Tips to avoid more accidents as a consequence of brain injury

Living with a brain injury makes accidents more likely. Here's some tips to keep you safe.

As if facing a life time with a brain injury isn’t enough, you become more likely to have other accidents. Everyone will have accidents, that’s just being human. But brain injury survivors are at higher risk of injuring themselves. Yesterday I did another one, that was easily preventable.

The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the soup.

My partner James had popped out, and I decided to heat up some soup for my lunch.  What happened next was a series of poorly thought through decisions.

I went to pour it into a bowl, even though I saw it was bubbling and therefore boiling. My terrible coordination meant I made a bad job of it, and it splashed back up over my hand. I went to flick to off my hand with a sharp shake, which was only partially successful.  As I’d shouted when it happened, my cat Dexter woke up and decided it was time for his lunch too. I have basic first aid training, so I know speed at cooling a burn is important. However I chose to feed Dexter first. How ridiculous is that? And as some had spilt on the work top and floor, I cleaned that up too before running cold water on my burning hand.

Was my brain injury to blame for yet another of my voidable accidents?

Not necessarily, but in all likelihood it probably played a role in it. We can all be careless at times, but my response at every stage was inappropriate. So now I am paying the price with my hand crisping up nicely. The back of my hand is red and delicate, but the worst is my inner wrist. It now sports some go faster stripes, complete with blisters for 3D effect.

Just one of my accidents which I think my brain injury didn't help.

So here’s a few tips on avoiding the most common accidents at home. They might sound obvious, but train yourself into good habits. If you have good habits, your more likely to respond in a safe way to things. Rather than try to fall back on your problem solving and decision making skills like I did.

Tips to avoid accidents at home, with or without a brain injury:
  • Be mindful of hot liquids. Don’t place hot drinks for example on table runners which hang over the edge. They can easily be pulled accidentally, causing spillage.
  • Turn in handles of pots and pans when cooking. A handle sticking out over the edge of the hob can easily be knocked and the hot contents to cause an injury.
  • Any spills should be cleaned up quickly. This is to prevent them causing anyone to slip and fall. However, make sure that if the spill happened due to you causing an injury to yourself, deal with your injury first and ask for help.
  • Install grab rails. Bathrooms are a must for grab rails as the slippery surfaces make falls all too likely. But make sure other areas of the house has been thought about too. Often I slip in the kitchen, but it’s tiny so I can grab the work surfaces. If yours is more generous, think of what would help you if you lost your balance.
  • Keep electronics and water at a safe distance. Things can be dropped or pushed accidentally into water. This can make them short out and as water is a good conductor it can result in electrocution.
  • Secure rugs. You might remember me talking about rug grippers before in 5 steps to end time consuming indecision of brain injury. These simple, inexpensive items could be the difference between a nasty fall or not.
  • Best practice for your stairs. Make sure carpets are properly installed making them secure. The hand rail should run the entire length of the stairs, and you should be in the habit of always using it. Avoid placing rugs at the top or bottom of the stairs, as they increase the risk of a fall. (Even with grippers.)
  • Don’t overload sockets. You must never be tempted to plug an extension cable into another extension cable. This could cause a fire.
  • Never leave a naked flame unattended. Candles must be kept away from flammable objects. Curtains are a common household item that can quickly catch fire.
  • Have a plan for if there’s a fire. Install a smoke detector and regularly check the batteries. Make sure you know how to exit the building, bearing in mind the obvious ones might be obstructed by the fire. Have keys for the doors where anyone staying in your home can access them so they can easily unlock the door to exit quickly.

Brain injury survivors are at higher risk of accidents.

The list could easily go on. If you want to look at a very comprehensive list Preventing Accidents in the Home by Rospa is pretty much on the money.

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Have you had avoidable accidents which you think your brain injury had a hand in? What tips do you want others to know?

Suffering a brain injury leads you to being in harms way more. Maybe you didn't notice the dangers, or your coordination can't prevent the accidents. Here's my tips to help you avoid accidents at home.


