The Caregiver's Journey

Fatigue/Loss of Stamina

Fatigue is a common complaint among people with TBI. The body needs a vast amount of energy for healing after traumatic injuries. Sleep is often disrupted in the hospital.

Usual patterns of rest and activity are often very different for many weeks to months after TBI. Confusion can make fatigue worse.

Central fatigue is the major type of fatigue in TBI patients. Central fatigue affects thinking. Working harder to learn and stay focused can make your family member mentally tired. In some people, central fatigue causes them to be irritable or have headaches.

Peripheral fatigue or muscle fatigue is also reported by many. Peripheral fatigue is physical. It can make pain, thinking, and mood worse.

Fatigue reduces the speed and quality of rehabilitation. Fatigue can also slow down the return to normal life activities, such as school or work.

For most people, fatigue gradually lessens over time. Stamina and endurance improve. However, some people with TBI say that for the rest of their lives, their endurance is just not what it used to be. They have to pace themselves more than they used to.

What you might see:

  • Frequent comments about being tired 
  • Need for sleep after a short activity, lack of energy 
  • Poor stamina 
  • Extreme fatigue after a busy stretch of hours 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Irritability 
  • Slower thinking speed

How you can help:

  • Set up a daily schedule for your family member. Make sure it includes enough rest/sleep. Use a calendar to help your service member/veteran follow the schedule.
  • Reduce family and social demands. 
  • Help your family member to pace him or herself. 
  • Ask your family member to conserve energy for important tasks in the day.
  • Help your family member to have an active lifestyle. Regular exercise increases stamina. The physical therapist can develop a safe exercise program.
  • Allow time for undisturbed rest during the day. A nap is usually 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Schedule important appointments for times of the day when your family member is most awake.
  • Learn the signs of fatigue in your service member/veteran. Ask him or her to do the same. Make a list of the signs and keep it in his or her calendar/memory notebook.
  • Inform the healthcare team about changes in sleep patterns or stamina.
  • Ask the healthcare team to rule out other causes of fatigue. Common causes of fatigue are endocrine abnormalities, sleep disorders, mood disorders, diabetes, substance abuse, electrolyte imbalances, and nutrition deficits.