Understanding Challenging Behaviors in a Loved One With TBI

A woman comforts an elderly male relative as she navigates challenging behaviors in a loved one with TBI.
Understanding challenging behaviors in a loved one with TBI can help family members better manage them.

There are a number of different forms of brain injuries, but some behavioral challenges are typical regardless of the type of brain injury that happens. Different problematic behaviors might be more or less likely based on the location and extent of the trauma, but your loved one might demonstrate one or more of these behaviors during TBI recovery, regardless of the specifics of the injury.

The first step in handling challenging behaviors in a loved one with TBI is to know what those behaviors are so that you can identify them—not taking them personally, assisting when possible, and intervening when necessary. Recognizing the behavior as a symptom of the injury can help you determine the best course of action to keep yourself, your loved one, and the people in your life both physically and emotionally safe.

Inappropriate Emotional Response – Your loved one may not demonstrate emotional responses to stimuli that prompted those very responses prior to the brain injury. They may not laugh when something is amusing, smile when seeing something pleasant, or cry when something is sad. The response might also be contextually inappropriate, not matching the current state. For instance, they might laugh when sad or cry for no specific reason.

Personality Change – Everyone experiences personality changes as they progress through life, but people with a brain injury can experience extreme, sudden personality changes that can be disorienting to the people who know and love them.

Sexual Inappropriateness – A person with a traumatic brain injury may have an enhanced interest in sex, a diminished interest in sex, or a lack of understanding about the contextual appropriateness of a sexual expression or behavior.

Memory Problems – Memory difficulties are often the first thing the general public thinks of when a person experiences a brain injury. Short-term memory problems or amnesia can happen, but, surprisingly, the retention of new information is the most prevalent memory-related issue people will likely experience as a result of brain trauma.

Empathy Issues – After a TBI, your loved one may suddenly appear very self-centered. For example, they might demand rather than ask nicely, or say things that hurt your feelings or are unreasonable without seeming to care. The lack of empathy is not a lack of love. It is an injury-related effect caused by issues with abstract thinking skills.

AggressionAggressive behavior after a brain injury is quite common. Understanding what triggers an aggressive response for your loved one can help in avoiding the behavior.

Denial – It is not unusual for people with traumatic brain injuries to adamantly insist that they are not having any problems. At times this is due to the actual brain injury, but it also can be basic denial unconsciously executed as a coping mechanism to delay the confrontation of fear and/or uncertainty about how to handle the realities of life after trauma.

Emotional Volatility – Emotional volatility, also called emotional lability, is a sudden, frequently exaggerated mood swing that is often extreme and may come across as an overreaction.

Poor Concentration – After a traumatic brain injury, a person may become easily distracted, have difficulty with managing multiple tasks at one time, lose track in a discussion or experience information overload.

If you know what behaviors are common in traumatic brain injuries, you can be ready for them as they develop and see them for what they are—a symptom of the injury. They are not a representation of the person’s opinion or emotional investment in you.

If you are experiencing any challenging behaviors in a loved one with TBI and need help, either at home or in a care facility, Heaven at Home Senior Care can help. Contact us to schedule your free care consultation at 940-380-0500 in Denton or 972-245-1515 in Dallas. We are proud to provide home care services in Plano, University Park, Denton, and the nearby areas.