To benefit from any rehabilitation program, the person must be able to concentrate on the therapy situation. Attention/concentration difficulties consistently occur when one suffers a head injury. This difficulty may take one of two forms. First, attention refers to the ability to respond to the relevant or most important information and to screen out irrelevant information. For example, it refers to the ability to listen to a conversation while a phone is ringing in the background. This concept is referred to as selective attention. Second, attention also refers to how long one is able to focus on a task without reinforcement. This concept is often referred to as attention span or focused attention. Some professionals refer to this aspect of attention as the ability to concentrate.
As he recovers from head injury, your family member will demonstrate difficulties in both areas. It may be difficult for you to hold his attention when there are any other distractions in the room or hallway. These distractions may be visual (other people in the environment), auditory (noises or voices), or internal (you may not be able to tell exactly why you sometimes cannot hold your family member's attention). Attention difficulties of this nature tend to improve as a patient recovers.
Your family member' s ability to focus or concentrate affects progress in therapy. Without this skill, he will not be able to benefit from therapy sessions, particularly those sessions that require him to be focused for more than 5 minutes. This ability improves as your family member recovers, but you may find that he will continue to be easily distracted and have a short attention span after the head injury.
1. It may be very difficult for your family member to hold his attention on any task once he comes home. He may wander from the TV to yard work to attempting to assist you with housework, all in the course of 15 minutes. This will make it extremely difficult to keep him entertained all day long.
2. Your family member may no longer enjoy his previous hobbies. This is particularly true if they required concentration, such as reading, crafting, or working with computers.
3. Your family member may have been one who could divide his attention between two things at one time. He may have been able to talk on the phone and watch TV at the same time. After a head injury, this will be very hard to do. He will have to concentrate on one thing at a time.
4. Your family member may have been someone who was able to operate in an environment filled with clutter. He may not be able to do this any longer. He may need to have his working area cleared before beginning a new project; this includes having the children play somewhere else for awhile.