The holiday season is in full swing. Family and friends are visiting. There are holiday parties to go to, presents to buy, and gifts to wrap. For TBI caregivers, all of that layers on top of doctors’ appointments, treatment and exercise routines, and the ordinary life stresses of caring for a person with traumatic brain injury. This season, make sure to take care of yourself too.
Caregivers have a difficult, often thankless, job: they care for loved ones who have suffered traumatic brain injury, making sure medications are taken, appointments are made and kept, and in-home exercises are performed. It can be exhausting. When you add in holiday stress, it can be a recipe for disaster.
According to the Rand Corporation, 17% of civilian caregivers report working more than full-time (40 hours per week) to care for their injured loved one. Of those, many dedicate over 80 hours every week to supporting TBI victims. Many of these caregivers do everything themselves, without support programs or respite services.
That doesn’t leave much time to care for themselves. Many TBI caregivers even report skipping their own medical appointments to make more time for their injured family member. But these decisions can often have serious consequences later on.
By postponing or canceling important self-care appointments, TBI caregivers are putting their own health at risk. Caregiving is stressful, and many full-time caregivers end up suffering stress-related health problems including inflammation and heart disease.
The holidays can add to this stress, with all the additional responsibilities and social engagements. But they can also be a great time for caregivers to take care of themselves. Visiting family members can give the gift of “respite services” – stepping in to give everyday caregivers a break. Caregivers can use this day off to see to their own medical needs, take personal time, or pamper themselves without feeling guilty.
Holiday visits are also an excellent time for extended family members to extend emotional support to caregivers. Even if a relative doesn’t have the skills to assist with rehabilitative treatments, she can still lend an ear to caregivers – giving them an opportunity to express their feelings in a safe and trusted environment.
Often, long-term caregivers will feel grief, anger, and frustration with the healing process that are best not shared with the brain injury patient. An empathetic friend or relative can provide a safe place to vent those feelings without interfering with treatment.
This holiday season, make sure the TBI caregivers in your life know you are there for them. Offer to provide respite care or even just take them out for coffee. Listen to their needs and their feelings. They will thank you for it.
David Christensen is a brain injury attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps families recover no-fault benefits after auto accidents to pay for traumatic brain injury treatment. If you are a caregiver looking for help, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.