Clamming up about my brain injury stings relationships

How clamming up about my brain injury isn't helpful

At times I’m just too tired to explain how I’m feeling. (You might have noticed I write less often than I used to and that’s one of the reasons for it.) Sometimes there is a storm of emotions inside me which I realise are irrational but I can’t quell them. So to avoid saying anything that I would later regret, I find myself clamming up. But my face rarely gets the memo and goes into full on sulky mode. I’m so bored of this brain injury, I wish I could direct my anger at it and evict it from my head. Sadly it doesn’t work like that though.

At the time clamming up feels like the lesser of two evils. But maybe it isn’t.

My silence carries more weight than I intend it to. All I’m doing it trying to contain my poisonous tongue. Some people go quiet for dramatic effect, waiting for someone to ask “What’s wrong, you’ve hardly said a word today?” I guarantee you, that when you are struggling with a brain injury there is no such thing as dramatic effect.

Even when I’m trying to be mindful, holding my tongue is the best I can do. I might be sulking about my partner James having to work so much, and having less time with him. As he is the only one bringing in a income, I know I can’t begrudge him for being so conscientious. In fact, I know he would like nothing more than being able to work less, or even take early retirement. But currently neither are an option. So I try to remind myself of this and empathise with his position. And it works, but not for my brain injury. It just keeps complaining and dragging me down.

How clamming up about my brain injury is not a good idea


How silence leaves too many unanswered questions.

My grumpiness is too obvious, and I know it makes James feel guilty. But he has nothing to feel guilty about. He has been truly amazing the entire time. Superman hasn’t got a patch on this guy. If the world had more people like him in it, people wouldn’t need heaven.

But he still doubts himself as he can read my face. So eventually I manage to spill, but I start with a disclaimer: “I know I’m being stupid, and here’s the reason why it’s stupid …..blah,blah,blah…. but I can’t help it. I’m upset about ….x,y,z….. because…..”

This really does help the situation, it’s just a shame it takes me so long to be in a position where I can do it. James is getting used to my behaviour, but he is only human (although he’s as close to an angel as you can get.) When I am clamming up, his mind is running a million miles an hour, thinking of all the things I might be annoyed about. I do feel bad for torturing him like this as he doesn’t deserve it. So here’s a shout out for all the carers who some how put up with the nonsense some of us survivors put them through.

clamming up after my brain injury isn't helpful.

I’m tired and I’ve run out of words again so I’m going to leave it there. I think you get the point, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is going through this.

Other articles you may like:

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I don't always want to talk about what's going on in my head. But clamming up when you have a brain injury makes others worry more than you think.


10 foods for riding the obligatory brain injury roller-coaster

my post brain injury roller-coaster life.

When people politely ask me how I’m doing, I say “not bad”. I like to think of this as not lying as it’s just a snap shot of my life. Some days are tolerable, and even a special few are bloody brilliant. That’s probably true for the majority of people. But when I have a bad brain day, I feel like my world has collapsed all over again. It’s like I’m stuck on a roller-coaster that gives me relief when it’s on the climb. But I reach the top and it punishes me when I’m in free fall coming down.

I don’t even know how to explain it when I’m in the middle of a bad brain day.

As I do quiet well at expressing what life post brain injury is like, I still find it surprising that I can’t explain myself when I’m in a bad place. Just recently I haven’t been awful, but everyday I find I am spent very quickly. It’s not terrible, just leaves me grumpy, unmotivated, and unable to follow through with plans. This part of my roller-coaster isn’t the big dipper. It’s more like one of those super fast ones that throws you from side to side whilst nipping under a bridge that you think it’s going to smash into. There’s no dramatic highs and lows, but still even a scream can’t escape.

How diet can ease the roller-coaster ride of brain injury.

We all know you are what you eat. I’ll be the first to admit that whilst I would love to say I treat my body like a temple, I don’t. I comfort eat particularly when I’m feeling like a turd. But I’m going about this the wrong way. Any form of injury means your body needs extra nutrition to be able to heal. Brain injury often means you struggle to use nutrients as effectively as you did before, so you need even more of them. So I’m going to be putting extra effort into giving myself some TLC.

