Problems with Thinking Skills After Brain Injury

Two women sitting outdoors talking.One of the brain’s main roles is to allow a person to think, remember, reason, and judge. After a brain injury, a person may be less able to coordinate sequential activities (apraxia), process thought (agnosia), or use language (aphasia). At first, therapy may be provided by medical professionals, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, but it often requires longer-term support by family and friends.

Coordinating function

Coordinating functions can be hard for a person with a brain injury. Even a simple task, such as combing hair, may need to be broken into steps. The team can teach you how to help the person link ideas.

You can help:

  • Find out what your loved one is working on. Ask him or her to do the task. Allow plenty of time.

  • Break all tasks into simple steps.

  • Change topics or tasks if your loved one gets confused.

  • Use pillboxes to help organize medicines.

Improving memory

One goal is to help people know where they are. Post signs identifying the bathroom, closet, and doorway. Also post maps of the person's room or the gym. Names of family and therapists may be on a daily schedule or in a journal.

You can help:

  • Keep visits short, but try to visit often.

  • Say who you are when you greet your loved one. Ask the same questions often.

  • Go through family photo albums with the person.

Relearning language skills

If a person has trouble understanding or using words, he or she may need to use gestures or eye blinks to communicate. To help a person relearn words, a therapist may point to an object and ask its name. If a person has physical trouble speaking, exercises may help. A speech therapist may show how to form the lips and mouth to make certain sounds.

Altered speech functions can be frustrating. It is important for family and friends to be understanding and supportive.

You can help:

  • Use picture flash cards with the person.

  • Speak slowly. Use common words.

  • Speak in simple sentences. Stick to one idea or action.

  • Ask yes-or-no questions.

  • Give the person time to understand you and to respond.

  • Bring the person back to the main topic.

  • Don’t “talk down” to the person or ignore them.

  • Keep calm and rational if your loved one gets upset or agitated.

Bring to rehab items that hold meaning for the person:

  • Photos of family or friends

  • Plants and knickknacks

  • Favorite clothes

  • Posters

  • Music