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Oftentimes, a family member is the first to recognize symptoms of TBI and/or PTSD in their loved one who has returned from military service. At the Home Base program, veterans and service members are accompanied by a family member for part of the two-week intensive so upon returning home, the family knows better how to help their loved one understand their symptoms and aid with and ongoing treatments, interventions, medications, and general support.
TBI is a multi-faceted injury that can present physically through headaches, balance, hearing, or vision problems; psychologically through depression or post-traumatic stress; cognitively through memory and attention issues; or all or a combination of these “buckets.” Home Base is a two-week intensive program for veterans and service members that serves as part of their journey to recovery. After the two weeks, case managers help their clients set up the necessary care and services they need in their community and follow their progress.
Once upon a time, researchers and doctors treated all traumatic brain injuries the same, but they now know that the mechanism of injury plays a key role in diagnosis and treatment. There are many parallels for civilians and service members who sustain a traumatic brain injury, but the people are very different. Athletes who sustain a TBI most likely will not have the overlapping emotional challenges that service members may who sustained their injury in combat or in a more threatening setting. Helping service members and veterans often includes treating them for both TBI and PTSD simultaneously.
Dr. Iaccarino shares how suffering a spine injury as a teenager sparked her passion for helping others with brain injury using neurological rehabilitation and recovery, especially veterans and military service members.
After sustaining a spinal injury as a teenager, Dr. Mary Alexis Iaccarino changed the trajectory of her future. She spent months and years in rehab for her neurological injury then went on to become a physiatrist who specializes in treating and rehabilitating people with the most clinically complex cases of sports concussion, traumatic brain injury, and repetitive head trauma. When she treats veterans and service members, she harkens back to her own experiences, encouraging them toward second careers and full lives even with a TBI.
In our country—and around the world—we are witnessing a rise in suicide, drug dependency, and poor access to physical and mental health services. Programs like Wounded Warrior Project feel it is their responsibility to translate their best practices offered to veterans and service members for treatment and rehabilitation for these conditions to the entire country and world of civilians.
Recently, Wounded Warrior Project funded a study with the Rand Corporation on the need to treat substance use disorder along with treating traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The often co-occurring conditions must be treated simultaneously to be as effective as possible.
Because Wounded Warrior Project works with many vets who have TBI and/or PTSD, staff hear many misconceptions. One misconception is that there are no treatments for TBI and PTSD. Not true. There are gold-standard treatments to heal people with PTSD and there are very effective rehab programs for people with TBI. Also, people need to remember that both of these conditions are often invisible wounds and can affect anyone—male, female, young, old, and so on.
A traumatic brain injury or repeated brain traumas can sometimes lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, astrogliosis, or other neurogenerative conditions. Since researchers are still learning about the progression of these diseases, which can stem from repeated TBIs, providers are currently trying to plan and address how to change their model of care to best help veterans and their families in the long term.
Service members and veterans feel a deep connection with each other and their families. Through Wounded Warrior Project’s various programs—in-person and/or online—veterans can come together, empower each other, and once home, support the greater good of their communities.
John, an Air force veteran, who sustained a TBI has benefitted greatly from almost all of the programs offered through Wounded Warrior Project. With help from community support specialists, life skills coaches, and other alternative treatments, John—and his wife—have turned some of their challenges into advantages and are now giving back to their community.
The many months of the coronavirus pandemic have added a new burden on top of a caregiver’s current caregiving requirements for their loved one with TBI or other physical or mental health issues. The Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program offers not only a $3,000 grant to caregivers to help support their own health and well-being, but also aid in the form of more mental telehealth care, meal prep, and other resources to help caregivers take care of themselves while juggling the many people and parts of family life.
Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program case managers understand that when a service member has a TBI or other physical or mental health issues, the whole family is affected—in the short- and long-term. WWP case managers get to know their families intimately, checking on them weekly and helping them find the services and resources they need. They are always available to help families navigate through these sometimes-complex situations.
The core services of Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program include case management, resource management, care coordination, home health aide, alternative therapies, and more, with the primary goal of helping service members and their families rebuild a normal routine, plan for and succeed in the long-term, independently. But the program is always there as a safety net if new challenges arise.
Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program does not have a protocol to work with service members and their families when they transition home from a clinical facility, but they do have a highly successful formula for independent programing that caters to the individual needs of their clients whether those needs arise from the vet’s neurological trauma or from emotional or psychological challenges that result from that trauma.
Wounded Warrior Project wants vets to return home and thrive in their communities. With that in mind, WWP offers a continuum of supports and services for vets to address mental health, brain health, and physical health well-being. Acting collaboratively, WWP staff work to find the best program or combination of programs to fit an individual’s needs.
Emory Healthcare Veterans Program’s two-week PTDS Treatment intensive for post-9.11 vets is a convenient and effective means for people to get needed treatment for PTSD, TBI, depression, chronic pain, and substance abuse from home. The results are the same whether accessing care via telehealth or on site.
Last month, I marked a significant milestone in my life as I celebrated 30 years of sobriety. And, in what amounts to a “whoever would have thought it,” moment, being a sober person in recovery has made my brain injury journey easier. In fact, it literally saved my life.