How a Brain Injury Affects Relationships

Posted By: Tony Baratta | July 4th, 2020

I’m Tony Baratta. Today, I’d like to talk to you about how a brain injury affects relationships and what you can do to address that.

When someone suffers a brain injury, it affects the relationship, whether it’s the relationship between husband and wife, father and son, or daughter and mother.


The responsibilities may have to change

In each of these relationships, there were different responsibilities. In a husband and wife relationship, the brain injured person may have been responsible for paying the bills. Now, the non-injured person has to take over that responsibility.

Of course, there are other responsibilities that husbands and wives share that may have to be split up differently now. Maybe one party was the main breadwinner. Maybe one party was the main disciplinarian. Maybe one party arranged for the fun in the family and the family vacations. These things may have to change as a result of the brain injury.


Communication will change

And the way the brain injured person communicates is going to change, too. That person may talk less. They may be less patient. They may be angrier or more agitated. All of this affects the communication in a relationship. It also creates a lot of added stress.


Potential dangers

What’s more, people in a TBI situation begin to feel like strangers. They actually may start to talk to outside people about the things that they used to share in the relationship. And that’s when things get dangerous.

So what are some of the things that a brain injured person or the other person in the relationship can do to make sure that the relationship itself doesn’t get harmed?


Talk about responsibilities

With regard to responsibilities, identify the things that the brain injured person used to do and now needs help with. Have a discussion about that. The brain injured person may be reluctant to give up some of those responsibilities. So it’s important to have a discussion and be patient with the brain injured person to try to understand how that person feels.

Also discuss the need for those responsibilities and the relationship roles to change. Somebody may have been the person who did the homework with the children all the time. And maybe now you have to explain to the children, I know mommy used to do the homework all the time, but Daddy’s gonna do it for a little while now. It’s important to communicate the new changed relationship roles to everybody in the family so that there’s no confusion.


The most important thing

Lastly, and this is extremely important with regard to communication issues: You have to be patient. A brain injured person is not going to process information as quickly as they did before. They need more time to process.

They may need to resolve issues. They may not be able to do it in the discussion that you’re having at the moment, but will need an opportunity to think about it. Maybe they want to write down some notes and come back to you with their thoughts at a later time. This is of utmost importance.

Again, the most important things to the survival of a relationship between a brain injured person and their spouse or another person are communication and patience. I hope this has been helpful to you.


About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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