Dealing with a sibling who suffers from a brain injury is a frightening and confusing time, no matter what age. Often siblings grow up sharing similar life experiences, playing together and often sharing social groups, which brings closeness as friends, not just family members. Even if siblings are not close, do not get on or see less of each other over time, a brain injury can have a devastating effect on the uninjured sibling.
The early days following a sibling’s brain injury can be very uncertain; it can be difficult to understand what is happening and hospital visits can be daunting. A sibling may have many questions that cannot be answered immediately by hospital staff or other family members and this can be a very worrying time, especially if your brother or sister is in a coma or not communicating. If they are conscious, they may have uncharacteristic behaviour you don’t understand, and communication and memory may be affected, all of which can be distressing to see. In the longer term, hospital staff should explain the recovery process that follows a brain injury and provide some reassurance.
After hospital discharge, the home dynamics are likely to change and the sibling who has a brain injury will receive a lot of attention. There may also be a change in the set up of the family home and this could cause confusion to younger brothers or sisters. There can be feelings of sadness and, while you are relieved that they have survived the accident or injury, there can also be a sense of grief as the sibling you knew and grew up with isn’t the same more.
The long-term impact of a brain injury can be wide ranging, including physical effects and cognitive difficulties, together with emotional and behavioural changes. Often, some symptoms can be difficult to understand, such as abusive behaviour and impulsiveness, and it can be hard to know how to deal with these situations, particularly when they occur for the first time or happen in public. The physical aspects of a brain injury are easy to see and explain but the cognitive and emotional side not so. It’s important, however, that you don’t take your sibling’s behaviour towards you personally; it will be part of the brain injury – and they too will be finding difficult to understand and come to terms with.
Your sibling will require care and support. In fact, as the relationship changes, you may become more of a carer for them. It’s important that you also have support as a brother or sister trying to cope and understand the changes, so you can continue to enjoy a good relationship with your brain-injured sibling. For help and support following brain injury, visit the Headway and Child Brain Injury Trust for guidance: Lyons Davidson are proud to be supporters of both these organisations.
Lyons Davidson’s specialist Brain Injury team is headed by Laura Merry. In the past 12 months in excess of £16 million pounds compensation has been achieved, which has gone some way to support the victims and their families following brain injury. If you have questions about any of the issues raised in this article or about a head or brain injury claim, contact Laura by emailing [email protected] or calling 0117 9045718.