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Rebuilding A
Social Life

Getting back to normality and regaining some independence is part of your recovery. Here is some advice on different aspects of integrating back into social situations. 

"Being different isn't a bad thing.  It means you're brave enough to be yourself."

Luna Lovegood

Harry Potter

Going out will be overwhelming at first. It's hard to focus on a lot of things at once, so try having a pre-prepared "checklist" for different types of venues.

 

In a restaurant, look for things like ice bucket stands, folding tray tables and crowded parts of the building. If you make a booking, it's worth asking for an accessible table, though be careful when sitting down or getting up from a table; they aren't very stable. I've landed on the floor before.

 

Don't feel awkward eating; I lost the ability to swallow and learned to eat again. Having facial palsy meant my lips didn't close completely, and I would constantly dribble. I had to go back to complete basics when it came to eating; having started with what was essentially "baby food", I now have a completely normal diet and take my time with chewy foods such as sourdough bread. I taught myself ways to compensate for problems eating. I use this adaptive cutlery; it's much easier than holding regular cutlery, especially if your hands are weaker! I couldn't drink out a glass without dribbling, but with the help of time and facial massage, I can now use a glass 95% of the time without dribbling, and I can use a straw by clamping it between my upper teeth and lower teeth.

 

Don't be worried about going out in the community. Take it slowly; it will be overwhelming at first especially if you've been in hospital and rehab for a long time. I was nervous when my rehab therapist would take me to town. Coming home and going out was even scarier. It's why I developed my previously mentioned "checklist" approach. I try not to panic that my limited vision and mobility means I am more likely to get knocked off balance by people. My OT came up with the idea to put white tape on my nordic pole signifying visual problems; this helps a lot.

 

When it comes to being around friends and family, this can also be surprisingly daunting. They will inevitably say things that can be construed as patronising, but try to remember it comes from a good place, and they do care! You can change the topic and talk about a goal you've recently reached, even if it's a day out with friends that you planned to do. This is an excellent topic as it allows you to divert further to whatever the activity was. People may also feel awkward and want to help but do not know how to. It's not a bad thing to admit when you need help, but don't be afraid of offending people by setting boundaries. You can still be respectful and friendly, say, "I'm okay doing..... But if you could help me with....". Setting boundaries and having the ability to say no helps towards regaining independence. A prime example of me being unable to say no was being offered a haircut at home and receiving the worst hairstyle in the world!

Travel, Holidays
And Days Out

Travelling, going on holidays, and enjoying days out after a TBI may require some extra planning and consideration, but it's still possible to have enjoyable experiences.

 

Below is some research I've done to help you plan these activities, and further down, I've included some personal tips from my own experiences:

“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets”

Oscar Wilde

Consult with Your Healthcare Team: Before embarking on any travel or activities, consult with your healthcare team to ensure it's safe and appropriate for your particular circumstances. They can provide guidance tailored to your needs and help you plan accordingly.

 

Choose Suitable Destinations: Choose destinations and activities conducive to recovery and comfort. Consider accessibility, noise levels, crowds, and physical demands when selecting your travel destinations or holiday plans.

 

Plan Ahead: Planning is key to a successful trip or outing after a TBI. Research your destination or activity in advance, including transportation options, accommodations, and nearby medical facilities. Having a well-thought-out itinerary can help reduce stress and ensure a smoother experience.

 

Pack Essentials: Pack any necessary medications, medical supplies, and assistive devices you may need during your travels or outings. Bringing a medical information card or bracelet with details about your TBI and emergency contacts is also a good idea.

 

Take Regular Breaks: Pace yourself and schedule regular breaks to rest and recharge during your travels or activities. Overexertion can exacerbate symptoms of brain injuries, so listen to your body and take breaks as needed.

 

Avoid Overstimulation: Be mindful of sensory overload, which can be overwhelming for people with a TBI. Avoid overly crowded or noisy environments when possible, and take steps to minimize sensory triggers that may exacerbate symptoms.

 

Communicate Your Needs: Inform travel companions, tour guides, or accommodation staff about your TBI and any specific accommodations or assistance you may require. Clear communication can help ensure a smoother experience and access to necessary support.

 

Stay Hydrated and Well-Rested: Stay hydrated and get plenty of rest during your travels or outings. Dehydration and fatigue can worsen symptoms of TBI, so prioritize self-care and listen to your body's needs.

 

Have a Contingency Plan: Be prepared for unexpected situations by having a contingency plan in place. Know how to access medical care or assistance, and have a backup plan for changing or cancelling activities if necessary.

 

Enjoy the Experience: Despite the challenges, try to focus on the positives and enjoy the experience. Take time to appreciate the new sights, sounds, and experiences, and don't be too hard on yourself if things don't go exactly as planned.

airplane

Airports

Using the accessibility section on the website for your chosen airport, look at what they require to help you get through the airport. Concerning special travel equipment such as mobility aids, contact your airline.

Two personal tips for travel;

 

Allow plenty of time at the airport as they can be slow bringing any mobility aids, and inevitably, there will be long delays at security.

 

Ask the airline about using your personal mobility aid and possibly leaving it at the gate; it can be ready as soon as you disembark the plane (similar to pushchairs). There's also less chance of it getting lost; from personal experience, you're less likely to be stranded.

holiday sunset

Accommodation

Bear in mind when choosing a destination. There will be added challenges that may not have occurred to you previously. An example is that rural places tend to be harder to get around.

When looking at hotels, have a look at the accessibility page on their website. I recommend ringing them; it's best to confirm their facilities and the best room available for you.

Should you be looking at self-catered accommodation, most websites have filters allowing you to see purely accessible properties. There is usually a function that will enable you to contact whoever manages the property should you have any further questions, and as with hotels, it's a worthwhile thing to do.

monterey bay aquarium

Days Out

When going out for the day, consider the nature of the place you are going to. A historic venue can only make so many adaptations. Places like zoos and theme parks may not be able to make every single area accessible.

Do some research on the website first; it will generally show you things such as an accessibility map if they provide mobility equipment for hire or any discounted tickets for carers.

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