Stimulating the mind of someone with brain injury - Headway


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Stimulating the mind of someone with brain injury

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I recently reconnected with someone I've not seen for 30 years. He was my first boyfriend at school. We split up when I was 19 or 20 when I went off to uni and not seen each other since.

A few years afer we split up he had a serious accident and ended up in a coma and was written off by doctors as a vegetable (their words not mine). His parents then spent the next 10 years or so working with him to help him relearn how to walk, talk everything.... I've only just found out about all of this and went to visit him recently as I happened to be back in my home town for a week.

It was so amazing to see him and also so sad.

He has severe memory issues - can remember things prior to his accident, but mostly through triggers and prompts. He has trouble retaining new memories, so a few hours after my visit he had very little recollection of me being there.

I've written a few times, but he finds it hard to write back. One thing I've been thinking of doing is sending him something on a weekly basis as maybe the repetition and regularity would help his memory. I've been thinking about what I could send too - something to challenge him and get his brain cells ticking. His sister and mum think it's a good idea and so I'm looking for advice as I've no experience of brain injury and memory loss.

When I visited I played him music - songs I knew he loved when he was younger and seeing the recognistion in his face and him mouth every word was amazing and that brought back so many memories for him. So that's one thing I'm putting together at the moment.

Can anyone help with other suggestions?

I'd really appreciate some help.



19 Replies

carebox community.......a brain injury is a fact of life we do not want pity.

now, regarding your letters, you could write asking him if he remembers things you did together that bring back happy memories for both of you and attach a picture of the pair of you from that time if you have one, along with your special song that his mum could find on the computer and play while he reads and looks at the photo.

I understand the pity aspect and I'm beyond that tbh, I just want to be a good friend. I've kind of done the music/photo/being there already and want to do something else/more - something a bit more interesting and challenging.

You're Awesome :) Full Range of High Lighter pens helps me. Certain colours always for whatever category.

I read ok mostly but colour makes me digest it & not me assuming.

Just random as I always am, flavours wld be cool. All those Ye Old sweets in big jars could trigger something. Not too many. We ALL recall The Blueberry scene out of "Willy wonker"!

My old friends have to give me a bite at a time on old events & "reel me in".

I sensed myself having a forgetful day, so warned everyone I'm going to be blonde All Day, so don't shout at me ;)

( right side headache)


I'm loving the sweets idea!! Thanks for that.

And colours too would be interesting to try.


Have you thought of using a pen drive and sending a voice file instead? I found writing a chore and my handwriting was so poor too.

Wish I could meet my first girlfriend; sadly we lasted just two weeks after I was discharged from hospital. All my friends scooted a week after that.

A sad situation for which the misery of no friends has been addressed. I think you are doing your friend a sterling service.

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CareboxCommunity in reply to

He doesn't have a computer so a pen drive wouldn't be of any use.

I've got an old iPod I'm putting music on. Set him up with an email address so he could use it to send email but I think the small screen keyboard might be an issue so trying to source a screen pen thing he could use and also reading about the accessibility options offered by Apple as he might need to change settings to suit with regards to screen brightness and text size etc

I'm unfortunately 5hrs away by car so can't see him very often.

He used to do a lot and had lots of visitors and friends from university but over the years their lives moved on and visits decreased and he's now very much on his own living with his mum. He's gradually receded into himself over the years understandably.

I can't imagine what it must be like for him but if occasional visits from me and things in the post can help alleviate the monotony of each day I'd like to do what I can to help.

He does find writing hard but it's lovely when he does put pen to paper even though his writing doesn't often make sense.

I wonder whether there are any good iOS apps I could put on the iPod for him. Any recommendations?

Suggest to his mum that he really needs a laptop and then you could send him memory sticks with chatter on them and he could do the same for you. A cheap laptop can be had for £200.

they had a computer years ago and got rid of it so I'm not sure it's an option - she's in her 70s and he's reaching 50 and I think the challenge of setting it all up would be too much tbh.

She'd be 66 today so maybe not!

