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Problems with Thinking Skills After Brain Injury

One of the brain’s main roles is to let a person think, remember, reason, and judge. After a brain injury, a patient may be less able to coordinate sequential activities (apraxia), process thought, or use language. Initially, therapy may be provided by medical professionals, but it often requires longer-term support by famiily and friends..

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Coordinating Function

Coordinating functions can be hard for a patient with a brain injury. Even a simple task, such as combing hair, may need to be broken into steps. The team can teach you how to help the patient link ideas.

You Can Help

  • Find out what your loved one is working on. Ask him or her to do the task. Allow plenty of time.

  • Break all tasks into simple steps.

  • Change topics or tasks if your loved one gets confused.

  • Use pill boxes to organize medications to improve compliance.

Improving Memory

One goal is to help patients know where they are. Signs may be posted labeling the bathroom, closet, and doorway. Maps of the patient’s room or the gym may also be posted. Names of family and therapists may be on a daily schedule or in a journal.

You Can Help

  • Keep visits short, but try to visit often.

  • Say who you are when you greet your loved one. Ask the same questions often.

  • Go through family photo albums with the person.

Woman using flash cards with older man wearing eye patch.

Relearning Language Skills

If patients have trouble understanding or using words, they may need to use gestures or eye blinks to communicate. To help a patient relearn words, a therapist may point to an object and ask its name. If a patient has physical trouble speaking, exercises may help. A speech therapist may show the patient how to form the lips and mouth to make certain sounds.

Altered speech functions can be extremely frustrating. It is important for family and friends to be understanding and supportive.

You Can Help

  • Use picture flash cards with the person.

  • Speak slowly. Use common words.

  • Speak in simple sentences. Stick to one idea or action.

  • Ask yes-or-no questions.

  • Give the person time to understand you and to respond.

  • Bring the person back to the main topic.

  • Don’t “talk down” to the person or ignore them.

Bring to rehab items that hold meaning for the person:

  • Photos of family or friends

  • Plants and knickknacks

  • Favorite clothes

  • Posters

  • Music

 

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