Riding the brain injury roller-coaster

10 foods which help power up your brain.
  1. Turmeric – It has been identified as having the ability to stimulate new brain cell generation in some cases. Also it may lessen the development of plaque in the brain, the common cause of Alzheimer’s.
  2. Cashews – Full of nutritional yeast, it helps top up your vitamin B6 and B12. Both of these are linked to memory and overall brain health. Vitamin B is also important for fighting depression so might ease my grumpiness.
  3. Eggs – A particular type of vitamin B called Choline can be found in eggs. It’s important for cell membranes, and especially brain cells.
  4. Dark chocolate – Those with high cocoa content are loaded with antioxidants. These can help boost your memory and overall cognitive skills.
  5. Celery – Anyone who struggles to park the car should be eating it as it contains antioxidants which aid spatial awareness. It also reduces inflammation and improves memory and the ability to learn.
  6. Rosemary – Another one for spacial awareness. (If parking the car is still stressing you out, it will helps lower stress too.)
  7. Spinach – It can protect against free radicals and inflammation. (I admit I don’t really understand what free radicals are, but I know they’re not good.) Often those who struggle cognitively are deficient in an antioxidant called Lutein. It helps with learning and memory. You guessed it, spinach is packed with it. Pop-eye might eat it for muscles, but it also helps him remember what he’s doing and learn from his adventures.
  8. Salmon – Packed with omega -3 which I think we all know is generally good for the brain.
  9. Avocado – Full of mono-saturated fats, it aids absorption of other nutrients.  But also it is a great source of vitamin E which is important for cognitive function.
  10. Yogurt – We are coming round to the idea that the gut and brain have more affect on each other than we previously recognised. So as yogurt has probiotics to support your gut,it can support your mental health. (Grumpy me needs to try to get some more of this in to my diet.)

The roller coaster ride of brain injury.

I’m not suggesting that by changing your diet everything will be fine. But even if it just helps a bit, it’s worth trying to have more of the good stuff. For more ideas on what nutrition will help your brain injury Brain Fog: Causes, Symptoms, Solutions is a pretty comprehensive article.

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What have you found makes the roller-coaster of life post brain injury easier to handle?

Life post brain injury feels like you're riding roller-coaster, with no chance to get off. Try these 10 foods to ease the ride of bad brain days.



Can a brain injury make you more creative?

I have a brain injury, but has it allowed me to become more creative?

Immediately following my brain injury I struggled with my coordination. As someone who was pretty good at painting and drawing, I found this distressing as I was robbed of my skills. Whilst I didn’t engage in artwork all the time, it was still good to know I could do it if I wanted to. Some people are good at singing, or sports, but I was always lacking at both. So it was comforting to know I had my creative streak as my “talent”. I believe everyone has a talent, whether they have discovered it yet or not.

I worried I had lost my “talent” forever.

The word talent is in quotation marks, as it’s the only word I could think of. But actually it’s for observers to judge if the level of ability can be classed as a talent. Forgive me, I’m not being arrogant, it’s just my lack of vocabulary.

Feeling I could no longer be artistic was like saying goodbye to just another part of me. Particularly since creative activities are recommended for many kinds of rehabilitation, I took it as a slap in the face. Any time it was suggested to me, it served as a reminder for what I couldn’t do anymore. My coordination coupled with my double vision, meant I struggled with accuracy.  Whilst I understood that as my brain relearned how to work better I would improve, frustration and impatience would take over me.

Have I become more creative as a result of my brain injury?

But when I took the pressure off myself, things started to happen….

Life moved on, and I stopped focusing on what I found more difficult due to my brain injury. (I know it feels like I’m always talking about what is tough. Just trust that I only do that for this blog. I promise I don’t bang on about it all the time really.) Since I don’t go to work anymore, and my friends do, I have had to find ways to spend my time (when I’m not napping.)

I didn’t really recognise how I was becoming more creative, until recently. Even when I first started writing this blog, and people asked if I wrote before, I didn’t really think about it. Really it wasn’t until my neighbour told me she thought I should be a creative designer that I started to see it. She had watched as I redesigned our back garden, and completely changed it. And recently had been impressed with what I have been doing to the front of the house recently.

