Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Caregiver Guide Supports Service Members and Veterans with TBI

Image of Military family posing for a picture. Caregivers play a vital role for TBI patient recovery (Photo by: Army Lt. Col. John Hall, 173rd Airborne Brigade)

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.
Military personnel participating in a training exercise Some service members with TBI can experience vision problems. Navy Cmdr. Matthew Lawrence, a physician deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, checks Army Sgt. Jeremy Woodrow’s responsiveness during a mass casualty training exercise at Erbil Air Base in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Jan. 16, 2020. (Photo by: Army Spc. Angel Ruszkiewicz)

"The best thing about the caregiver guide is that it is written for caregivers. It has practical tips. You might be experiencing this, [so] try this. These practical tips from people that you know have already gone through it really, really helps," said Melissa Comeau, whose husband Stephen, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, sustained the first of his multiple TBIs around 2004, and who has PTSD, as well.

Comeau also reviewed the guide and liked the content provided on the relationship between TBI and PTSD. "It helped me reach out to the correct type of providers and ask for the correct type of treatment and also ask the right kind of questions to get my husband on a path to the best recovery he could have," she said.

In addition to being interactive and available on desktop and mobile devices, the guide is shorter - only 154 pages.

Both the original and current guides relied on expertise from across the Department of Defense. Congressionally mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007, the first guide involved collaboration among TBI experts, survivors, and experienced caregivers of service members and veterans with TBIs. Similarly, the new version drew on input from TBICoE, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, the Psychological Health Center of Excellence, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Comeau remains hopeful about how she and her husband will continue to manage his TBI.

"Resources like the Caregiver Guide are an important tool for providers to offer to the caregivers of their patients who are recovering from a TBI," said Navy Capt. Scott Pyne, a physician and the TBICoE division chief. "Each caregiver can use the guide to meet their own unique needs, which can be wide ranging. This is the beauty of the guide. Whether it's using the resource section to lookup local caregiver groups or someone that they can physically connect with, or using the glossary to remind them of the jargon that was used during a medical appointment. The guide can empower the caregiver in their role supporting someone close to them who has been diagnosed with a TBI. It also can help improve the providers' relationship with their patients by arming them and their caregivers with the information needed to support their recovery."

The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence is a congressionally mandated collaboration of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to promote state-of-the-science care from point-of-injury to reintegration for service members, veterans, and their families to prevent and mitigate the consequences of mild to severe traumatic brain injury. The center is a division of the Defense Health Agency Research and Development Directorate.

For more information on the Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide for Caregivers of Service Members and Veterans and other TBICoE programs, visit: health.mil/TBICoE.

You also may be interested in...

Video
Mar 28, 2024

Headaches and TBI: A Journey of Treatment Over Time

Headaches and TBI: A Journey of Treatment Over Time

Dr. Joanne Gold, a pharmacist and neuroscience clinician with TBICoE, and experts from the National Museum of Health and Medicine discuss the treatment of headaches, past and present. Their conversation explores the museum's collections related to TBI and headache treatment, discusses ways to improve headache treatment, and highlights relevant TBICoE ...

Video
Jan 31, 2024

Be a Brain Warrior: Protect. Treat. Optimize.

Be a Brain Warrior: Protect. Treat. Optimize.

The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence is championing the theme 'Be a Brain Warrior: Protect, Treat, Optimize' during Brain Injury Awareness Month. The theme showcases the idea that service members, veterans, healthcare providers, caregivers, family members, and advocates can be warriors for brain health. Visit health.mil/BIAMonth to learn more.

Video
Jan 29, 2024

TBI Testimonials: Micah Norgard

TBI Testimonials: Micah Norgard

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Micah Norgard spent 12 years as an infantryman, serving in a variety of roles and locations. But his biggest battle was in recognizing the cumulative effects of 21 potentially concussive event exposures and multiple undiagnosed traumatic brain injuries. In this video, Norgard discusses how after he left the military, he ...

Video
Jan 29, 2024

TBI Testimonials: Roxana Delgado & Victor Medina

TBI Testimonials: Roxana Delgado & Victor Medina

While he was deployed, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Medina was in a vehicle that was hit by an explosive device. He sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that severely impaired some of his physical functions and ability to speak. Medina’s wife, Roxana Delgado, continued her pursuit of a Ph.D. in health sciences and became his caregiver. As ...

Video
Jan 29, 2024

TBI Testimonials: Dalton Mask

TBI Testimonials: Dalton Mask

Dalton was on his way to his biggest challenge in his military career: Army Ranger School. He had been training for several months, running 20 miles per week, and working out three times a day. As he was setting up a TV in his room, he had a seizure and fell, hitting his head on the side of his bed — resulting in a concussion, or a mild traumatic ...

Video
Jan 29, 2024

TBI Testimonials: Beth King

TBI Testimonials: Beth King

Army veteran Beth King was on a routine mission when her helicopter was struck by an RPG, ultimately resulting in a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In this video, Beth shares the impact of her TBI and how she discovered her new passion along the way. Visit health.mil/brainhealth to learn about resources to prevent, recognize and recover from brain ...

Video
Jan 24, 2024

From Patient to Provider: One Sailor's Brain Health Journey

From Patient to Provider: One Sailor's Brain Health Journey

Timothy Bleigh clearly recalls when the bomb went off. The Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) tactical vehicle he was in with five Marines flipped several times through the air before it landed partly on its roof. He was near the end of his first tour in Afghanistan, assigned to a Marine personal security detachment, when the improvised explosive ...

Video
Jan 19, 2024

Who is TBICoE?

Who is TBICoE?

The U.S. Congress established TBICoE in 1992 in response to the need to treat service members with TBI from the first Gulf War. TBICoE assists military medical providers in delivering effective and reliable care, crucial for combat readiness. Learn more about their history, mission, and the critical importance they place on protecting, treating, and ...

Video
Jan 19, 2024

What Happens To The Brain After A TBI?

What Happens To The Brian After A TBI?

What Happens to the Brain After a TBI? This video explores the effects of concussion on a warfighter's brain, commonly caused by falls, sports, or car accidents. It emphasizes the importance of prevention through protective measures like helmets, seatbelts, and safe training practices, which are essential for maintaining brain health.

Video
Jan 19, 2024

What Steps Should A Military Leader Take After A Potentially Concussive Event?

What Steps Should A Military Leader Take After A Potentially Concussive Event?

Military leadership has a responsibility to promote warfighter brain health among service members. That means prompt reporting of potentially concussive events and ensuring service members with TBI get medical attention. This video covers the steps leaders should take after a potential concussion.

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 05, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery