A Free, Family Caregiver Online Workshop to Ease Stress

Photo courtesy of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Photo courtesy of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Stress management and dealing with difficult emotions are some of the skills being taught in the free, online workshop for family members caring for veterans.

It’s called Building Better Caregivers™ and it’s a free six-week online workshop for family caregivers of Veterans.

Developed by Standford University, the online workshop is focused on caregivers handling veterans with dementia, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious illness or injuries.

Participants are asked to log on a couple times a week to review lessons, access tools and share with other caregivers. Trademarked as “Building Better Caregivers, the workshop was created by Stanford University to help reduce caregiver depression and stress.

You can learn more about the online workshop and how to register by talking to a local Caregiver Support Coordinator. To find your local support coordinator, enter your zip code at www.caregiver.va.gov.

You can locate your Caregiver Support Coordinator by visiting http://www.caregiver.va.gov and entering your ZIP code in the ZIP code finder. – See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/August/Are-You-a-Caregiver-for-a-Veteran.asp#sthash.ankmWxaO.dpuf

It’s called Building Better Caregivers™ and it’s a free six-week online workshop for family caregivers of Veterans.

If you are taking care of a Veteran, this workshop will help you learn a variety of skills like time and stress management, healthy eating, exercise and dealing with difficult emotions.

Participants log on two to three times each week to review lessons, exchange ideas with other caregivers and access tools to make caregiving easier. The program, developed at Stanford University, has been recognized for its ability to reduce caregiver stress, depression and increase their overall well-being.

This comprehensive online workshop addresses specific needs of caregivers who care for Veterans with dementia, memory problems, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other serious injury or illness.

– See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/August/Are-You-a-Caregiver-for-a-Veteran.asp#sthash.ankmWxaO.dpuf

It’s called Building Better Caregivers™ and it’s a free six-week online workshop for family caregivers of Veterans.

If you are taking care of a Veteran, this workshop will help you learn a variety of skills like time and stress management, healthy eating, exercise and dealing with difficult emotions.

Participants log on two to three times each week to review lessons, exchange ideas with other caregivers and access tools to make caregiving easier. The program, developed at Stanford University, has been recognized for its ability to reduce caregiver stress, depression and increase their overall well-being.

This comprehensive online workshop addresses specific needs of caregivers who care for Veterans with dementia, memory problems, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other serious injury or illness.

– See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/August/Are-You-a-Caregiver-for-a-Veteran.asp#sthash.ankmWxaO.dpuf

It’s called Building Better Caregivers™ and it’s a free six-week online workshop for family caregivers of Veterans.

If you are taking care of a Veteran, this workshop will help you learn a variety of skills like time and stress management, healthy eating, exercise and dealing with difficult emotions.

Participants log on two to three times each week to review lessons, exchange ideas with other caregivers and access tools to make caregiving easier. The program, developed at Stanford University, has been recognized for its ability to reduce caregiver stress, depression and increase their overall well-being.

This comprehensive online workshop addresses specific needs of caregivers who care for Veterans with dementia, memory problems, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any other serious injury or illness.

– See more at: http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/2013/August/Are-You-a-Caregiver-for-a-Veteran.asp#sthash.ankmWxaO.dpuf

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Obama: VA Disability Claims Backlog Is Shrinking

Veterans take photos of President Barack Obama as he works a ropeline after speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, August 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Veterans take photos of President Barack Obama as he works a ropeline after speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, August 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama acknowledged the obvious when addressing the Disabled American Veterans gathering Saturday in Orlando. He noted that there’s still a backlog of benefits claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, it’s just under 500,000 claims according to the Associated Press. And that’s smaller than the 611,000 claims backlog in March.

“Today I can report that we are not where we need to be, but we are making progress,” Obama said. “So after years when the backlog kept growing, finally the backlog is shrinking.”

A claim is considered “backlogged” if it’s been in the system for four months.

The president also unveiled a  national plan for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Traumatic Brain Injury Military First: A Tissue Repository

Image courtesy of the VA Research on PTSD.

Image courtesy of the VA Research on PTSD.

The military brain tissue bank was established with the hope that scientists will learn more about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) of service members returning from combat.

After more than a decade or war, service members exposed to blasts “are coming home with troubling, persistent problems and we don’t know the nature of this, whether it’s related to psychiatric responses from engagement in warfare or related to actual damage to the brain, as seen in football players,” said Dr. Daniel Perl, a neuropathologist and director of the brain tissue repository, stated in a press release. “We hope to address these findings and develop approaches to detecting accumulated tau in the living individual as a means of diagnosing CTE during life – and, ultimately, create better therapies or ways to prevent the injury in the first place.”

The Department of Defense established the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine Brain Tissue Repository for Traumatic Brain Injury at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Bethesda, Md. to advance the understanding and treatment of TBI in service members. 

TBI Questions to be Answered

  • Does TBI lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – a neurodegenerative disorder that involves the progressive accumulation of the protein tau in nerve cells within certain regions of the brain? As the tau protein accumulates, it disturbs function and appears to lead to symptoms seen in affected patients such as boxers and, more recently, football players with multiple head trauma according to the DoD press release.
  • What does blast exposure do to the brain?
  • Do the different forms of brain injury experienced in the military lead to CTE?
  • What are effective ways to treat and prevent CTE?

You can get more information on donations to the brain tissue repository and their research by contacting the Repository team at CNRM-TBI@usuhs.edu or 855-366-8824.

4 Things Not to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury

An IED blast. Traumatic brain injuries are most often caused by powerful blasts from improvised explosive devices. A roadside bomb explodes and the concussive effect violently shakes the brain inside the skull.

