Perhaps the hardest part of the rehabilitation process for family members is watching their loved one struggle. It is often painful and heartbreaking. You see your son working so hard trying to operate his wheelchair and your first instinct is to run over and help him. You listen to your wife stumble over basic words and you want to speak for her. It is a natural reaction to these difficulties; you want to help. After all, you love that person who is struggling and who doesn’t want to help someone they love? However in rehabilitation, that loving help can hinder improvement.
In rehabilitation, therapists are rebuilding patient skills and teaching patients new ways to accomplish goals. By definition, this means that the patient is starting off with deficits in the domains being worked in. The only way to improve skills or learn a new method with which to accomplish a goal is through practice. Every time a family member pushes a wheelchair, a patient loses an opportunity to practice wheelchair mobility. Every time a family member speaks for a patient, a patient loses an opportunity to practice speech.
In summary, please talk to your rehabilitation professionals to learn when it is appropriate to help and what type of help is appropriate to give. Sometimes, helping too much can hurt the recovery process. It is important that everyone understands what the patient needs to succeed. After all, patients, families and rehabilitation professionals are all part of the same team – Team Recovery!
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org