Independence is a skill easily taken for granted until it is stripped away. You don’t think twice about stairs until you break your leg, and you enjoy driving yourself to work until your car breaks down.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) often cause a loss of independence, but for a more severe reason than an injured leg or uncooperative car. A TBI occurs with an external blow to the brain, most often seen in car accidents, falls, and violent situations. Damage to the brain can range from mild to severe, so some victims will simply feel lethargic or confused while others hemorrhage, slip into a coma, and lose portions of their memories.

With that said, it’s evident that a person who suffers a TBI will lose some of his independent abilities during the recovery process. The exact extent of a patient’s reliance on others is determined by the severity of the brain injury, but there’s always a process involved to return to levels of independence enjoyed prior to a traumatic brain injury.

The process of regaining independence after a TBI begins with comprehensive impatient rehabilitation, during which time a patient’s abilities are assessed and doctors work with family members and other medical professional to identify goals and a plan of action. Based on the severity of the TBI, a patient can continue onto outpatient treatment or long term care, but in both cases a support system is necessary to help the patient acclimate to life’s daily requirements and activities.

Before a TBI patient can relearn driving skills or return to work, he must demonstrate stable behaviors, consistent emotions, reasonable cognitive abilities, and appropriate reasoning skills. Without this groundwork, the transition to independence won’t have a steady foundation on which to build.

The most significant element to successfully attaining independence is setting goals. A TBI patient can’t expect himself to relearn everything in a single week. One goal at a time, with the support of attentive psychological care, individualized strategies, and clears structure, will pave the way for a speedy recovery.