Why have I got the creative bug?

I’m not going to bore you with all the little projects I have been embarking on. I just want to say this – I feel less inhibited with self doubt, and just have a go. It’s not that I necessarily believe in my skills, but I believe in the ideas. That’s what has changed. I have more ideas now. Previously I needed something to copy, but now I can rely on my own inspiration.

Has my brain injury made me more creative?

An article in Psychology today called Creativity and the Healing Brain, attempts to give a reason why this happens for some people.  It could be to do which the change in the brain structure, or a change in confidence. Maybe we become more creative because it’s part of learning to adapt after a brain injury.  But either way, I am enjoying the feeling (where it’s real or not.)

By the way if you haven’t already seen some of the Pinterest pins I hide in these pages, have a look. They are just another example of may creativity. You can see them by going to pin the article and it will show it will the other images, or go to the Pinterest Brain Injury Group Board I set up.

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I always had some artistic ability, but has it got grown since my brain injury? I'm more adventurous when I'm having a creative spell. Or am I imagining it?


Am I turning into a control freak with a brain injury?

Is my brain injury making me into a control freak?

I was brought up to be polite and considerate of others. So there wasn’t many times I ever made demands of any body. In fact, I was the person who was likely to be walked all over because I couldn’t say “no”. But now I have to consider how events and activities will affect my brain injury. So I can’t bear not having things my way. I’m worried I’m turning into a control freak.

Dealing with tight spaces

I have a lovely little home, which is fine for James and I. The down stairs is open plan, so even with visitors, there is space for everyone to spread out. With one exception, the galley kitchen. It’s very small, and two people can only just pass one another. (But you have to be good friends as not even a shard of light can sneak between you.) Therefore I don’t particularly like any one in the kitchen with me, apart from James.

At the weekend we had guests over, who I won’t name as I don’t want to embarrass them. Let’s call them Fay and Thomas. Very nice people who have very good manners, thus I don’t want to upset them. Thomas I suspect has lost a little of his hearing. He is by no means deaf, but I think he finds it easier to stand closer to people to make sure he catches what they are saying.  This is perfectly understandable. However, in my kitchen it makes this control freak start to get very angry.

The dishwasher is at the end of the kitchen, and as I unloaded it Thomas came to talk to me. The kitchen isn’t even very long, so I could feel his presence and was sure that if I took one step backwards I would bump into him. As I turned round holding some dishes to be put away, I had to ask him to step back so I could put them in the cupboard. I realise he didn’t do anything wrong, but I was feeling like a trapped animal. When an animal feels under threat, they can attack. I was not in danger of any description, but my brain injury can jump off the deep end at times. Even though I was by the back door, so I could escape outside if I needed to, I still felt cornered.

Is my brain injury turning me into a control freak?

A when the control freak doesn’t get their way, the grump ensues…

As I realised that I was being a bit irrational, I was doing my best to not say something I would later regret. But my face looked like I was chewing wasps. I tried to force smiles, but I’m sure the daggers I had for eyes were a bit of a give away.

Even when we all went and sat in the comfy living room, my mood was ugly. I think I wasn’t even that bad as a hormonal teenager. The stupid thing is, I struggle to tell people what I need to make me comfortable. I just somehow expect them to guess. Just because I wouldn’t ever want to be in someones way, so would automatically leave them lots of space, I can’t expect the same of others. Particularly when I know there was a reason for Thomas’ behaviour.

Is my brain injury making me a control freak?

I don’t want to become a complete control freak, so I’m going to try to nip this in the bud. Luckily I found 10 Ways To Stop Feeling Like You Need To Be In Control All The Time by Lauren Stahl, which I’m going to put into practice. I  know it’s common that a brain injury can change your personality, but I’m not proud of this part of me. So I’m sending her the eviction notice now!

Other articles you may like:

Do you find you need to be in control more after your brain injury, or do you prefer to leave it to others? Are you comfortable with this change?

I was pretty easy going before. But trying to avoid some of the triggers for my brain injury symptoms, is making me a control freak. Otherwise I feel trapped.....


