Brain Injury Recovery

Well, it was four weeks ago today that my mom fell and cracked her skull and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It’s been a long journey and it is far from over. Through all of this, I’ve come to learn how truly amazing our brains are and how much they control.

Brain injuries

Did you know 47% of brain injuries are caused by falls? That’s according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, all of you out there, please make wise choices when it comes to what you try to do. Know your limits. Recognize when certain activities have become more dangerous. Even something you’ve always done before with no trouble. All it takes is one bad decision to change your life.

Her injury was the result of bleeding in the frontal lobes of her brain, even though the impact was to the back of her head. The bleeding stopped on its own but left behind lots of bruising. All along, looking at her, you had no idea she had a head injury.

The functions of the frontal lobe include:

  • How we know what we’re doing in our environment
  • How we initiate activity in response to the environment
  • Judgments we make about what occurs in our daily activities
  • Controls our emotional response
  • Controls our expressive language
  • Assigns meaning to the words we choose
  • Involves word associations
  • Memory for habits and motor activities
  • Flexibility of thought, planning and organizing
  • Understanding abstract concepts
  • Reasoning and problem solving

Her recovery process so far

Initially, she slept a lot. She requires assistance for walking and other daily living activities. She was in the hospital for 4 days and then moved to the rehab part of the hospital. She was there for 13 days and has now been in a skilled therapy facility for 10 days.

She moved to the skilled therapy facility because the hospital rehab was too intense for her. It wore her out. We wondered if they’d moved her there too soon, but everyone assured us she was ready. By the end of the 13 days, we were seeing some progress but it wasn’t enough for her to stay there. We were excited when she could actually stay awake during her therapy sessions or walk around their little track a couple of times.

She also has two broken ribs and likely other aches and pains from the fall. In her current state, it’s not always easy to know if and where she has pain. But you can imagine how it must hurt when people help her stand up with a belt around her middle. Because her injuries are not readily apparent, it’s easy to forget they’re there.

She’s having physical therapy, occupational therapy (focused on the daily living activities), and speech therapy (focused on cognitive abilities). It appears her cognitive abilities will take the longest to come back.

She knows all of us and the visitors she has. There are times when you feel that you’re having a normal conversation with her, and then she veers off into topics that don’t make sense. She also gets very fixated on something and won’t let it go. One evening, she seemed paranoid to me, thinking we were all keeping secrets from her.

This is all part of the healing process, I know. And of course we’d like to see her making more and quicker progress. It’s definitely unsettling. But we have to be patient.

Everyone always asks how long her recovery will take. The answer – everyone is different. While we all want more concrete answers, we have to accept that the brain is an amazing thing and it will do what it can on its own schedule. I’ve read where it can take 6-12 months just for the physical difficulties to resolve.

It’s also normal to see inconsistent behavior and ups and downs are common in this stage of recovery. We get excited about anything positive and then a little discouraged when she appears to be regressing. Her age could also be a factor in how much she can recover her cognitive abilities.

Dealing with it

I won’t lie, it’s been a tough four weeks. February has become the lost month. We’ve spent a lot of time with her, especially as she’s made the different moves. Other aspects of our lives, however, need to be addressed, which means we can’t be there 16 hours a day. I’ve had days when I can’t take it anymore and must take a day off. And I’ve found that one day helps more than I could imagine.

We’ve taken responsibility for both of my parents now. My dad is staying with my sister. I am helping with their taxes and bills, as well as other financial aspects. We are signing all the papers for my mom’s care. We’re handing the insurance issues and making all arrangements. Adding all this is tough enough by itself, but then to have to try to fit in our own responsibilities can be overwhelming.

Not surprising, my dad now has bronchitis. It just proves we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves too. Now he can’t spend any time with her, which I know bothers him a lot.

When I’m with my mom, I feel guilty because I’m not taking care of things at home, including helping Tim recover from his bicep tendon surgery. He wasn’t allowed to drive for four weeks, most of which was during this month. It’s a relief that he was given the go-ahead this week to drive again. At least now I’m not stranding him at home.

When I’m home, I feel guilty that I’m not with her. But some days with her are exhausting, either because I’m sitting in an uncomfortable chair for hours at a time or because I’m trying to converse with someone who can’t hear very well and doesn’t think or respond normally. I even feel like I shouldn’t take the time to write this post but I know many of you are interested in her progress.

My 2020 goals are taking a hit, although I am getting a lot of reading done, either when my mom is sleeping or when I can’t sleep at night. And I have finished one knitting project. Those are great when you’re just sitting around, so I need to find another one that’s easy to carry around.

I’ve experienced all types of emotions – sad, angry, guilty, frustrated, worried. My anger comes into play when I think how easily this could have been avoided, only if my parents had realized their limitations and moved somewhere safer for them before this could happen. Or made better choices when doing something that tests their physical limitations.

Next steps

We took two days this past week and visited five assisted living facilities in town. We know my parents cannot return to their home, at least for the long term. My dad can do most things without assistance but his balance is not good and we feel he’d be safer in such a place. An assessment will determine if my mom is a candidate for assisted living or if she will need more care. We’re doing our best to keep them together.

