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As the new year is upon us, it is important for brain injury survivors and their families to be aware that the change in year can lead to disorientation. Survivors become used to the year 2021. Due to their injury, it can be hard to switch to the new year of 2022.
As a comparison, many individuals without an injury accidentally write the old year on their checks and other documents for the first few weeks of the new year, as they have become accustomed to writing the old year.
This difficulty in switching can become much more of a problem after a brain injury. For some survivors, it may take many months to naturally make the switch to the new year, if at all. This disorientation to year can affect not only activities such as the accurate completion of important documents and appointment tracking, but also survivors’ ability to track personal information such as their age.
To help with the transition to the new year, it is helpful to have new calendars in homes, particularly in the rooms that the survivors are most likely to use. These calendars should be in easy-to-see locations, such as on the refrigerator in the kitchen or over the bed in the bedroom. Usually, survivors show better orientation when the calendar dates have larger, more easily visible print.
For survivors who tend to have greater difficulties with disorientation, family members and other loved ones should remind the survivors of the new year. This can be done by regularly reviewing the current date and also in more subtle ways, such as by adding it into regular conversations. For example, a family member could say, “Today is looking pretty sunny. Seems like the new year of 2022 is starting off on the right foot.”
With all survivors who have orientation deficits following injury, the more orientation aids (such as calendars, clocks, and planners) that are accessible, the better they will perform.
Overall, survivors and their loved ones should expect that if orientation was already a difficulty, the switch to the new year will likely bring greater disorientation. They should prepare by using calendars, reminders, and other orientation aids to help the survivors make a smooth transition to the new year.