good idea to put them into a list. A list of ten things with which my close friends and family members help me most often. Whenever someone offers to help me in the future, I’ll just point them to this list and let them pick and choose.
I hope this list can also help or inspire you in some way. A small disclaimer though, every brain injury is unique. I can only speak from my experience, but what works for me doesn’t have to work for others. If you have any additions to this list please let me know! I can always write a later update.
10 tips to help someone with a brain injury
- Get in touch
If I don’t do something straight away and or write it down, I’ll likely forget doing it at all. I’ll just get distracted by everyday things and forget to get in touch or to plan a get together. So get in touch with us* if you haven’t heard from us in a while.
* I kept struggling with I vs. we vs. you, so whenever I use ‘we’ or ‘us’ in this list, I mean we who have a brain injury.
- Bringing food
The act of cooking or doing groceries are both exhausting. It therefore can really help if you can pick up some groceries or maybe even bring over that’s already prepared.
- No background music
I used to love to have some music playing in the background. Not any more though, as I can’t tune it out. This means that it takes a lot of attention and energy if I also have to try and stay focused on the conversation. It helps a lot if you have no music (or clocks that tick loudly) playing.
- Providing a quiet place
After forty-five minutes of talking I need to take a small break. To be one my own for ten minutes to process all the information and give my brain a chance to catch up. If you can point us to a certain room or place where we can retreat to so we can give our brain a break.
- Choosing where to sit
If we’re going somewhere, I’m mainly paying attention to all the things I’d like to avoid. Things like speakers, harsh lighting, striped wallpaper, small children and large groups. Just about everything that provides a ton of auditory or visual stimuli. So if you can let us decide where we’d like to sit, we can stay out longer.
- Decide when to leave
I love meeting with people and like to do that as long as possible. I’d only notice afterwards how far I’ve exceeded my limits. Rather than waiting for us to tell you to go, it therefore helps if you leave the moment you notice that we’re getting tired.
- Ask how today is
People always ask how you are doing and I never know how to respond. It’s one of those open ended question where I never know what they want to know exactly and how I should respond. So ask how today is going. This is a much more defined questions, which is easier to answer.
- Don’t make it too complicated
Don’t use too much imagery or abstract thinking. Whenever this happens I will be so busy ‘translating’ whatever you’re trying to say, that I lose the tread of the conversation. So keep it simple.
- See the progress
It’s easier for me to compare my life ‘before brain injury’ with life ‘after brain injury’. Which isn’t helpful at all. If you see improvement compared to the last time you saw us, please let us know! It helps being made aware of the progress we have made.
- Be patient
Sometime we have trouble articulating. Either with putting our thoughts into words or finding a specific word. In that case, please be patient and wait for our brains to catch up. Eventually we will manage. If we suddenly start to cry or get angry, please don’t take it personally and try to stay patient. That’s a sure sign that we’ve reached our limits and need to sleep.
I hope this can help you as well. And to my dear friends and family, thank you for doing your best to accommodate the new me.
Do you use some of these or do you struggle with other things? If you have any additions to this list please let me know!