Lots of decisions yet to come, none of which will be easy. I never realized how much my WOTY would come into play this year. I expected it to apply to Tim’s retirement in the fall and never dreamed it would be necessary for something like this. There has been and will be a lot of adapting. So, I think I chose the right word.

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers. We have a strong support system and will definitely get through this. I do know, however, our lives will never be the same again. Funny how your life can change in the blink of an eye.

20 thoughts on “Brain Injury Recovery”

  1. I am very late commenting….although you and your family have been in my thoughts so often since I read your post. How life changes in a second…you and your sister are caring so well for your parents. It is hard work mentally, physically and spiritually. Keep doing the work of your self care…I saw a stitching finish post! Is that a comforting for you? And I wonder how this virus situation will change your care for your parents. We looks like are heading back to our Iowa place to “hunker down” ….to be closer to family, which is one purpose of thinking of this move. Sending continued prayers to surround you and your family, tami

    1. Thanks Tami. Yes, stitching definitely provides me with a way to relax and escape for a while. Some evenings I’m too wiped out to even pick it up but most times, I look forward to it. The virus situation has resulted in a lockdown at her current care center so no visitors. But we’re looking at moving her next week to an assisted living facility so she can be with my dad. Thank you for thinking of and praying for us. ❤️

  2. So sorry to hear about your Mom (&Dad) such tough times, so many decisions! You’ve got it when you know how key it is to take care of YOU!!! Hang in there and know you will make the right choices for them, they are lucky to have you involved!!! ❤️Sherri

    1. Thanks Sherri. It’s tough to find time for yourself when it seems like everything must be focused on them. I’m hoping it will settle down a little since we’ve made some major decisions and I’m getting a few things in order. The biggest thing will be their house, which I’m not looking forward to dealing with. Thanks for your encouragement!! 💕

  3. I’m sorry your Mom had the fall and trauma to the brain. I’ll pray for her recovery and for you and Teri who are caregivers. You’ll never regret the experience. Take care of yourselves and I hope your Dad gets well and can visit your Mom regularly very soon. Thinking of you.

    1. Thanks Rachell. Still hoping she’ll regain what she’s lost but we know it could be a while. My only fear is she won’t like what we’ve done when she does recover!!

  4. You have so much on your plate it’s no wonder that your stressed out and feeling stretched thin. I hope your mother continues to improve at the skilled therapy facility and that she is able to either come home or move to an assisted living facility (which, hopefully, will “feel” more like home) soon. I learned with my dad that his surroundings really had an impact on his well-being. Deep breaths… and remember to take care of yourself too!

    1. Thanks Janis. Sometimes I feel I should be handling this easily. I feel selfish at times because I need time for myself. I guess I don’t handle too much of anything very well. We’re going to Florida for a week in six days and that will be good. As long as I don’t feel guilty about it. 😉

  5. I’m so sorry to read about all the changes in Barney and Jo’s lives. It is such a difficult time. I remember the struggles well. I’m thinking about all of you. You have my prayers, girlfriend!

    1. Thanks An’Nyce. You’ve all gone through this and now it’s my turn. I’m trying to breathe and relax when I feel overwhelmed. It does help, at least for a while. ❤️❤️

  6. I had a stroke long ago so I can imagine the cognitive problems your mother is having. Don’t be surprised if the doctor puts her on a medication for General Anxiety Disorder. Ask the therapist if setting up daily routines would help her. They sure do help me.

    What happened to me isn’t exactly like what happened to your mother but if you have questions once she is back home, I will try to answer. And if I don’t know, I’ll tell you that. I won’t lie to you.

    1. Thanks so much. She has daily routines now and I do think that helps. She has trouble retaining information, however, so at this stage it may not matter. But I know repetition is part of the therapy. It could take a while but we’re hoping for a full recovery. 🤞

  7. Please let me know if I can be if any help I am home now recovering from surgery but hope to be on the mend in a few more weeks tell your mom
    I love her cousin Donna

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thanks for posting the update!
      As one of your Mom’s old sales reps from her Drugtown days, please know that our prayers are with her, and all of you.
      I wrote out a card and will send it. Hoping you can read it to her and she remembers me, considering all of these cognitive challenges.
      All of us think so highly of her and Barney, and you of course are very special, as we can tell!
      We’re all thinking of you and praying for Jo every day.
      Thanks again for your post!
      Steve Johnson

      1. Thanks Steve. She’s always spoken highly of you too. I’m glad my blog posts are helping you and others understand what she’s going through. We’re still optimistic that she’ll be her old self someday.

  8. Thinking of you and the family. Take care of yourself. I’m fighting the walker but after reading your memo. I think I better take of myself. Sending love to you as always and family. ❤️

    1. Don’t fight the walker if it makes you feel more secure. It’s much better than taking a fall. It’s easy to think we can do what we’ve always done and even at my “young” age, I know that’s not true anymore. We all need to be smarter. ❤️❤️❤️

  9. I can relate to how what you are going through Linda our family too have a family member with a sever TBI who will never be the same he is physically fine but his speech cognitive he struggles with, it’s been a year and a half since his accident and we keep praying he will get better and each little step we celebrate big. I continue to pray for your mom and dad and would love to come visit her if you wouldn’t mind.
    Just let me know by email.
    God blessings to you and your family!

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