5 Tips for Communicating with Someone Who Has Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic brain injuries are just that: traumatic. These injuries can have a profound impact on not only the victim, but also the victim’s loved ones. Many of our clients’ lives have been affected by traumatic injuries to the brain. As a result, we understand, and are sensitive to, how these injuries can temporarily or permanently change an individual’s cognitive- communication and motor skills. In case you have a friend or loved one who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, we would like to offer these tips to make communicating more comfortable and effective for everyone. In addition to the tips below, remember to be patient, listen, and treat the person with dignity and respect.

1. Move to a quiet location. Traumatic brain injuries can cause people to have difficulty concentrating and organizing their thoughts, particularly if they are in crowded, noisy, or chaotic areas. If you’re at a party, a mall or another location whether there are many distractions, find a quieter, private location to have a conversation.

2. Don’t get frustrated. You may have to repeat yourself multiple times. You may have to communicate the same message both orally and in writing. Remember, it’s not that the person is not listening to you – a brain injury can cause deficits with short term memory. Be patient and be prepared to repeat yourself.

3. Listen. This may be obvious, but for many people it’s not a common practice. Don’t get caught up in “over-assisting” the individual. Listen to their needs and take the time to actually understand what they are communicating. Don’t try to guess at their needs – that includes not interrupting the person – let them tell you what they need or want.

4. Wait for help to be accepted. If you have offered to help someone, don’t assume the answer is yes. Wait until the person has accepted the offer for assistance. Failing to wait for acceptance can come across as patronizing and demeaning. Remember, the effects of brain injuries vary. Those with brain injuries will be able to do many things on their own – don’t make assumptions about their capabilities.

5. Relax. It’s natural to feel nervous about saying or doing the wrong thing. Simply remember to relax, listen, and treat the person with dignity and respect.

We know that it can be difficult to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Those who are recovering need the love and support of their family and friends. Be patient through the process and remember to show them that they are loved, respected and supported. Consider sharing these tips with other family members and friends who may be struggling to communicate with a loved one who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury.