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INFLEXIBILITY

Your family member may become quite inflexible in his thinking. Inflexibility is closely related to overall difficulty with problem solving. In the early stages of recovery, the inflexibility might be demonstrated by his unwillingness to accept any change in his routine or schedule. This rigidity reflects his need for consistency and structure.

As your family member improves, the inflexibility might be demonstrated by difficulty in problem solving. He may only be able to come up with one solution and will not see any alternatives. The more difficult it is for him to see alternatives, the more fixed and vocal he will become regarding his solution. He will also have a tendency to want everything done exactly the way he remembers it was done before his injury.

Examples

The following are aspects of inflexibility that you may observe:

1. The therapists have changed your family member's schedule. He becomes irritated because they have no right to ruin his day like that.

2. If you hear your family member say, "I won't do it that way because we used to do it this way" one more time, you may scream. He may use this statement whenever he is not comfortable with something new and does not want to change.

3. Your husband and son used to have a wonderful relationship. Now, after your husband's head injury, all they do is argue. You might expect your son to be somewhat tunnel visioned and inflexible; he is an adolescent. But you do not expect the same behavior from your husband.

4. Things are not going well at work. Procedures have changed since your family member left. He complains loudly that the business is not as effective as it once was. They have also updated the computer system. It is nothing but a "monster"--it saves no time.

Management Techniques

1. Be patient. Be prepared. Realize that changes should not be made in his schedule early in the recovery process. Insist on consistency and structure.

2. Because your family member will have a great deal of difficulty seeing alternatives, he will return to what is safe and comfortable. The "way he did it before" meets both of these criteria. Gently encourage him to try new ideas and procedures for completing home and work activities. If you have purchased new equipment or tools while he was in the hospital, teach him how to use them. Be patient as he learns a new skill. Remember, it will not help if you disagree with him or attempt to persuade him to change his mind. The best you can do is teach and encourage. If that does not work, give yourself a rest and then regroup to try again at a later date. Be patient with yourself and don't try to fix it all at once.

3. Be prepared for family blow-ups and conflicts. Talk with siblings and children about not confronting or arguing with your family member over insignificant happenings. Save your energies for the attempt to convince him that he needs to reconsider a choice or his decisions about the big issues that affect all members of your family.

4. Be prepared for problems at work. You cannot handle them for your family member; however, you can be supportive when he brings the issues to you. Suggest that a fellow worker could be used as a coach to give him a comfort level for learning the new job skill. If this can be accomplished in small steps, he may be able to break through his inflexibility and remain on that job.