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As 2014 comes to a close and 2015 is upon us, some brain injury survivors may find themselves facing greater than normal levels of disorientation. Often brain injury survivors, particularly those with memory deficits or in the earlier stages of recovery, will have trouble keeping track of basic orientation information such as the month or the day of the week. The change in year represents yet one more piece of new information they have to worry about remembering. Survivors may seem confused or express doubt when told of the change in year. Some survivors may even argue that therapists, staff and family are giving them false information.
Many patients with orientation difficulties can get stuck on the last date or location they remember and have trouble incorporating new information. For example, a survivor may last remember living in Dallas and struggle with integrating into his or her life knowledge of moving in post-injury with his or her parents in Houston. This same issue can occur with a change in year. As the survivor last remembers the year being 2014, it takes considerable effort to make the switch to recognizing that it’s now 2015 (and to making realization of that switch stick). To put it in perspective, people often temporarily forget the correct year during the first few days of January and will then write the wrong year on checks. But imagine if instead of being stuck on the wrong year for a few moments, you continually find yourself stuck on the wrong year for weeks upon weeks. This is what brain injury survivors with orientation deficits may experience when confronted by a change of year.
Brain injury survivors can be helped by keeping relevant orientation information presented in many easily accessible locations. Families and survivors may want to place more calendars around the home. If a survivor has considerable problems with disorientation, he or she will likely do best with a one page per day calendar, one that displays on each page the day, date and year. This type of calendar can generally be found at teller stations in banks in order to help ensure that customers write the correct date on checks. This is in contrast to the month at a glance calendar, in which the entire month is shown on a single page. The date can also be written on a dry erase calendar in a bedroom or on a refrigerator so that the survivor can easily see the new year.
Families can also make extra effort to insert the correct year into daily conversation. This can be done simply by saying more often than one might otherwise things like “Wow, 2015 has really started off well for us” or “I’m glad that 2015 has rolled around as last year was quite difficult.” The more that a survivor is exposed to the correct information, the more quickly and permanently he or she will learn this new information.
Lastly, please make sure to dispose of old calendars and similar items displaying the old year as quickly as possible. Some brain injury survivors will become confused or distressed when confronted by both an old calendar and a new calendar. This can cause a temporary (and entirely avoidable) setback in efforts to properly align orientation.
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