Transitions are all about change. They are a normal part of the journey after brain injury and can be overwhelming.
You probably remember what it’s like to move to a new house after living in the family home for many years. You can’t find things, routines are different, and everything takes longer. You don’t know your new neighbours or neighbourhood. You begin to doubt if moving was such a good idea. Moving to a different facility is exactly the same.
Being in a familiar place is comforting. You can find your way around, you know the people and routines, and you have formed relationships and trust with doctors, therapists, other survivors and their families.
It’s a good idea to find out if there is a Brain Injury Support Groups in your area, as connecting with others with similar struggles could be helpful and provide you with coping strategies.
Transitions are especially hard when you are under a lot of emotional stress. Below are some suggestions that may make the move easier.
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- If possible, visit and have a tour of the new place. Find out as much as you can about the place before you move.
- Ask questions about the kind of care you will receive so you know what to expect.
- Be prepared to be available more often in the first week or so to help your loved one settle in.
- Anticipate a slight set back in abilities, this usually resolves after the first few weeks.
- Share strategies and techniques that worked well in the previous place.
- Bring in photographs with a description (i.e. who, what, where, when) so staff can talk about meaningful events with your loved one.
- Write down your loved ones likes and dislikes, brief history and any information that may help staff get to know him/her as a person.
- Bring in familiar items to help “feel at home” – comforter, magazine, pictures, clothing, CD’s. Check with someone on your team to make sure what you are bringing in is appropriate for the setting.
- Bring in a “communication” journal where questions and answers can be written down between you and the staff. Also keep a record of things such as tests, medication, staff names and contact numbers, therapy and progress.
- Use this table to record the names and contact numbers of your health care team.
- If you feel overwhelmed, share you concerns with one person on the team and ask that they pass your concerns on to the rest of the team. You can also ask for a meeting with all the members of the team.
- If you have a complaint, write down your concerns and pass them on to a manager.
- The stress of the transition won’t last for ever, so keep calm and allow yourself some time to adjust.
- Find ways to lower your stress and replenish your energy. The Family Caregivers Network Society has many practical tips, resources and support.
- Keep in mind that the staff are trying to do the very best for your loved one, and are sometimes limited by the resources available to them. For example, the number of staff working; access to therapists, volunteers and specialists; availability of equipment; shared bedrooms.
- Try to remain positive; offer suggestions and solutions to problems.
- Start a visitation journal so that people can write down who came to visit, when they came and what you did.
- Set up a visitation schedule – online or on a calendar at the hospital. This will make sure that your loved one doesn’t get overwhelmed with too many people visiting all at once.
- Set up a blog of your loved one’s progress so you don’t have to to repeat everything many times.
- Encourage friends to use the free “well wishes” email service that may be available at the hospital or rehab centre.
- When your family member goes home, organize a “telephone tree” so you only have to contact one person (and others will pass on the message). You can then get some rest instead of returning all those messages.