The Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury, Part 2: Cognitive Complications

CourthouseLast week, we went into detail on some of the physical complications of traumatic brain injury (TBI). This week, we’re continuing this series by discussing the cognitive effects of TBI, which can vary wildly.

Cognition is, simply put, to know or to think. Cognition encompasses a broad range of mental skills such as memory, communication, attention, understanding, problem-solving, and more. TBI can affect any or all of these skills.

  • Attention and concentration. A person who has suffered a TBI may become easily distracted, restless, have difficulty multitasking or completing projects and problems carrying on long conversations.
  • Problems processing and understanding information. A person with TBI may need extra time to understand what others are saying or to follow instructions. It can take that person longer to read and understand written information. It can also affect reaction time, which can turn previously simple tasks like driving into unsafe actions.
  • Language and communication. It is common for people with TBI to have trouble thinking of the right words to say, keeping their thoughts and words organized, or staying on topic in conversation.
  • Planning and organization. People with TBI often have trouble keeping their schedules organized. They may also suffer in situations where they must fulfill multiple steps in a certain order, such as cooking a meal.
  • Inappropriate or impulsive behavior. A person with TBI may have trouble with self-control and may act erratically or inappropriately. Things like failing to follow social cues or becoming emotionally irate are all potential complications from TBI.

These are not the only cognitive problems a person with TBI might deal with, but they are some of the most common.

How Can I Help a Family Member Deal with the Cognitive Effects of TBI?

Cognitive problems often become less pronounced over time, and they may eventually resolve completely. However, sometimes these issues become permanent. This best thing you can do for your family member with TBI is to discuss concerns with a qualified physician or neuro-psychologist. Consistent care alongside patience, love and understanding are not the cure for TBI’s myriad cognitive problems, but they are keys to aiding recovery. Being an active participant in your loved one’s medical appointments allows you and the doctor to come up with a unique plan tailored to your loved one’s specific impairments to minimize his or her stress during recovery.


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