Returning Home

Going home can be a relief. It helps to be prepared and to be realistic about what to expect. Some people make a full recovery within a few weeks of getting home. For others, improvements and changes will continue for many weeks or months.

Everybody’s recovery is individual to them. It may take a bit longer than you think. Try to take things one day at a time. Don’t put yourself under pressure by setting yourself too many goals.

We have written this to help make the transition home from hospital or rehabilitation as easy as possible for you and to help you prepare.

Leaving Hospital Checklist

It can be hard to judge now what you might need at home. So, it’s a good idea to accept referrals to any services offered. Waiting times can be long. You can always turn a service down later if you find you do not need it.
Check the hospital team have:
Answered any questions you have before you go home. Note the answers.
Given you prescriptions for your medications and a full list. of all your medications.
Given you phone numbers for hospital staff you can contact once you are home.
Given you a follow up appointment with your consultant (usually in 6 weeks’ time).
Sent a discharge letter to your GP. This has a summary of your hospital treatment and any follow up services the hospital has referred to you.
Contacted your Public Health Nurse if you need services from him or her.
Referred you to any HSE Services you need such as Speech and Language, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Counselling or Psychology.
Referred you to any Brain injury or Stroke organisations that offer suitable services.
Helped you to complete any Social Welfare forms you need.

'To Do' checklist for you

Useful things to do:
Get a copy from the hospital, or Headway, of Getting what you need after a brain injury. This free pocket guide tells you who to contact for the services and supports you may need at home, including guidance on returning to work, driving and finances. Headway t: 1890 200 278.
Get the number of your local Citizens Information Centre and save it in your phone. Citizens Information gives free advice on all public services and entitlements and help with application forms. Citizens Information Lo-call t: 076 107 4000
Make a list of things you need done. Then when friends or family offer to help, ask them to do something on the list.
Note down important phone numbers to keep handy or save them in your phone.
Use a folder to keep all your information and medical documents in one place.
Get a wall calendar to keep track of your appointments and upcoming events.
Use a diary to note your appointments or put reminders into your phone.
If you have a lot of medications, ask your pharmacy to put them into daily dose packs for you. This service is often offered free of charge.

What to expect

Many people experience changes in the way they feel, think and act after a brain injury.

Common changes to expect at this stage include:

  • Being worried about symptoms and your health.
  • Having headaches, being sensitive to light, noise or changes in temperature.
  • Feeling very tired and sleeping a lot.
  • Forgetting things, losing things and finding it difficult to concentrate.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by visitors or large groups.
  • Getting frustrated, irritable or angry with yourself, things or other people.
  • Experiencing mood swings.
  • Finding daily tasks more difficult than they were in hospital.
  • Your family being tired and stressed.
  • Feeling that other people don’t understand what you are going through.

Some changes may be temporary. If any of the changes are medium or long-term, there is support and professional help available. For further information and advice, speak to any professionals supporting your recovery or contact us here in Headway.

What can help

Symptoms

If you are concerned about any symptoms, note them down. If they do not pass, contact your GP or the hospital team. If you have any sudden symptoms such as having difficulty speaking, a severe headache, double vision or weakness on one side, someone should phone 112 immediately.

Medication

It is important to take these at the time and in the way your doctor prescribed. Alcohol can interfere with medications and slow down your recovery. Get your GP’s advice. Our Alcohol after a brain injury booklet has more information.

Communicating

If you find communicating difficult, choose somewhere quiet to talk, take your time, keep up eye contact and check the other person has understood you. Our Communicating after a brain injury section has further tips and advice.

Feelings

A lot of people feel low, anxious or angry after their brain injury. This can be due to a number of reasons including your reaction to change or trauma.  It could also be directly due to injuring certain parts of your brain. Talk to someone you trust. If you need help now, contact your GP. Seeing a psychologist or counsellor with experience of brain injury may also be helpful. Our sections Anger, irritability and moods swings and Feeling low or anxious have tips and advice.

Rest

For the first few weeks you are likely to feel very tired. This is to be expected because your brain is still recovering and you are adjusting to being home. Fatigue can be more long-term for many people.

These tips may help:

  • Listen to your body and brain. If your brain needs a rest, it is important to take notice and not to push yourself. Have regular naps as you need them.
  • Visitors can be tiring. Ask your family to tell people to come on short visits, just one or two at a time.
  • Have quiet time. Switch off the radio and TV.
  • Looking fine does not mean you are fully recovered. It is ok to say ‘no’ to things that are too demanding.
  • Remember that therapies such as Physiotherapy, Speech and Language and Occupational Therapy, can make you very tired. Plan to rest afterwards.
  • Eating healthy meals and having nutritious snacks such as fruit or nuts can help keep up your energy.

“Try to remember that even if you feel your whole world has changed, life goes on and it will get better. It takes time.” – Michael, Co Tipperary

Routine

Having a good routine at home can help you to get back into daily life with the least amount of stress.

  • Have regular bed and meal times if you can.
  • Plan your day. Try to be realistic about how much you can do. Doing a little and often works better than trying to do too much at once.
  • Do important tasks or have visitors when you are at your freshest. Take regular breaks and rests.
  • See our Planning and organising booklet for more practical tips and information.

Reduce Stress

  • Be realistic – don’t push yourself too hard or expect too much. Gradually build up what you do each day.
  • Don’t worry about things you cannot control at the moment. Focus on what you can do. Deal with what is important and let other things go.
  • Being organised can make life easier. Use a folder to keep all your documents together. Have one place where you keep your keys, phone, wallet or handbag.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as breathing, mindfulness or yoga. Yoga can be adapted for changes in mobility. An internet search and local classes will give you more details on these techniques.
  • Try to get exercise regularly. Exercise can relax you and make you feel good. If your mobility has been affected, check what your GP or physiotherapist recommends.
  • Cut down, or cut out, alcohol and cigarettes.
  • Talking to a friend or family member can help you view problems in a different way and make them feel more manageable.
  • Our booklets Planning and organising and Feeling low or anxious may be helpful.

Memory

  • A brain injury frequently causes memory problems. However, many other things can also affect your memory including fatigue, hunger, stress, mood, pain, other illnesses and medications. Eating healthily, exercising, getting enough sleep and learning to cope with stress and mood changes can all have a positive effect on your memory.

These tips may help:

  • Use lists – for example, shopping lists, ‘To Dos’ and lists of what you need to remember when leaving the house (phone, keys and bag, for example).
  • When you meet someone new repeating their name as you talk to them may help you to remember it.
  • Write important things down in a notebook. Use Post-its to remind you of things you need to do.
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