Cognitive Difficulties with Brain Injury

Cognitive impairment is a condition when the person’s ability to acquire knowledge or to understand a message or idea is affected.

After surviving a brain injury, some changes are noticeable and one of them is the patient’s cognitive difficulties. Cognitive impairment is a condition when the person’s ability to acquire knowledge or to understand a message or idea is affected.

A reduction of overall intelligence can also be observed . Neurological deficits in executive function, working memory and attention may occur as well. Some specific cognitive problems can also occur such as difficulties in planning, organizing and assembling. Cognitive difficulties also affect decision making, judgement, reasoning and problem solving.

Persons with head injury also have a hard time in controlling impulses and desires. They are often impatient.

Inability to Concentrate

After a traumatic brain injury, the patient will have problems attending to more than one matter at a time.

For example. he may be unable to focus or pay attention on someone talking to him or her while eating. He can also be distracted by sudden noise or contact.

Restlessness is common. He  can easily get uneasy to cope with long conversations. Sitting down still for an extended period of time is a problem.

All of these are problems regarding attention. Attention skills are considered building blocks to develop higher thinking skills. If not corrected, the absence of attention skills hinders the person from learning or developing the brain.

How to Improve Concentration

The carers of a traumatic brain injury patient can help improve his concentration and attention. This can help him cope with cognitive difficulties.

One way to do so is to make sure distractions are minimized in nearby area where patient rests. A quiet room is an ideal place where a person with TBI can stay during the course of recovery. You can then transfer the patient in a room where there is more noise after a few weeks so that he can get used to little distractions.

See to it that the survivor performs just one task at a time. Practical activities such as simple addition and subtraction or reading a paragraph are activities which can help improve attention skills.

Harder tasks should be gradually introduced.. Examples of higher level tasks are reading a short story and balancing a bank book.

Inability to Process Information

A person with brain injury can have problems with the processing and understanding information. He usually has difficulty in understanding what the other person is saying. He may find it hard to follow instructions or directions. There may also be difficulty in reading and understanding information in books, magazines and newspaper.

The reaction of a person with TBI is slow. Driving will be unsafe because he will not easily recognize warning signs and shift in traffic lights. Routine activities like dressing up or cooking are also affected. It takes more time for him from performing these everyday activities.

Difficulty to Express Verbally

Language and communication is a problem for a person after a traumatic brain injury. This includes struggling to use the right word when writing or talking to someone. He also finds it hard to start a conversation and end up either being lost in a conversation or may get off topic.

Expressing thoughts in an organized manner is another cognitive problem. Facial expression usually do not match with what is being said. Tone of voice gets unexpectedly high or low sometimes. Body language is non-existent.

He will have a hard time reading other’s emotions and feelings. In the same way, he may not appropriately respond to another person’s feelings. Social life is indeed diminished significantly.

However, these problems can be corrected in due time. A brain injury survivor can start having a social life by just talking first to one person at a time. The listener must always respond with a gentle voice to encourage the patient to speak.

Asking the injured person if he understands what they are talking about once in a while is also important. The other person must also talk slowly and clearly. The patient must also be reminded gently when he gets off topic.

Caring for someone with brain injury is a challenge. Usually a counseling session with the immediate family or carers can help them cope when living with brain injury patient.

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