Being a family caregiver can be extremely stressful for lots of reasons. One thing we hear often from the loved ones of survivors is how difficult it is to know what to say and how to say it. Here are some things often said to survivors and how to reframe them:
What NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury*
You seem fine to me.
Sometimes it's very hard for individuals with brain injury when they feel misunderstood… they might even know they look fine… but they may not feel that way.
Say this instead: Sometimes it's hard for me to understand what you’re going through… help me understand.
Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough.
Effort can be very difficult to see, and sometimes it's impossible to see. The best thing to do is to try and figure out what is at the bottom of the problem.
Say this instead: Maybe if you explained what is hard about this, we can figure out a way to solve it.
How many times do I have to tell you?
It’s frustrating to repeat yourself over and over, but almost everyone who has a brain injury will experience some memory problems. Instead of pointing out a deficit, try finding a solution. Make the task easier.
Say this instead: If I can figure out a way to help you remember… Do you think that would help?
Let me do that for you.
Independence and control are two of the most important things lost after a brain injury. Yes, it may be easier to do things for your loved one. Yes, it may be less frustrating. But, encouraging your loved one to do things on their own will help promote self-esteem, confidence, and quality of living. It can also help the brain recover faster.
Say this instead: How can I help you with that?
Just think positive!
That’s easier said than done for many people, and even harder for someone with a brain injury. Repetitive negative thinking is called rumination, and it can be common after a brain injury. Rumination is usually related to depression or anxiety, and so treating those problems may help break the negative thinking cycle.
Say this instead: I know you love Wheel of Fortune; it comes on in 10 minutes… And can I make you a cup of coffee?
*Source - brainline.org: 9 Things NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury.