You are starting out on an important journey in your life — becoming a family caregiver to someone who has a traumatic brain injury (TBI). You can help your service member/veteran recover as fully as possible.
You may be feeling overwhelmed, angry, or scared. You may also feel alone and worn out by your new role.
Please learn about TBI. Take good care of yourself while caring for your service member/veteran. Keep hope alive during your journey toward recovery.
This is a chapter from the Family Caregiver Curriculum, Module 3: Becoming a Family Caregiver for a Service Member/Veteran in TBI.
What Is the Course of Recovery?
Recovery from TBI is a gradual process. It may take weeks, months, or even years. Those with a TBI may need assistance for weeks to months. Some will need help for the rest of their lives. For those in a minimally conscious state, some may need long-term care outside of your home.
Each TBI is different. Each person needs different help and support from his or her caregiver.
Caregiver: Any family or support person(s) relied upon by the service member or veteran with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who assumes primary responsibility for ensuring the needed level of care and overall wellbeing of that service member or veteran.
For the purposes of this Guide, “family” or “family caregiver” will include spouse, parents, children, other extended family members, as well as significant others and friends.
How Important Is My Caregiving?
Caregivers play an important role in recovery. In fact, many people who work with TBI patients believe that having a caregiver just like you is one of the most important aids to recovery. Your job is to actively follow the treatment plan and offer guidance and help to your injured family member.
Learn all you can about TBI. The following suggestions may help you:
- Ask questions of the doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.
- Classes or online discussion groups may be helpful.
“You’re the person who knows your family member best. That’s what my neurologist told me. He said you’re going to have to help us here because you know him best. You have to let us know if he’s hurting, if he’s not hurting, if he’s waking up, because you know him best. So you’re going to really have to help us here to know what’s going on with him because he can’t tell us.”
— Denise G.
The Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans provides comprehensive information and resources caregivers need to care and advocate for their injured loved one and to care for themselves in the process. The Guide was developed by the Defense Health Board, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs.