Brain Injury Caregivers May Face Health Risks

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Being a caregiver for a brain injury victim is a hard job. Traumatic brain injuries can affect your loved one’s ability to think, move, and work, and can interfere with their ability to relate to you emotionally. A new study stresses the importance of taking care of yourself even while being a caregiver to a brain injury survivor.

The study by Karen Saban, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago, examined the health of 40 wives or partners caring for veterans with traumatic brain injuries. The caregivers were questioned about their physical and emotional health, as well as their levels of grief, stress, anger, and depression.

When caring for a loved one with traumatic brain injury, many spouses and family members report feeling grief as though the person had already died. Others blame themselves or are angry about the injury. Some can become depressed.

Each morning test subjects provided saliva that was tested for a substance labeled TNF-alpha. The presence of this substance is associated with inflammation and chronic conditions like heart disease. Caregivers who primarily expressed grief had normal levels of TNF-alpha. In caregivers who expressed high levels of blame and anger, the levels were elevated. But this elevation does not mean that feelings of blame or anger necessarily cause heart disease or other inflammation-related conditions.

According to Dr. Saban,

“This research gives us a better understanding of the relationship between blame, anger, grief and inflammation. This may assist clinicians in identifying caregivers who are at greatest risk for developing inflammatory-related health problems and managing them appropriately.”

What the study does show is the importance for families and friends of a traumatic brain injury victims to provide support to their primary caregivers. When someone has suffered a moderate or severe brain injury it can be a full-time job to take care of him or her. This can be very stressful and can cause physical and psychological strain, especially over long periods of time.

Caregivers need the help of other family and friends to give respite care and let them take breaks, as well as to provide someone to talk to. Family support can also help detect early signs of depression and stress before they can cause harm to the caregiver. If you know someone who is a caregiver to a brain injury patient, consider paying him or her a visit or offering to take over for a little while. It could help keep them healthy.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team can help the families of brain injury victims get the benefits they need to take care of their loved ones. If you or someone you know is caring for the victim of an automobile accident resulting in brain injury, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.