The amount of paperwork is insurmountable after brain injury. A time when paperwork is the most difficult to complete and work with, you now have more paperwork than ever before! Now, everywhere you turn you need to fill out papers on: Employment leave, Health insurance, Disability insurance, Social Security, Worker’s compensation, Medicare, Medicaid among others. And no one is prepared to manage this paperwork even without a traumatic brain injury.Hopefully, when you are initially injured someone will need to manage this for you. On the other hand, it might just pile up because others believe you will be able to handle it shortly. Not an unusual concept given the fact you have an invisible injury. But, when it is time to start functioning again, this simple task is harder than it seemed. It’s just not as simple as you think! Sorting mail, Opening mail, Reading mail … what a task it can be! Before you know it you are mentally exhausted and frustrated and you have not even begun.
If you get unwanted mail on your computer you hit the delete and never worry about it again. In spite of all the excess insurance forms and other paperwork that is necessary you need to deal with the delivery of snail mail. Make sure you make a separate box for the questionnaires and papers you are filling out for your employment and insurance companies. They are not very forgiving if you make a mistake. A delay in this paperwork can also prevent you from receiving income. Hence, the lack of following through with tasks, can also leave one homeless. You may need to ask for help, especially when this task is overwhelming. So you need to SORT and PRIORITIZE!
This concept of sorting and prioritizing is harder than others think! Sounds simple…but it’s not!
Ideally you can start SORTING the next time you receive your mail delivery. This might be one of the first cognitive tasks you begin after regaining strength. Those around you might also bring mail to the hospital … as if it were something you needed to do!
If it is not a good day or time for you, just put it in a box “sort at a later time”. Don’t stand over the trash and sort as you might inadvertently discard important pieces of mail….such as checks! (It’s happened to me many times!) That’s another problem trying to have the checks reissued! So be kind to yourself. It gets better!
I had weeks at a time for years that I was not able to get through this task. And of course that meant the penalties that go along with late payments, fees, inability to process insurance claims on time, and various other issues. When there is a brain injury, memory problems, or illness that prevent you from functioning our society is not very forgiving! You are than financially penalized in many ways. We do not need to review that at this time. We just need to prevent it from happening!
Sorting mail into 6 separate piles will help with this task when you are able to tackle it. Open only the pile with Bills & Letters and manage those accordingly.
Sort mail into 6 piles or boxes as follows:
- TO BE SORTED LATER (Any mail you currently cannot sort. Don’t forget to start with this box when opening mail! Sort this box…before opening mail!
- Important Mail Bills (Utility, Credit Cards, etc.) & Personal letters/cards
- Junk Mail (weekly ads & other obvious letters, credit card applications, etc.)
- Not Sure What to Do With (Ask someone else what it is & What to do with)
- Use color coded boxes, envelopes or file slots. Color coding is an easier way to identify and helps with learning.
- After you have sorted all the mail. Begin by opening all the mail in “Important Mail pile/box/file/envelope (Whatever system you choose to work for you).
- If you have overdraft from mistakes in banking make this a priority.
- Call the bank immediately and ask them to “waive the overdraft fee”. They usually will do this once a year as a courtesy, but will not offer it if you don’t ask. I never had one overdraft fee until after the injury 10.30.1991 so don’t be hard on yourself. I cried so many times over, and still do…it’s very hard, but keep on trying! I’m finding that automatic on-line minimum payments through your checking account that you set up work best and that you can continuously monitor. It’s harder to keep track of if everyone is submitting through their own sites. It takes longer to figure out, but if you do it everyday it will be helpful. I have not kept a checking account running balance, but keep it monitored through my banks website. Get someone to help with this until you get use to it. They often will give you help at the bank.
- Fill out everything you can, and pick it up at a later time for review.
- If there are areas you just don’t have the information recruit someone to help.
- Breaking paperwork into small tasks is always suggested. This can be an overwhelming task and takes a lot of cognitive functioning, otherwise known as thought processing. This may seem like a manageable task, until you need to manage it! As simple of a concept this seems … you may just pile this mail into a box until you feel as though you can deal with it. It depends on all the other factors in your life. If you have never had this problem, you probably don’t understand. Don’t expect the person with brain injury to do this task as easy as you might think it should be handled. Deal with this as an early morning task, while you have clear thinking. If this is not broken down into small tasks you might risk further problems by throwing away checks and important document. It’s happened too many times for me, but I try to keep it all in check these days. But then again, I thought I always had it in check!