"His judgment is terrible now. Sometimes he says and does things in public that are really embarrassing."
"She used to be a 'go-getter,' but now she doesn't do anything unless I tell her to. Then she gets mad at me for telling her what to do."
"He was making so much progress for the first few months after his injury. Then he just stopped getting better. Did he stop trying?"
"I'm afraid she'll hurt herself or someone else."
"Friends tried to help at first, but they all kind of faded away."
"I feel like the person I love is gone, and a needy stranger has taken his place."
If you care about someone with a brain injury or a recent diagnosis of dementia or major mental illness, the statements above may feel familiar to you. Injuries and illnesses that affect how a person feels and behaves can be devastating to the survivor and to those who care about him/her.
Similarly, families who discover that a child has a developmental delay may feel overwhelmed, sad, angry, and guilty about having those feelings. Families and caregivers often feel isolated, and friends may be at a loss about how to help.
I offer individual and family counseling for people who are facing those issues. I also facilitate individually tailored "Circle of Friends" gatherings. This is an opportunity for friends, family, and caregivers to meet for several (usually two to six) 90-minute sessions. The sessions have three main goals:
1) To provide information about your loved one's diagnosis, common challenges that people with that diagnosis experience, and brainstorm ways to respond to those challenges
2) To create sustainable support systems. This can mean anything from identifying community agencies and resources to making plans to gather with support people once a month for pizza
3) To offer a safe space to grieve. Grieving the loss of the "person that was" (or the person you hoped he or she would be) creates more room to love the person who is
Nothing can "fix" what has been lost. However, you can add new coping skills and support systems to help you manage the road ahead, and reconnect with your loved one in a new way.