An IED blast. Traumatic brain injuries are most often caused by powerful blasts from improvised explosive devices. A roadside bomb explodes and the concussive effect violently shakes the brain inside the skull.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of those “hidden wounds” that goes unnoticed by many. It’s also one of the signature wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

And while many times the wound is not visible, a brain injury comes with real side-effects that make it difficult for the injured persons.

A recent article on brainline.org written by Marie Rowland, PhD, EmpowermentAlly, details 9 Things NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury.

Rowland focuses her advice for the caregiver who, out of frustration and exhaustion, may say something to the brain injured person without realizing its impact. Here are Rowland’s top 4 Things NOT to Say:

1. You seem fine to me.

What does not show is the fatigue, depression, anxiety and pain that may accompany a brain injury. Something like a memory problem can be far more disabling than a physical wound like a limp.

2. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough (You’re lazy).

Lazy is not the same as apathy (lack of interest, motivation, or emotion). Apathy is a disorder and common after a brain injury. Apathy can often get in the way of rehabilitation and recovery, so it’s important to recognize and treat it. Do beware of problems that mimic apathy. Depression, fatigue, and chronic pain are common after a brain injury, and can look like (or be combined with) apathy.

3. You’re such a grump!

Irritability is one of the most common signs of a brain injury. Irritability could be the direct result of the brain injury, or a side effect of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders, or fatigue. Think of it as a biological grumpiness — it’s not as if your loved one can get some air and come back in a better mood. It can come and go without reason.

4. How many times do I have to tell you?

It’s frustrating to repeat yourself over and over, but almost everyone who has a brain injury will experience some memory problems. Instead of pointing out a deficit, try finding a solution. Make the task easier. Create a routine. Install a memo board in the kitchen. Also, remember that language isn’t always verbal. “I’ve already told you this” comes through loud and clear just by facial expression.

You can read all 9 Things NOT to Say HERE as well as learn other tips for living with, preventing and treating TBI at Brainline.org .

A Veteran’s Writing Earns a Journalism Award

Sgt. Thomas James Brennan from the First Battallion Eighth Marines Alpha (Photo courtesy of the Dart Center)

Sgt. Thomas James Brennan from the First Battallion Eighth Marines Alpha (Photo courtesy of the Dart Center)

It’s awards’ season and stories from a Marine recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffered while in Afghanistan and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have earned an Honorable Mention Dart Award from the Dart Center for Journalism.

Congratulations to writer Thomas James Brennan and James Dao, editor, for their work on the New York Times At War Blog:

Driving home, I am greeted by the sun as it sets across the farmland. I park my truck and then open the door to my house. Unbuttoning my uniform and slowly taking it off, the facade I wore all day fades away and relief washes over me. “Daddy, Daddy, you’re home!” my daughter yells. Most parents feel a sensation of happiness when greeted by their children. At this moment I am sad, empty. I give her a hug, but she feels far away. I lie on the couch, feeling lost.

There are 1.7 million Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and at least a third of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D., according to the National Center for P.T.S.D.

I am one of them.

The award noted that Brennan offers a uniquely personal and clear-eyed account of military culture and life as a veteran.

There is Recovery from TBI: One Army Sergeant’s Story

Army SGT Amber (Greer) Brooks in June 2011 three months after her accident. The medical team had to shave off her waist-length strawberry blonde hair to access her skull and save her life.

“The big shock to me was ‘Why am I not at work? Why can’t I go to work? I don’t understand why I can’t be around people I served with.’” Army SGT Amber Greer said. “It was a huge shock to me and something that was so foreign to me. I probably cried for about a week that I couldn’t go to work.”

That’s how Greer described her struggle to recover from multiple injuries including Traumatic Brain Injury after a traffic accident in 2011.

Thankful for her recovery and hoping to encourage others  traveling the same path, Greer (now Amber Greer Brooks) sent me this recent update:

By Amber (Greer) Brooks

Recovering from any major trauma is extremely difficult and takes a lot of time and patience. I spent from March 20, 2011-August 17, 2011 in the hospital only to end up in one of the Army’s Warrior Transition Units (WTU).

These WTU’s are designed for soldiers to go to heal and transition either back into the Army or back into civilian life. Fortunately for me, the Army decided that I met the standards of being returned to the Army.

Since then, I have married a wonderful man and will be taking a new job in the Army.

I am leaving for training in January 2013 to work for the Army as a contractor. I will be signing and negotiating government contracts on behalf of the Department of the Army.

I have also scored the highest on my Physical Fitness Test (APFT) ever (even before the auto accident) with a perfect 300! 46 push ups in 2 minutes, 80 sit ups in two minutes, and running two miles in 14 minutes 51 seconds.

Anyone can achieve anything, it just takes a lot of focus, motivation, and never giving up.

TBI: Testing Cognitive Skills of High School Football Players

Courtesy of SUNY Youth Sports Institute.

Before they put on their pads, before they strap on their  helmet, high school football players have to take a test in South Florida according to an Associated Press report.

The 20 minute computer test gives doctors a baseline to be able to determine if there’s cognitive impairment after a season of play. The testing begins Monday in Palm Beach County but similar testing has been ongoing for two years in Miami-Dade County.

And South Florida isn’t the only place high school football players are being monitored for concussions.

Purdue University released a two-year study in February in which impact sensors were embedded in helmets of an Indiana high school team.

Purdue found that players received 200 to nearly 1,900 hits to the head per season. Researchers also suggested that concussions are likely caused by repeated blows rather than a single jolt. Such evidence is why the Sports Legacy Institute and other advocates say a “hit count” is necessary to protect young, developing brains that are more susceptible to injury than those of adults.

Long term effects of blows to the head and concussions are a concern. Diana Brett, the mother of a 16-year-old who suffered numerous concussions and killed himself, is pushing for more more education and study of concussions in young athletes.

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