Lack of insight when brain injury strikes

I have been on this brain injury roller-coaster for over 2 and a half years, and there are times I think I’m surfing it pretty well. But just when I might be getting a little too cocky, I have a lack of insight. I fail to recognise I’m pushing too hard. My behaviour changes, but I think I’m just having an understandable and reasonable reaction to a difficult situation. The rest of the world has a different opinion…

My most recent example:

My partner James and I have decided we need to invest in a new front door. Currently it’s white, but if you have read 5 signs that you need to pace yourself better for brain injury recovery, you will know I recently painted the garage door. It is now a smart and up to the minute shade of charcoal grey. (I’m actually very proud of it, as you might be able to tell.)

As well as wanting to update the colour of the door, it’s locking system sometimes can be a bit hit and miss. It’s never unlocked, but sometimes it won’t let you back in! So I’m fed up with its attitude, and it’s had its last chance!  So James and I went to a showroom to check out some replacement doors. I was pleased with this as I was excited by the idea of being able to complete the makeover I had started. You would think then I would be happy and enthusiastic. Wrong……

Quickly I descend into a petulant child, but  I don’t recognise it.

Tired of our current overly complicated, and unreliable locking system, we needed to test drive the alternatives. James really wanted one where you did not need the handle so you could open the door one handed. This would make it easier went carrying shopping in from the car.

James was testing a sample door and lock, but it was close to a wall. So when you were trying to experience how it worked when you were inside the house, you were trapped in a tiny space. With both of us in there I felt very claustrophobic and anxious. But I still think anyone would.  Perhaps I should have given myself more time to recover and calm down, but being me, I didn’t. That was the first sign of my lack of insight.

How a lack of insight after a brain injury can cause problems.

Then James said I should have a go at unlocking the door from the outside. (This is when my inner diva started to throw TV’s out of her hotel room window.) I tried a few times, and for some reason I couldn’t do it. It’s no better than our current haphazard system. James calmly made me try again, and yes I could in fact operate it just fine. It didn’t occur to me that my bad mood was affecting my ability to do anything. And the mood continued for hours, until I had a long nap.

A lack of insight  can leave me with such a hang over.

The following day I was shattered. I kept falling asleep and any plans I might have had for the day were off.  But I still didn’t understand why. The penny didn’t drop until James told me he noticed I slipped into a state when testing the door lock. I’d almost forgotten all about it. And then I remembered how annoyed I had suddenly become, and how I couldn’t contain my contempt. I was surprised because I thought I could spot my moments now.

Problems that a lack of insight after a brain injury can cause.


Luckily James is good at staying calm and not taking offence when I get like this. But I realise the majority of people would find me very frustrating. So if family and friends are not sure how to deal with these situations, I suggest reading 8 ways to manage a lack of insight after brain injury by Headway. Also on that page they have a link to their fact-sheet which is really helpful. We all have an inner diva, just don’t let her think she’s boss.

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Do you find yourself in trouble from a lack of insight of your behaviour? What would you like others to understand when you are having a moment?

It might be obvious to others that your brain has started to struggle. But a brain injury survivor, can have a lack of insight. Until it's too late....


Medias responsibility on expectations of brain injury survivors.

How the media is making expectations of brain injury recovery too high.

It is truly amazing what the human body can do. We all see how incredible computers are and how they have changed the world we live in, and yet they are still not a patch on what we carry inside our own skulls. It is estimated that the human brain is still 30 times faster than the most advanced computers. I’m sure the gap is closing, but scientists have a long way to go. It’s a tall order when we still don’t understand much about the brain at all really. So why does the media rate some brain injury survivors recovery as “miraculous” when they don’t understand what is happening?

How media is raising expectations and putting pressure on brain injury survivors.

Every strong brain injury recovery should be celebrated. But it’s not just luck that got the individual to that point. It’s hard work from the individual, their family and a team of skilled medics behind them. So I think the media need to be more careful with their language, as not all of us are given access to the same tools.

