When it comes to an area of life and habits that need to be re-learned or adopted after a brain injury, this is where I’ve struggled a lot. I’ve often lacked the motivation or not seen the point of adopting these habits. It’s only when you start to take on these domestic responsibilities that you will see and feel the benefits of them. We have to ask ourselves, why do we avoid them in the first place? The truth is that we see them as chores. However, as I have said in previous blog posts, the majority of what we do in life is not done because it’s fun. It’s done because we need to do it. Taking on responsibility for domestic tasks and ensuring we live in a clean and healthy environment takes work but it’s essential to living a healthy life. So, having said that, here are the things that I don’t miss necessarily, but frustrate me about the impact my TBI has had on how much I can contribute around the house.
- When I’ve lived independently (all of those times have been post-TBI in fact) I enjoyed the feeling of being self-reliant. When you’re living with carers it can become very easy to become reliant on them for everything rather than relying on them as a safety net. It’s a trap that carers and patients alike can fall into without realising it.
- Even though I probably shouldn’t, I resent the idea of relying on other people. I dislike the fact that others see me as being incapable of managing my living situation, my condition and myself independently (even though that’s the case).
- The fact that in order to move forward in recovery and look towards independence I need to know these domestic responsibilities and have the ability to perform them. It’s important to live in a healthy, clean house, wear clean and presentable clothes, live on a healthy diet and have good personal hygiene. For this to happen, we need to take time to engrain the processes into our daily/weekly routines. It takes time! Everything new after a brain injury takes such a bleeding long time!
- Finally (and this is the worst one), there’s the feeling that you can sometimes get when you’re living with family or in similar situations; that you are a burden. You can’t contribute as much as you’d like to, often our carers do much of the hard work that means we stay clean, healthy and nourished. I know that my parents don’t feel that way, but they’re both over sixty and I wish they didn’t have to have more responsibility (financial, domestic, care) than they already do.
How Can We Both Improve Ourselves & Help Out At Home?
Now, these are perhaps more complex issues than in other posts. They are more about how we feel about ourselves and how our injury affects the people around us rather than something that we miss. Nevertheless, domestic skills and abilities need to be adopted in order to move toward independence. My follow up to this will include how it does fill gaps and perhaps eases certain negative feelings or any (totally unnecessary) guilt.
- Start small. Just assign yourself a domestic task to do each day (every other day, once a week – whatever suits you and the stage of recovery you are at) filling the dishwasher, clean the kitchen, run the hoover round. Try to commit this to memory and discuss it with your carers/family so that they can prompt you and encourage as well as provide positive reinforcement.
- Much of the thought process involved in doing domestic tasks at home is based around initiative. Basically, doing something not because we’re asked but because it needs doing. As an example, on Monday where my mum works late and my dad is occupied for most of the day, I always do the washing up and a kitchen clean before either of them get home. They are extremely grateful for the gesture and it rarely takes more than half an hour.
- If you don’t know how to do something, ask the people around you. Washing machines used to confuse the hell out of me. However, after asking my mum how it worked regarding wash times/settings/temperatures, I’m now doing my own washing each week (only occasionally asking my mum for reminders on temperatures and settings!)
- Think of other positive habits that can facilitate domestic responsibilities. For example, I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I have been attending the gym and the swimming pool on a regular basis. The fact that after I have done the exercise I am sweaty and unclean means that I have to shower afterwards meaning I am now showering most days. The exercise routine I have developed has facilitated an improvement in my personal hygiene. I’m probably the cleanest I’ve ever been!
- Organise things in a way that make domestic tasks easier taking into account the way your new mind works best after your brain injury. For me, since my TBI, I find it easier to compartmentalise things, to give each task it’s own labelled box (literally and in my mind). For example, when it comes to my washing I keep my underpants, socks and clothes in separate wash baskets. It sounds insane but it allows me to be more organised and prioritise what needs washing and when (for some reason).
- When things you know need to be done just pop into your head, as it does with me, act on it immediately or as soon as possible. If you can see it in front of you, do it. If it’s doable at that moment, do it. If you aren’t at home make a note of it – write it down, make a memo on your phone and do it when you get home!
- One of the things that can be fun is learning to cook healthy and nutritious meals. Start small and slowly expand your horizons. I’m in the process of building myself a recipe book for when I leave home consisting of healthy meals I know how to cook (almost) by heart. Cooking is challenging but can be very enjoyable. Maybe try cooking a meal a week for yourself and those you live with. You may discover a hidden talent.
This is probably the post that’s the least enjoyable in terms of actually doing the tasks I’ve suggested. But just because they aren’t fun doesn’t mean they are unimportant. In fact, from my 27 years experience, it probably means the opposite. These skills are essential to us moving forward and being able to handle independence should that opportunity arise in the future.