Role of the family
The families of those with concussions have very important roles in helping their loved ones secure success in rehabilitation and reintegration to their former life activities.
Things the family can do to help the patient include:
1. Reading this handout. While lengthy, it was compiled to address common questions patients have. By fostering education of their injury, patients will feel more empowered for the task that lies ahead.
2. To be understanding of the patient. Concussed patients will often not feel themselves. They may come off differently to others too. This may be due to the concussion in and of itself or due to stress that may result from not being able to fulfill the expectations they have of themselves – socially, physically, cognitively, and emotionally. An understanding and supportive family will not add to the patient’s burden; they will keep the patient’s limitations in mind and gracefully see the patient’s slips as part of the path to recovery. If patients see their families as supportive and understanding, they maybe more likely to reach out for help or share their thoughts.
3. To support the patient with their medical care:
a. Come early with the patient to appointments. The patient will often need assistance getting to and from the appointment. Furthermore, they may need some assistance in remembering instructions given by the healthcare team.
b. Help them fill out forms. There may be some forms to fill out on the computer prior to the patient’s appointment. For some patients, to complete them independently would worsen their symptoms. They will often need the assistance of a family member to transcribe their answers.
c. Help them fill out diaries. Some patients may forget to complete specific diaries we give them to track symptoms. They may get confused on how to do this or they may find it challenging to do (e.g., counting calories in the dietary journal). Showing them how to do it, step-by-step, will help the patient and will also help retrain their executive functioning skills. Furthermore, sometimes concussed patients are not very objective when assessing their symptoms; they may need your help in keeping track of the same in a gentle, uncritical, positive manner.
d. Help them carry out treatment advice. Concussed patients can often be forgetful or feel confused on how to implement treatment advice. Your assistance will help them with this. Some patients may need gentle reminders on implementing the strategies given in this handbook and by their healthcare team. Sometimes some activities may be hard for the patients to implement but may be in their best interests (e.g., avoiding naps when advised by the healthcare team) and will require support from the family
4. To be patient and keep up morale. Patients will benefit greatly from a positive, calm and joyful environment. Often there are little setbacks to one’s recovery (e.g., viral illness can often make many different concussion symptoms worse) and patients will need a shoulder to lean on.