Ross Zafonte, DO: The Crucial Role of Family in Those Affected by TBI and/or PTSD

A family member or support person at home plays a key role as part of the treatment plan for a service member or veteran. An adjunct in their loved one’s care, the family member collaborates with the team of providers to help their loved one follow through with appointments, medications, and health regimens. They often serve as the more impartial eyes and ears to their loved one’s challenges and improvements.

Dr. Ross Zafonte is the Chief of Traumatic Brain Injury for Home Base, part of the Wounded Warrior Project's Warrior Care Network.

For information about treatments for brain injury please visit The Treatment Hub.

Families are so critically involved with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. If we really think about it, they bear much of the burden of nightmares, the burden of people being irritable, the burden of behavioral problems, the burden of irritability and agitation, the burden of people with memory disorder, the burden of people with pain. And so, they need to be key constructs and collaborators in how you do the plan, how you determine success, how you set those goals. And they can be important reminders and important adjuvants in care. Let’s say, for example, we know that someone needs to either take their medicine or show up for therapy or be on a particular diet or intervention. Having a support person at home is really important. And then we know very much so, that when military service members and, frankly, maybe all of us involve someone else key in their life, we often get much more valid responses about what’s really going on. How much improvement they’re really making and how much things are changing and what is a functional home world. Can they go to the food store, can they get dressed, can they survive on their own, are they happier, are they enjoying time with their children? Those are just examples of the functional aspects of what we’re looking for. For those with brain injury and PTSD, we very much try to involve family members in their care plan. Now some people don't want that, and of course that needs to be respected, if it’s not possible. But for those who want to create an active partnership, it’s absolutely a way to move forward. The Home Base program also has a series of programs that really help address issues for families, families of the fallen, as well as families of active and former military service members. How do we really try to help them deal with all that they’re having to experience? BrainLine is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Posted on BrainLine October 5, 2021. Reviewed October 5, 2021.

About the author: Ross D. Zafonte, DO

Dr. Ross Zafonte is the Clinical and Research Leader for Traumatic Brain Injury at the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program. He is the Earle P. and Ida S. Charlton Chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, vice president of Medical Affairs at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at MGH.

Headshot of Dr. Ross D. Zafonte