10 Keys to Recovery: For the Brain Injury Survivor and Their Caregiver: KEY TO RECOVERY NO. 2: Practice dental hygiene and Good Nutrition:

This may sound strange to be talking about this, but it was a real issue for us. David couldn’t open his mouth wide enough to brush his back teeth. Although he had seen a dentist during his time at the rehabilitation center, and I took him to one after we moved to Naples, it took a 3rd dentist to track the source of his pain.

We learned the hard way, that the extreme pain we thought he was experiencing, because of his accident, was due to abscessed wisdom teeth. This naturally lead us to make healthy food choices.

The other part of this key is to become knowable about good nutritional practices. Do you remember the food pyramid? It has changed through the years, but your best bet is to ‘eat the rainbow’. By that, I mean…choose fruits and vegetables that are colorful and make them the largest portion of what you eat. Go online and search different ways you can achieve this.

One of the ‘filters’ missing from David’s brain is the ability to know when he is full. I plate our food and put it on a smaller dish to avoid overeating. But this is almost impossible to control when we are at a restaurant. If given a choice, he would reach for a can of soda instead of water and this worries me. Someday, I won’t be here, so I am teaching David to make better choices, however there are times that impulse takes over and common sense goes out the window, such as it did a few months ago. We were at an event and I turned around to see him holding a snickers candy bar. I must have made a face and he slipped it into his pocket. His dad later told me that it was actually an ice cream bar – luckily for him, the package didn’t leak down his pant leg…

If you live with a person with brain injury, they may think the word you use means something completely different. An example of that would be when we are grocery shopping. I’ll give David a list and ask him to find the items. David’s grocery list:   apples, head of lettuce, protein bars, mouthwash. I don’t just let him lose in the store because he gets frustrated because apples can translate to tomatoes because they’re… both red and round.

A head of lettuce could become a head of broccoli and vice versa, the protein bars can be anything in the munchy isle while mouthwash is simply David standing in front of the wall of toothpaste and mouthwash and all things dental with a quizzical look on his face.  Actually, I find myself doing the same thing.

And even though it’s not on the list, David manages to get 2 cartons of ice cream into the cart when I turn my back. If you live with a person with brain injury, you might find the toilet paper on the work bench in the garage, the eggs in the freezer – no wait, I think that was me…you might find the shampoo in the closet and the mayonnaise under the bathroom sink. These are true stories, really.

Sometimes I ask for a butter knife and he’ll hand me the butter dish…You see, he’s getting closer.