One example is a story the Daily Mail called a miracle recovery. Sam Schmid had an awful accident, spent 2 months in a coma and was close to having his life support turned off. But he held up two fingers, showing he was still there and his medical team commenced the next stage of his recovery. 2 years on, he left rehab, went back to playing basketball, and started college.

I’m delighted for Sam, and it does give hope to others. But I worry that those who have no prior experience of brain injury would hold this as a bench mark. As every injury is different, putting these expectations on survivors can be unhelpful.

How media influences expectations of brain injury survivors.

Diagnosis and rehab facilities aren’t the same across the board.

Sam was in rehab for 2 whole years, and he deserved the support he received. But many of us don’t even have our brain injury diagnosed properly as the MRI scans don’t always offer enough detail. But even when they do recognise the injury, there isn’t always rehab facilities available, or even discussed.

After I left hospital, just 10 days after my accident, I was offered nothing. My partner James had to fight for me to be offered some support from an OT, to make me more able to cope at home. And I had to ask my GP to keep referring me to specialists to deal with individual symptoms. But there was no overall package in place for me, no cohesive approach. If I was held to the expectations the wording in this article creates, I probably wouldn’t be considered remarkable. I am not employed, study nor am able to participate it contact sports.

High expectations are not fair on survivors or their families.

Whilst I had to give up my job, I do not consider myself a failure….. anymore. To begin with I thought that was the benchmark by which to measure my success. And so for a long time that dragged me down, a lot. But now, I see my life wasn’t ruined just headed in a different direction.

I think it’s important that the public understand that if someone’s recovery isn’t a “miracle”, it’s not due to the survivors lack of effort. Believe me, survivors want to get things back to how they were more than anyone. But without the right guidance that is very difficult, maybe even impossible even with it. And in reality not everything can be the same again. We might get close, but some things will be altered. Maybe better, maybe worse.

How the media are giving the public expectations of brain injury survivors.

I wish everyone the best in their recovery, and I love to hear good news stories. Just lets remember that medics aren’t mechanics, and our brains are not machines. Therefore the restoration process has many more variables.

Other articles you may like:

Do you think peoples expectations of brain injury recovery has been tainted by the media? What would you like others to know about your day-to-day life post brain injury?

If brain injury survivor has a recovery which beat the odds it's fantastic. But are other families expectations too high after reading these stories?
If a brain injury survivor has a recovery which beat the odds it's fantastic. But are other families expectations too high after reading these stories?



5 steps to end time consuming indecision of brain injury

Tips to beat indecision

I should have time to get lots done in a day, but it rarely works out that way. If I have given myself a project to do it can take over the day, or even the week. And whilst I appear to have achieved very little, I can be exhausted.  Why? It’s all the thinking and analysis of indecision taking up my time.

I have never been someone who can be just black and white about something, and I don’t believe there is ever just one answer to something. But previously if there where a few options that all had equal merits, I would still be able to choose one. Not any more. Now I feel the need to keep revisiting it all again, maybe I have missed something? Perhaps I’m expecting there to be a glaringly obvious answer which I’m missed before. If this was a big life changing decision, like where should I move to, I wouldn’t be so hard on myself. But I caught myself doing it when thinking how I needed something to stop my new door mat sliding on the porch tiles. It’s hardly life or death! Or it might be if I never make a decision and someone slips and breaks their neck!

Trying to beat indecision after a brain injury

So this is silly, and I’m going to try to change. My brain injury might think this is the way to deal with things, but it’s not. I know to other people, dealing with someone who doesn’t make decisions lightly can be a chore. Lindsey Holmes puts in well in 10 things every indecisive person wants you to know.