My son's short term memory is pretty rubbish too unfortunately.... until you show him a picture of the 'memory' then he'll tell you lots! It's a skill that needs to be practised of course but, if your friend's visual memory is good, photos could be a great trigger. I also love the colour/smell trigger theory too. Does he have a camera or camera phone? Do you? My son takes pictures of much of what he does, where he goes, who he sees. He often sends pictures to me via the phone and then we have things to talk about together. Again, the more we talk about it, the more he remembers. Practise, practise, practise - but in a fun way! You could send voice messages to each other if reading and writing is an issue - it depends of course how good your phone plan is ( if you have one). Perhaps you can make a memory book together, with captions, to remind him of what he did in the last month. Use a little photo album and then you can keep changing the photos and memories each month. if you are going to be seeing him again (face to face) you could invent a few simple card games, maybe using the game to trigger memories of past friends, Music of the era... maybe you could send pictures of what YOU have been doing, with captions - again to discuss on the telephone with both of you looking at the same pictures...

Thanks for all this. All good. But this is going to be a very long distance friendship as I live so far away. His speech is quite laboured and what would take me 5mins to say would take him 15. But I like the idea of voice memos and I'm sure that can be done via an iPod.

He's always refused to record his actions apparently and doesn't take photos or write anything down. He doesn't see the point. It's hard to tap into his train of thought in that front.

It must be hard to exist in a kind of void without friendships or being able to daydream even. When he's with people he comes out of that void but he spends the majority of his time on his own or with his mum.

steve55 profile image
steve55 in reply to Elkay_1954

elkay precisely the point i was trying to get over,but i lose my thought trail.

I think you need to send tapes of you chatting, talking about old times, snatches of music you used to listen to. If you do this regularly, you will find that he wants to respond and between you and his mum you can find a way for him to do this. Also send him photos etc.

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CareboxCommunity in reply to

Thanks for your suggestions. All good except that 30yrs has elapsed. I reconnected with him last month and that's the first time we've seen each other since I was 19. So I don't have any photos to share but I need to look through my old neg files as I did a lot of B&W film photography back then and there might be something there that I'd need to get printed - luckily I have friend with a darkroom who still work with film and chemicals so will be looking into that this w/e.

I think the iPod is going to have to be the way forward as not only can I put a load of music on it there's also what's app and messenger as well as email, but it's whether or not he can grasp the new technology which is something he has no experience of and go with it. Hand dexterity might be an issue. Trial and error I guess.

I like the fact we'll be able to put events/prompts/alarms on there to trigger him to do stuff or remind to do things.

Also trying to scour Facebook for people we were at school with but then my memory isn't great and I can't remember any names. He was in the year above me do had a different set of friends but one connection might lead to more and so on so its worth trying.

I didn't get to meet his friends at Uni either but it would be good to connect with them too.

One thing for sure is that I think I've breathed a bit of life into the situation. His mum has given up smoking which is amazing and they got out of the house today for a long walk in the park. Something they've not done in years.

Feeling positive.

It sounds like you are doing them both good. I wouldn't like to say if he could cope with new technology - my brain injured husband struggles to use the most basic mobile phone and he wouldn't even know how to switch on the computer!

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CareboxCommunity in reply to

Well he used to use a computer and used to write and communicate by email his mum said but that was quite a while back now so not sure if it's something he could do now. He was quite fascinated by my iPhone when I played him music when I visited and I showed him how it worked and what was on it. So will see if having a mini computer of his own will prompt him in any way. He might just get really frustrated with it. Who knows.

I think your ' breathing life into the situation' quote is really important. We all have different levels of support when it comes to brain injury. Some are very fortunate with regular family/friends intervention - and lots of ongoing stimulation and 'practise' opportunities. Others have little or none and any skills regained can, over time, be once again forgotten - mainly just through lack of practise. It is wonderful to hear that your friend has been walking in the park again - and his mother also seems to have grown in confidence through your connection. Small steps sometimes lead to great leaps!

I sent him a pack of sunflowers seeds with instructions. They arrived today and him and his mum have planted them already. My son gave out packs to his friends in the party bags for his birthday so we're having a local competition on who can grow the tallest.

Just bought a copy of 'Head Injury: A practical guide' so I can get a better understanding of the situation even though his accident happened over 20yrs ago.

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