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How Best to Interact with Someone with TBI

How Best to Interact with Someone with TBI

Comments [4]

Click on any phrase to play the video at that point.
Hey guys, it's Adam, and a lot of people ask me how to respectfully interact with individuals and combat veterans who have sustained a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, especially with communication and speaking and introductions. Do you reach out and shake their hand if they're, let's say, for example, in a wheelchair and visibly not capable of reaching back out? Is it disrespectful to jump in and finish a sentence when they're speaking or trying to form a word-- to do what you may think is helping them out? I just wanted to put some information out there about that. From my experience dealing with some of the more severely-disabled veterans, it is actually disrespectful to try and jump in and finish a word. A lot of times people with severe traumatic brain injury may still be coherent in the conversation and want to participate, and when they start to-- I should say--struggle and begin speaking, it is really disrespectful to reach out after 5 seconds, 7 seconds, and interrupt them and try to say, "Hey, do you mean this? Is this what you're trying to say?" "Is that what--?" The answer is they're really working to try and form those words, and so it's respectful to just be patient. Let them take the time to share the information. A lot of times they'll have a caregiver with them who has gotten in a battle rhythm or sync with them, and they know, they're going to know what they're trying to say, and they're going to be able to help. So if you're not their caregiver, it is somewhat disrespectful to jump over them or put words in their mouth for them. That's really the battle rhythm between the caregiver and the veteran. Another aspect is shaking hands. By all means reach out, and there's other things that you can do. If you believe that the individual is going to be capable to shake your hand, reach out, offer your hand. If they're able to reach their hand up, grab their hand lightly and shake it. Let them know that you care. Try and minimize any disruption to the normal conversation and the colleagues. Don't avoid eye contact with people. Don't look away from people just because they might be in a wheelchair or may be in a hospital bed. Engage them and let them participate in the conversation to the degree that they feel comfortable with. So I hope that helps, and let us know if you have any questions. Thanks.

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Should you jump in and finish a sentence for someone with TBI who is having trouble speaking or trying to form a word? Should you drop eye contact if the person is struggling? Adam talks about how to respectfully interact with someone with a TBI.

Adam profile thumbnail

Hi, I’m Adam Anicich

I’m a former Army Sergeant, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, a service-disabled vet, and someone with a brain injury. I’m here to share my story with you — along with some practical tips — and I hope that I can help you in your own journey of recovery.

Learn more about Adam >


Comments [4]

Thank you so much for taking the time to make these videos! I am the wife and caregiver of a vet with PTSD & TBI and I truly hope that people take the time to watch and learn. Respect is key for any individual no matter what their physical or mental state may be.

Sep 26th, 2013 8:52am

Adam, my son a Marine has suffer a TBI, and I have as well, not in combat, but a fall off a horse. Your advice is wonderful. I find myself texting and my son would like me to talk to him on the phone. God Bless You Adam. Martha in Idaho

May 30th, 2013 10:40am

Thank you for sharing so courageously with ALL!

Apr 2nd, 2013 5:40pm

Good manners equal kindness, caring and respect. Your video is a good reminder of how we should treat everyone. We all want and need to be recognized and your advice helps me to know how to reach out to those with TBI. Don't leave them out - bring them in. Got it and will do! Thanks.

Apr 2nd, 2013 5:11pm


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