Here’s my action plan to break this cycle of indecision:
  1. Accept that I’m making the decision not to make a decision – Everything we do is a choice. As is it a choice when we don’t do something. So my indecision comes from not wanting to finalise my choice. I’m choosing to leave the door open for me to change my mind.
  2. If all options are as strong as each other, the worst choice is to do nothing – Think of my door mat. If an option that turn’s out to be £2 more expensive than another, but I do nothing and break a bone, am I valuing my bone at less than £2?
  3. You can’t have a foot in both camps – We are brought up to compromise when facing conflict. But I don’t think the door mat is going to disown me if a choose something that wasn’t to his taste.   So I need to just choose one and get it done. There isn’t a halfway house with this, unless I buy a different sticky for each corner. (Don’t worry I’m not that ridiculous… yet.)
  4. If you’re trying to avoid regret, inaction is the worst choice – If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to have that point when you say “I should have got the other one.” And that’s a possibility, but it’s it worse went you missed the opportunity to do it at all.
  5. Once you have the options down to 2, flip a coin. This works, because either it will make the decision for you, or in that brief time it’s in the air, you will realise which side you are hoping it lands.

Tips on how to cope with indecision after a brain injury

If like me you find equally strong options difficult to choose between, remember this:

A horseman comes across a starving donkey, and takes the donkey back to his barn where he has two huge and delicious bails of hay.

The man says to the donkey “One of these bails will restore your energy, just choose which one you want and leave the other for my horse. My horse has work to do and will be hungry when we return this evening.”

When the horseman returns that evening, in the barn he finds two untouched bails of hay, and a dead donkey. The donkey couldn’t decide which to choose as they were as good as each other, and subsequently needless died of starvation.

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Trying to find solutions has become harder following my brain injury. Plagued with indecision, & revisiting the options. I need to trust my gut...
Trying to find a solution has become much harder following my brain injury. I'm plagued with indecision, revisiting the options. I need to trust my gut...



Coping with post traumatic amnesia from brain injury

Coping with post traumatic amnesia caused by brain injury

Most people have heard of amnesia, and know it’s when you can’t remember an event. However, after a person has suffered a head injury, they may behave strangely. This can mean they don’t remember events of that day, and may forget things in a short space of time. This is post traumatic amnesia or PTA. It can give an initial indication of the severity of the injury depending on how long this confused state continues for. If it’s less than an hour, it’s likely to be a mild brain injury. But if it continues for 24 hours or more, it is a sign it could be a severe injury.

Not much is know about post traumatic amnesia, there isn’t much medical staff can do to treat it.  (They’re not miracle workers, even though at times they do get pretty close.) It’s a process the brain has to go through to start the recovery process.  This is well documented, and fairly well accepted across the medical field.

Trying to cope with post traumatic amnesia after brain injury

So I’m still puzzled by how many survivors find some doctors are reluctant to confirm their patient has a brain injury. I accept that the treatment one can expect is, at best, limited. But surely it helps the patient and their loved ones, better understand and cope with the affects?

During my 10 days in hospital, everyday a lady would come to do some tests with me. And every time she gave me the same 4 words to remember, before changing the subject for a minute. Those words were church, red, horse, velvet. Not once in the entire time I was there did I correctly recall the given words. And I think only once did I remember being asked to complete the task before. That’s just a 10% hit rate at best! But despite this, I was sent home without anyone even trying to explain to me or my partner what my condition was.

I’m not sure how long the post traumatic amnesia continued for, but it felt like ages. It must have been several months. My partner James, would find he had to have the same conversations with me again and again, because I just wouldn’t remember.

But he managed, and so here are my tips on how to cope when someone has post traumatic amnesia:
  • Try to give the patient frequent breaks. This will lessen the chances of them becoming overwhelmed. You can easily say you are going to the toilet, or getting a drink so they don’t think you are just abandoning them.
  • Pictures or written information can help by giving them something visual to refer to.
  • It can be tiresome when you feel you are having to keep covering the same topics. So make sure you give yourself a break too. Otherwise you might let your frustration show, and accidentally hurt the patients feelings. They are trying.
  • Too much stimulation such as noise and light can quickly overwhelm someone with post traumatic amnesia. So consider the environment you are in, and switch off any unnecessary distractions.
  • They may become augmentative and not be able to see an alternative point of view. Try to remain calm ( I know this is easier said than done.) Changing the subject might be the only option. Rigid thinking can be common amongst brain injury survivors, so it’s probably better to accept you won’t win them over and avoid the stress.
  • Reduce pressure for them to remember things. Try not to ask them to recall things too much, as it will cause distress.
  • During this period they need supervision to keep them safe. They might forget to turn the oven or hob off if you let them cook alone for example. Instead, if they want to, do tasks together.
  • Even when PTA is over, the patient is likely to still experience memory problems. When they forget it’s your anniversary try to go easy on them.

