On Wednesday the Huffington Post delved into the effect that a traumatic brain injury (or a cognitive brain injury, like dementia) has on a marriage. The article shares the story of one elderly couple, married for 56-years. The husband fondly recalls the joys he and his wife have shared over the years. She was an artist, and her husband dotingly explains that her paintings were just as good as Rembrandt’s. However, their life these days is much different than it used to be. That is because his wife suffered from Alzheimer’s. He recalls that one moment his wife will lean over and give him a loving kiss. The next moment she will not even remember who he is. This is a heartbreaking situation shared by many community members whose loved ones have brain problems.
Considering that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, our brain injury lawyers think that is appropriate to recognize the role that these injures play on the spouses and partners of victims. Many marriages are turned on their head when one of these injuries strikes in ways that alter one’s personality, memories, and other cognitive functions. As one psychologist working on the situation explained, “when a couple is faced with the sudden or gradual change in the person who now may no longer be able to give flowers or go out to the movies, it often means a new definition of love.”
There are no easy answers to what a non-injured spouse should do in these situations. Many high-profile suggestions and cases have sparked debate over what is appropriate. For example, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson famously recommended that one caller divorce his wife with Alzheimer’s. A well-traveled story published in the Washington Post explained how one woman divorced her husband after he suffered a traumatic brain injury. However, she and her second husband continued to provide care for the man.
The issue has even reached the big screen. A movie hits movie theaters today called “The Vow.” The tale involves two newlyweds who are caught in a car accident. The accident causes the wife to suffer a traumatic brain injury. As a result of the injury, the wife is unable to recognize her husband , and she does not even remember that she is married. The rest of the movie is seemingly about the couple trying to fall in love again after the accident.
Perhaps more than any other form of personal injury, brain damage affects victims’ family members in many ways. All Illinois brain injury attorneys appreciate this fact as does the justice system as a whole. When a civil lawsuit is filed because one of these injuries was caused by another’s negligence, an individual claim is often brought on behalf of the victim’s family member. These claims seek to compensate for harms that are unique and distinct from the harms suffered by the one who was physically injured. When an individual sufferers a brain injury, the lives of many others are affected. It is only reasonable for the law to account for those alternative injuries and provide redress where possible and appropriate.
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