This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Relationships After TBI. Dr. Emilie E. Godwin discusses How Family Roles Change After TBI.

The roles change pretty substantially as well. So oftentimes in families or couples there’s someone who makes the majority of decisions in certain areas. And a survivor might not be capable or ready to make decisions in those areas any more. And so someone’s going to have to step in and make those decisions. So somebody who made all the financial decisions before might not be able to do that anymore. And so the role is going to shift so that someone else fills that void. And everyone in the family, children included are going to have to adjust to these changes in roles.

There’s a lot of ambiguity associated with those role changes, so people typically don’t sit down and have a conversation about how all these responsibilities and roles have changed. So it’s confusing for everybody to try to figure out who’s supposed to be doing what and who’s in charge of what and where they should go when they need things.

So I think people that handle the role and responsibility shifts that are going to inevitably occur after brain injury, the people that handle that well are people who are clear as much as possible about the changes that are happening. So if a mom was formerly the person who did homework with the children, rather than just having dad just step in and do it sometimes, because what might happen then is mom’s going to be confused about her responsibility. Sometimes she might try to step in, sometimes kids are going to look to dads, sometimes to mom. Everybody’s going to be uncertain that things won’t go very smoothly.

So the people who do it well are people who sit down and have a conversation and say you know mom used to be the person you went to for help with your homework, but right now she’s working on getting well and so for the time being dad’s going to be the person who’s going to help you with your homework. People who have those conversations, as I said it’s a very pervasive change, so it’s not really possible to talk about every role or responsibility change. But people who generally address those openly and communicate their feelings around those changes are going to be the ones do best.

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