Caregiver Guide supports service members and veterans with TBI

Caregiver Guide supports service members and veterans with TBI
Caregivers play a vital role for TBI patient recovery Photo credit U.S. Army/Lt. Col. John Hall

After her husband sustained a traumatic brain injury from a rocket attack in Iraq in 2006, Tiffany Bodge searched for information to help cope with her new role as a caregiver.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Bodge struggled with short-term memory loss, sometimes taking his evening medication in the morning. The pain from his TBI-induced chronic migraines made it hard to concentrate.

However, when Tiffany Bodge discovered the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence's Caregiver Guide in 2021, she found tools to help the couple manage his recovery. Now, when he goes for treatment, they work on lists of questions to ask the doctor. If he forgets a conversation, he asks for the details to be repeated.

"I look at caregiving as collaborative, we have to do it together," Tiffany Bodge said. "I'm here to make his life easier, to help him in a way that gives him the freedom to continue to live his life that isn't really defined by parameters. The TBI is going to limit him in the things that he's capable of doing, but you know, we can figure out a way that he can still enjoy life and do the things that he wants to do. He just has to do them in a different way."

Research shows family support leads to better recovery, and addressing caregiver needs has long been a focus of TBICoE. In a recent report to Congress, TBICoE states, "Family education and support are critical components of acute inpatient rehabilitation; however, needs are common in chronic stages of TBI, highlighting the importance of ongoing services through chronic stages of TBI."

To provide those services to family and friends like the Bodges, TBICoE released an updated Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans earlier this month.

"[The guide] gives you a really good understanding of the different types of TBI and the severity, what you're going to be dealing with in the short term, [and] what may possibly be in the long term," explained Tiffany Bodge, who was asked to review and provide feedback on the new guide. "But I also like the fact that it talks about the recovery process, and that the caregiver is an integral part of recovery."

The guide includes the following:

- Resources to address mild TBI, also known as a concussion, which accounts for over 80% of TBIs in the military reported by TBICoE. The earlier version addressed only moderate, severe, and penetrating TBI.

- New content on post-traumatic stress disorder, substance misuse, and intimacy (from both the patient and caregiver perspective), and information on suicide and caregiver burnout.

- Interactive features allowing users to easily navigate the guide and find relevant information that meets their needs.

"The best thing about the caregiver guide is that it is written for caregivers. It has practical