Coping with post traumatic amnesia caused by brain injury

For more detailed information about post traumatic amnesia, this document by The Royal Melbourne Hospital is pretty good.

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How long did post traumatic amnesia following your brain injury last for you? Are there any suggestions you would like to add?

Post traumatic amnesia affects virtually all brain injury survivors. But it's also difficult for the patients loved ones. So here's my coping tips....



Life post brain injury: exclusive access to inside my head

If you asked the 5 year old me what I was going to be when I grew up, I definitely wouldn’t have described my current situation. Granted, blogging didn’t exist back then, but that’s not the only reason. I always saw myself working with people. The first career I named was an air hostess. (I know we say cabin crew these days, but we didn’t back then.) And my reason was really cute. It wasn’t because I wanted a glamorous lifestyle. I specifically said “I want to be an air hostess because they are always really nice to old people.” Isn’t that the cutest reason you have ever heard? And I wasn’t trying to score brownie points, that’s just what I thought was right. So fast forward nearly thirty years, and where am I now? Sat on my own in front of a computer at home, getting on with my life post brain injury.

But I’m not complaining, I just never thought it would happen.

My parents had their own business, so when I was growing up they were able to be at home more than others parents. I thought that was great, and liked the flexibility it allowed. But as I didn’t think I could ever be self employed, it was a lifestyle I couldn’t aim for.

So the positive in times post brain injury, is it’s opened up a door that I would have been too frightened to try before. And whilst I miss actually seeing people, I think my inner 5 year old would approve. Because I believe I’m being helpful and nice to lots of people, old and young.

I just wish society could accept that going out to work, isn’t the only way you can make a contribution. When I meet new people you always have to go through “what do you do?” The vacant and pitiful looks I get when I explain my current situation says it all. One guy asked “What, and people actually read your blog?” He was surprised that anyone would waste their precious time reading about what happens in a survivors life.

things to consider when talking to someone post brain injury

So here’s my tips to consider when you meet someone post brain injury:
  1. “Don’t you want to go back to what you were doing before?” – I hate this question so much, and yet everyone asks it. If the answer is “No I really hated it”, that is sad in itself. But the majority of the time most of us would go back, but we can’t. So all this question serves to do, is make the survivor feel like they have to justify themselves.
  2. “Isn’t there tablets you could take to help with that?” – Oh I never thought of that? Maybe I should ask the doctor. Give me a break! I didn’t study Neurology myself, so having to explain to an idiot that it doesn’t always work like that is such a chore.
  3. “But you’re alright now aren’t you.” – Yes I’m brilliant. Apart from the debilitating fatigue, and confusion caused by brain fog. Oh and then there’s the migraines where I want to rip my own head off, but otherwise I’m first class!
  4. “But you just have to keep pushing and you’ll get there.” – Oh is that right? Wait we need to see the head of Neurology and give them this break through. There’s hundreds of thousands of people post brain injury who need to know this! I know this is supposed to be supportive, but believe me, it’s not.
  5. When I say “I’m fine”, sometimes it means I don’t want to talk about it. I think we all know the description of “being fine” often means anything but. However, it gets tiring talking about it constantly, so it doesn’t automatically mean you should probe harder. Let me come to you, just make it clear you are there when I’m ready.

life post brain injury

The moral of this story:

Yes suffering a brain injury is terrible, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But don’t judge the effects or how the person chooses the deal with their life. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. As one door closes, another opens, but you don’t have to walk through it if you don’t want to. We all have the right to make decisions about how we live our lives. And whilst others might make other choices, there is no right or wrong as long as we aren’t hurting others.

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What positive examples from your life post brain injury could you give? How can we give hope to those who this has only recently happened too? – I’ve made it easier for you comment on my blog, just sign in with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

My life post brain injury is pretty good. But there are somethings that frustrate me about how people converse with survivors. Here's my do's and don'ts....