As Thanksgiving approaches, it is important to be aware of the potential need for adjustments to be made to holiday celebrations in order to accommodate a brain injury survivor’s injury-related deficits. Having a brain injury does not stop a survivor from celebrating a holiday, but it may put a few wrinkles into holiday plans. Part 1 in this series on holiday adjustments will focus on some thoughts regarding the location of celebrations.
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed regarding the location of holiday celebrations in such a scenario. First, if the survivor is in a wheelchair or uses another assistive device to aid mobility and is going to someone else’s home, is that home accessible? Keep in mind that it is much easier to get a wheelchair across a hard floor than across carpeting and that for some survivors, a large pile (a term used to denote length of carpet fibers) carpet can provide quite the inconvenience. Also, is there enough room in the bathroom for a wheelchair? Should the survivor bring along a urinal if it is too hard to access the toilet? If the survivor has problems with incontinence, is there somewhere available that the survivor could be cleaned or change clothes if necessary? Some families of brain injury survivors find that it is easier to host holiday celebrations at their own homes rather than travel to the homes of others since their homes have already been adapted to the needs of the survivor.
Survivors and their families should also consider the physical layout of the rooms where a celebration will take place. For instance, it may help to move tables and chairs into a different configuration in order to make it easier for the survivor to move through. A big issue to look for in the consideration of a given room is trip hazards, particularly around Christmas. It is important that toys and gifts not be left around on the floor as these can easily become trip hazards and could cause the survivor to suffer a bad fall. Alternatively, most toys tend not to fair well when a wheelchair runs them over. Cords from Christmas trees or lights can also become trip hazards and should be placed in a manner that will not pose danger to a mobile survivor. There are many other practical issues to consider regarding the holiday meal. Can the survivor reach a given dish or will he or she need help? Has silverware been left on a counter that is too high for the survivor to reach? Can the front of the survivor’s wheelchair fit under the table? If the survivor uses an augmentative speech device like an Ipad, is there room at the table for it? Is a side table perhaps needed for the device to be placed upon? Small changes in room and furniture layouts can make a huge difference to both a survivor’s sense of inclusion and his or her overall enjoyment of a holiday celebration.
The weather can also play a notable role in adjustment to different locations. Walking up an icy pathway can be quite difficult and possibly dangerous. Some survivors who normally use a walker may be safer in a wheelchair over these icy surfaces. Moreover, some survivors in wheelchairs may need more help getting across an icy or snowy surface. In such a situation a loved one may need to aid in pushing more than would otherwise be required or just pay attention to helping keep the chair from sliding in the wrong direction.
Families of brain injury survivors may want to put some thought into how loud they allow holiday celebrations to be. Some survivors find that they are more sensitive to noise than previously and loud noises may provide a catalyst for unwanted agitation and/or anger. These survivors may benefit from attending smaller celebrations or spending their time in a quieter room away from the main celebrations. This can also be a relevant issue when considering attendance of holiday religious services. Some survivors may find busier houses of worship or busier times at those houses of worship to be problematic and may do better at less busy times or benefit from selecting a less busy house of worship.
One more such consideration associated with location relates to how many celebrations a survivor and his or her family may be planning to attend. Some families have the tradition of going from house to house to multiple holiday celebrations throughout the day. However, survivors often become fatigued quite easily and holiday celebrations tend to be long and active events. For many survivors, attending multiple celebrations in the same day may be very difficult. Some survivors may benefit from spending a shorter amount of time at each such celebration. Survivors and families must also consider the fatigue sure to accompany constant transferring to and from vehicles and the necessary related packing up and unpacking of equipment. For instance, getting a wheelchair in and out of a car repeatedly throughout a day can be very taxing on the backs of survivors’ families.
These are some of the considerations regarding the location of holiday celebrations that survivors and their families may wish to think about when identifying adjustments that may need be made to holiday celebrations. The next part of this series will focus more specifically on brain injury survivors’ participation in holiday celebrations.
Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org