Saturday, July 24, 2010

Living with a TBI soldier

If you were to meet my future hubs, you wouldn't realize that he had a traumatic brain injury aka TBI.  Everyone that finds out he's suffered one can't believe it because he's not what you would think of a severe brain injury.  Most people would think of ex-pro football stars or people who had terrible accidents... of someone with severe motor skill impairments such as not being able to move limbs properly, speech impairments and other such dexterity related problems.  Or on the other end of the spectrum, you may think of someone with comprehension issues where it may take them longer to understand you, longer to respond back or what they may respond with may be garbled.  Future hubs on the other hand comes off as smart, well spoken, personable with no visible impairments.  What little issues he has, including his daily headaches, he hides very well.  And many times I forget that he has had a TBI.  That is until there is something I've been pestering him to do or done by a certain time.  Each time I remind him he seems to remember and just hasn't gotten to it.  He doesn't let on that he's totally forgotten and so it seems more like he's just been lazy and putting it off.  In return, I get irritated that he hasn't done whatever it is yet but I bottle it up inside as I don't want to be mean.  Then after about the 3rd or 4th time, I snap.  And I let my irritation out demanding that he needs to get this stuff done like he's been saying he would do for weeks now.  He reminds me that it's all well and good to mention the To-Do in general conversation but that he needs it written down to remember as his short term memory is shot.  (Which is true...  he's had the darndest time with school this summer and trying to do the normal memorize and regurgitate facts.)  Him saying this brings to light that as he had been having some rather good months with less memory issues and the normal amount of headaches, we stopped doing the little things that help him remember.

So how do we deal with memory and pain perdicaments...  First we try to manage hubs stress level.  When he starts to show he's been having constant headaches (he's good at hiding them), I do my best to remove added stress.  This is as simple as doing the little daily things he doesn't have time to do or may have forgotten.  I also try to alleviate some of the anxiety that might be causing his stress by using my scientific rationality to point out why not to be anxious.  I bring up the idea of running to get a coffee as caffeine helps to rid him of his headaches, even if it keeps him up all night.  When more relaxation is needed a nice little back scratch can soothe him to sleep and help decrease the headache by calming him and reducing his blood pressure.  And when all else fails, he's looking down right awful and has maxed out his pain meds for the day, I suggest the option of going to the ER for IV pain meds.  Luckily we only had to do that once right after we moved and he ran out of his pain meds.

For the memory issues, it's a little more tricky.  This being that I never know when he's forgotten something or when he's remembered.  He keeps track of his appointments, important days and random To-Dos on his phone that doubles as a PDA.  When there is something I need him to do around the house, I ask him to do it then nag him a bit if it's been several days and he still hasn't done it.  If I remember, writing it on the To-Do white board for him usually does the trick.  But often times when he's having a good short term memory month, I tend to just tell him things with the hope that it will sink in.  Speaking of good short term memory months... there are some weeks and months where I tell him something and he remembers without problem.  There are others where I can tell him everyday and he forgets.  Those months where he remembers, I tend to feel bad for the nagging but those that he's extremely forgetful, it's the only way.  Another thing that has improved him memory a bit is having a good routene.  The more routine his life has, the more he can remember day to day happenings.  He will still mix up what day we did certain things on but everyone does that from time to time.

In addition to little lists... communication seems to be key.  Him trying to be the strong guy and not let in that he's forgetting or having headaches often makes him come off as not caring or even rude when he gets grumpy when I ask him to help me with something.  Trying to get him to let out his inner feelings is hard enough as he's a guy but add the tough guy army complex to that and it's even harder.  But if I manage to convince him to be more open when he's forgotten to do something for the 3rd or 4th time such as call his dad for invite addresses, then I won't get all irritated and pissed thinking he's being lazy...  I'll leave him a note on the white board instead.  Or if he tells me he has a headache and just needs to rest, then I won't ask him to do things like gluing envelope liners that night but rather ask him to do it the next day.  That's a much better alternative than having him grumble and make faces when I ask him... kind like a kid not wanting to do their chores.  This being said, so far his ability to be open to me varies.  Often times he won't tell me things because I'm generally stressed and he doesn't want to make it worse.  But stressed is just me and by not telling me, he makes it worse.  This being that a small insignificant issue can become a drama after the 5th time.  Or the fact that when he's all grumbly and mean while doing something it makes me feel like crap for asking him to do it.  Hopefully us getting better with communication and the pre-wedding counseling the rev is gonna have us do will help us iron out the lack of talking.

So those are just a few ways we attempt to deal with the complications of a TBI when they arise.  Hopefully we can get a better routine down so that we both tend to be a positive influence in each other's lives rather than a hinderance.  =)  Any other suggestions to help someone suffering from the effects of a TBI?  or rather maybe ways to help short term memory?

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