Can you handle the caregiving duties for a brain-injured spouse?

If you are the spouse of a patient with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you are a member of a club that no one ever wants to join. Your relationship with your husband or wife will often be irretrievably altered as a result of the traumatic injury that affected their cognitive and physical abilities.

At some point in your spouse’s recovery, you will likely face caregiver decisions. Depending upon the severity of your spouse’s brain injury, they may need to spend months or even a year or more recovering at in-patient rehabilitation centers. While progress may still be made on various fronts, at usually about the one-year anniversary of the injury, the doctors will assess your loved one’s progress and recommend a plan of care going forward.

Can you handle the caregiving duties?

As their spouse, you may be quick to offer to become their primary caregiver. This is a noble undertaking, but one that must be thoroughly considered from all angles before a decision is made. For one, you will likely now be the primary breadwinner of the family, whether or not you had that role prior to your spouse’s accident.

You may not have the time to handle daily caregiving duties as well as maintain your work schedule. Even if you do have the time and the inclination, you should be aware that assuming the caregiver role will probably change the terms of your relationship going forth. Being involved in the most intimate self-care activities for another person, even a much-loved spouse, changes the dynamics of the relationship in ways that neither party may anticipate.

TBI patients memories may be lost

Another problem caregiver spouses face is that their loved ones may not remember some or all of the events that preceded their injuries. These lost memories could include those from the courtship and marriage, which can erode the relationship between the patient and the caregiver. It can be heartbreaking to care for someone who no longer remembers that they once loved you dearly.

While some TBI patients can learn to fall in love all over again with their spouses, this is sadly not always the outcome. If the spouse is the caregiver for the patient, the disparity in feelings each has toward the other can prove to be an unsurmountable obstacle.

It’s OK not to be up for the job

Spouses may be reluctant to admit that they are not prepared to step into the role of primary caregiver for their brain-injured loved one. They may feel that they should be able to cope with the hand that life dealt them even when they are feeling woefully unprepared to assume such an awesome responsibility.

Know that it’s all right to decline and to provide your love and support in other tangible ways. You can only do what you can do. By defining your limitations, you can explore the caregiving options that are available.

Seeking compensation can cover expenses

Holding the at-fault party liable for your spouse’s TBI can pave a way toward a financial settlement that will allow you to afford to hire professional caregivers to meet your loved one’s needs. Filing a claim for damages is the first step in that process.