How to support someone with the emotional and psychological effects of a brain injury

18 August 2020

Picture of an older man using a wheelchair, talking to a female Support Worker


People who have had a brain injury can experience some changes in their emotional reactions, such as personality changes, mood swings, depression, anxiety, anger and post-traumatic stress disorder. At Exemplar Health Care, many of our homes specialise in supporting people who have had a brain injury, and emotional support is a vital part of the care we provide.

In this blog, Donna North, Head of Quality at Exemplar Health Care, talks about the emotional effects of a brain injury and how you can support people through the recovery process.

“When someone experiences a brain injury, it’s often completely life changing - a person’s role in their workplace, social group and family is affected, which can leave them feeling unsure of who they are and what their place in life is. It can also have extensive cognitive impacts, leaving an individual confused, frustrated and unable to comprehend what’s happening around them or why.

“This can result in changes to mood, behaviour and emotional responses - some people might become angry and aggressive, some people can become anxious and stressed, and others may become depressed and withdrawn. It’s important to remember that there’s no right way to feel or respond following a brain injury, and that all responses are valid.

“When you’re supporting someone who’s experienced a brain injury, you need to take a person-centred approach to their care, and recognise the emotional and psychological effects of their brain injury, to understand how you can best support them on their recovery journey.”

Supporting someone with the emotional and psychological effects of a brain injury

“When supporting someone with the emotional and psychological effects of a brain injury, you need to be understanding, patient, non-judgemental and caring.

“If you’re close with the individual, you can often be the target of a person’s reactions and responses, and you need to be aware that this isn’t personal, and not be offended or upset by any negative interactions.

“In the moment, you should remain calm and try to avoid reacting emotionally yourself. Don’t try to argue with the person – instead, encourage them to talk about their feelings in a private space, which can help them to regain control and reduce feelings of distress, anger or anxiety.

“After the reaction, it’s important to evaluate and reflect on situations and outcomes, observe for any patterns and triggers in their behaviour, and share this with the individual’s close circle so that you can put strategies in place to reduce the environmental demands and any unnecessary stresses that may be causing the behaviour, and then support them in a person-centred way. Talk to the individual about what might have led them to feel a certain way and encourage them to discuss it.

“If the individual is experiencing anxiety or temper outbursts, they can be helped to learn some basic skills and techniques, such as self-calming strategies, relaxation and effective communication methods. Exercise and structured activities can also sometimes help.”

Supporting family members and loved ones

“Changes to a person’s presentation and reactions can often also be difficult for family members and loved ones to understand, and often the person themselves cannot rationalise why they feel and act the way that they do. It’s important to remember that this presentation is not voluntary, people do not choose to be this way - it’s a response and reaction to their life changing events.

“Our Care Teams work closely with family members and loved ones, where the individual wishes, throughout their time living in one of our homes.

“It’s important to support and assist the person’s family to come to terms with the changes in their loved one’s persona, and help them both to understand and manage this effectively.

“To do this, you need clear and effective communication, open and transparent interactions and need to be willing and able to explain what their loved one’s goals are and what they want to achieve, why this is, and how you’re going to work together to do it.

“Where possible, Care Teams need to be led and guided by family members, and need to involve them and consult with them along the way, whilst always keeping the best interest and safety of the person at the forefront.”

Exemplar Health Care supporting people who have experienced a brain injury

“At Exemplar Health Care, our community-based homes and OneCare services provide person-centred care and rehabilitation that focuses on maximising independence, building everyday living skills and empowering people to live as fulfilled lives as possible.

“We support people on their journey from being in hospital following a brain injury, to community and independent living, as well as offering longer term support for people living with degenerative or life-limiting illnesses.

“Our approach is personalised to the individuals that we support – we work with them, their loved ones and professionals to design a care plan that’s tailored to their needs and goals. We encourage people to continue to do the things that they enjoy, as well as develop new hobbies and access education, employment and volunteering if they wish.”

Find an Exemplar Health Care home

Find your local care home here, or make a referral here.

Work with us

If you or someone you know is interested in working in adult social care, Exemplar Health Care offers a range of rewarding careers. Find out more about your career options and our vacancies here