The TBI Family Podcast

For Caregivers

Launched in November 2016, this series is for caregivers of service members and veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Each episode offers information, resources and tips for caregivers and shares caregiver stories. You can listen to The TBI Family episodes or download them via SoundCloud, iTunes or Google Play.

This episode focuses on the first days after becoming a caregiver to a family member or friend with TBI. Guest speakers Dr. Joel Scholten, national director of physical medicine and rehabilitation for the Veterans Health Administration, and Ms. Kathy Helmick, DVBIC deputy director, discuss what caregivers should know about TBI. Ms. Emery Popoloski of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation shares her personal story of how she came to terms with her role as caregiver for her husband. Also highlighted are free training options for caregivers.

In the second episode, we talk about balance problems after TBI and how caregivers can support providers with treatment efforts. We also explore an ancient mindfulness technique that helps people cope with the challenges of caregiving. Guest speakers include Dr. Katie Stout, director of clinical affairs for DVBIC, and Jill Bormann, a nurse researcher with the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

In this episode we talk about respite care, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) service that pays for a caretaker to come to a veteran’s home, or for a veteran to go to a care facility, to temporarily relieve their caregiver from caretaking responsibilities. Guest speaker Dayna Cooper, director of Home and Community Care at the VA, discusses how caregivers and veterans can benefit from this program. We also chat with Danny O’Neel, an Army veteran who cares for his fellow veterans.

In this episode we are in Baltimore, Maryland, to check out the Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) Medical Foster Home Program. The program helps keep veterans out of nursing homes by finding them a place to receive care in a private home. We also visit a local grocery store to talk about one method of cognitive rehabilitation — a group of practices designed to repair or mitigate cognitive deficits caused by brain injuries. Guest speakers include Nicole Trimble, coordinator of Maryland’s Medical Foster Home Program; Dayna Cooper, director of Home and Community Care at the VA; Joanne Anderson-West, medical foster home provider; Ralph Stepney, veteran; Dr. Inbal Eshel, DVBIC senior principle science and speech-language pathologist; and Linda Picon, VA liaison to DVBIC and speech-language pathologist.

This episode focuses on a single topic: substance use, including drugs and alcohol, and TBI. Deborah Bailin with DVBIC speaks with Lars Hungerford and Ezra Aune about risk factors for substance abuse, effects of substance use on TBI recovery, what caregivers can do to help, and related research. Hungerford and Aune are DVBIC experts from Naval Medical Center San Diego. Capt. Daniel Hines, an Army nurse, shares a story about how a timely intervention helped prevent his friend from spiraling out of control because of his TBI and struggles with substance use.

Since 2012, research staff from DVBIC and National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, have been conducting a study, titled “Health Related Quality of Life in Caregivers of Service Members with Military Related Traumatic Brain Injury.” This 15-year study is investigating the effects of caregiving on the caregivers and families of service members and veterans with a TBI. In this episode, we hear from those leading the caregiver study about the reasons for the study and what they have learned so far about the experiences of caregivers. We also highlight how caregivers and others can show their support during Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Learn more about the “Health Related Quality of Life in Caregivers of Service Members with Military Related Traumatic Brain Injury” study and how someone can participate by calling 855-821-1469 or sending an email.

In this episode, we focus on a single subject — how making art can help caregivers deal with the stress of caregiving. We discuss the recent history of arts programs for veterans and service members, talk with leaders of organizations who make those programs possible and learn how these programs are expanding to include caregivers and family members. Throughout the episode we hear from participants about their experiences in these programs.

In this episode we stop by Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, discuss driving after a traumatic brain injury and chat with singer/songwriter and advocate Cristabelle Braden on music, positivity and the importance of caregivers to those who, like her, have sustained a serious traumatic brain injury. 

In this episode, we talk to Meg Kabat, director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Program, about the VA's Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. Kabat explains why benefit revocations have been put on hold and the VA's efforts to make sure it's doing right by veteran caregivers. Also, we discuss how to talk to kids about TBI.

In this final episode of the first season, the TBI Family talks to Dr. Lillian Stevens of Richmond's Hunter Holmes McGuire Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who studied relationship stability after a TBI. We also spoke to two caregivers about the podcast itself.

In the first episode of season two, we talk to Lee Woodruff, who, with her husband Bob, an ABC news anchor and reporter wounded in Iraq, founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation, designed to help veterans and their caregivers. We also talk to TBI Champion Jasmin Blair.

The relationship between caregivers and health care providers can be one of teamwork, partnership and, sometimes, frustration. In this episode, we look at that relationship from both sides, talking to caregivers and providers.

Sleep issues are one of the most common problems experienced by those who've sustained TBIs. In this episode, we talk about recent research into sleep issues and traumatic brain injury and point listeners toward resources to help them improve their sleep. We also look at the recent interest in how TBI can affect women differently and groups that aim to get women information about how to prevent and deal with TBI.

Sustaining a traumatic brain injury or being the caregiver of someone who has can be disorienting. It can hard to find your way out of problems or know when to seek help. Two teams are trying to create guides to point caregivers and care recipients in useful directions. In this podcast, we talk about those efforts.

For the person dealing with the symptoms of traumatic brain injury, some daily tasks can be frustrating, leading to irritability and anger, which can sometimes be directed at loved ones. In this episode, we speak to two experts about where those feelings of irritability and anger come from; what can be done about them; and knowing where to set limits.