Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Tatiana Puckett
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email? (optional)
Palmdale, California, USA email@example.com
3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?
The traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor is my spouse (Joshua). He was 31. Josh was assaulted late at night outside our apartment building.
4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?
5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?
I was caring for my two sons, and I was pregnant with the third.
6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?
I was employed but gradually had to go from full-time to part-time, which got me laid off from that position. My mother-in-law moved in with us, which allowed me to continue working and accept a new job.
7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?
My mother-in-law takes care of the boys almost around the clock since the date of the injury to now.
8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?
I began care as soon as Josh got home from the hospital.
9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?
No. Josh wasn’t in a coma, but he was given a lot of sedatives. Josh is very rebellious and antsy. You can’t tell him to sit still because, even prior to his TBI, he wouldn’t. Josh constantly tried to flee the hospital and the rehab center. I even had to go to the hospital one night in the middle of the night to convince him to stay. I drove between home and the hospital a lot, especially since the hospital didn’t allow children under 12 to visit. My mother-in-law and I had to take turns.
10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?
Yes, Josh had inpatient rehab – occupational, speech, and physical therapies. It should have been a lot longer, but Josh managed to talk his way out of it in two days time. When Josh had rehab, I was right there with him.
11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?
I try to keep Josh calm, which can be difficult. It changes daily and can get really frustrating, but I do my best to keep aggression at bay.
It’s difficult. I feel guilty because I feel torn between work, the kids, and Josh. Josh requires a lot of my time. I feel like my kids are missing out on time with me because, when I’m not at work, I’m with Josh. And, sometimes when Josh needs me, I can’t help him because I need to spend time with my boys.
13. What do you miss the most from pre-brain-injury life?
I miss being able to depend on my husband for everyday things. I have to parent with my mother-in-law instead of with my husband, which isn’t bad, but it’s not ideal. Josh can’t be around the kids too long because they overwhelm him. It’s hard.
14. What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?
I like watching Josh discover new aspects of his creativity. He has a newfound excitement for writing and painting, both of which have bloomed since his TBI.
15. What do you like least about brain injury?
I find Josh’s new personality to be overwhelming at times. He wants to share every poem, every drawing, and every thought with me, even when I just want a quiet moment.
16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?
Time. As time goes on, it gets easier, but some days are still really hard.
17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Like I mentioned above for question 12, I feel stretched in every direction. I did before as a working mom, but even more so now. I feel like, in a day, I end up with maybe two minutes to myself, but, once I get those minutes of silence, Josh needs me to listen to a song, a poem, etc. I’m happy for him, but, between work, handling home finances, kids, and him, it’s so tiring.
18. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
A little. I mean, maybe Josh and I go out a bit more. With his mom home, we get to go to open mics, so Josh can play music and read his poetry.
19. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I’d like to say that we will own a home in ten years. We all need space, so this two-bedroom apartment isn’t cutting it.
Give yourself and your TBIer some space. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If you feel an argument starting, stay calm and, as calmly as possible, explain that you should both step away before emotions escalate out of control. Remember not to take things personally. It’s not you your survivor’s mad at. It’s a frustrating world, and it’s scary, and your survivor’s lashing out. Just keep calm and step away.
Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.
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