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Help on the way for parents whose children suffer brain injuries

New resources will offer support to staff and parents caring for young people who have suffered trauma

Nurses are developing resources to help parents overcome ‘ambiguous loss’, which sometimes follows one of their children suffering a traumatic brain injury.

The resources follow research that indicated parents struggle to come to terms with real and apparent changes to their child’s behaviour in the months and years after the trauma.

Debbie Fallon, a nurse lecturer at the University of Manchester, said studies show that staff have a tendency either to prepare parents for the worst, by suggesting that their child will never be the same again, or to be unduly optimistic about the likely long-term outcomes. 

The resources will be designed to help staff provide a more realistic prognosis to parents, she told the sixth International Nurse Education Conference in Brisbane, Australia.

‘We have to help people acknowledge that ambiguity does not have to devastate,’ Dr Fallon said.

‘When people live with unresolved loss and grief, the goal is resilience rather than closure.

'We need to help people label loss and help families to recognise that they can live without closure. It is about helping people go beyond enduring the traumatic brain injury and moving onto a much more meaningful life.’

An online resource is being developed that will also help adults who suffer similar injuries. The initiative is being supported by funding from the University of Manchester.

Dr Fallon said: ‘We are going to look at how we might develop potential strategies for building family resilience and reflect on staff approaches, so that perhaps we do not get caught between facilitating hope and preparing people for the worst.’

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