BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

A Caregiver’s Wish for 2023

As a member of the Brain injury Alliance Veterans Services team, I have been on the front lines advocating for Arizona’s military caregivers, connecting them with the resources, education, and support they need to make family life run a bit smoother. It’s been an honor to help those whose selfless acts of love and caring improve our veterans’ lives. The Brain Injury Alliance’s investment in community resources and family caregivers cannot be understated.

The challenges and joys of family caregiving is something I have personal experience with as well. My husband Dave sustained a brain injury in 2003 while deployed in Iraq.

A Caregiver’s Wish for 2023

As a member of the Brain injury Alliance Veterans Services team, I have been on the front lines advocating for Arizona’s military caregivers, connecting them with the resources, education, and support they need to make family life run a bit smoother. It’s been an honor to help those whose selfless acts of love and caring improve our veterans’ lives. The Brain Injury Alliance’s investment in community resources and family caregivers cannot be understated.

The challenges and joys of family caregiving is something I have personal experience with as well. My husband Dave sustained a brain injury in 2003 while deployed in Iraq.

The holidays are now upon us and they are certainly a time of hope and togetherness that many anticipate all year. While the last few years have been especially challenging, there are many reasons to look forward to 2023. When I think about my family’s journey over the last twenty years and the military families I have worked with at the Brain Injury Alliance, I have some clear things on my wish list for next year.

In fact, you could say my New Year’s wish for caregivers is for medical providers everywhere to understand the power of teaming with family caregivers to provide the best possible healthcare outcomes for survivors of brain injury.

I was reminded of this wish last week when my husband came down with a serious case of COVID. Because he has underlying medical conditions, we immediately visited an urgent care center to get him Paxlovid, the antiviral medication designed to lower at-risk patients’ odds of being hospitalized. Since Dave looks “just fine” but lives with the cognitive challenges of a brain injury, I, as his caregiver, am responsible for facilitating the process for all involved in healthcare appointments.

At the urgent care center, we were told to wait in the crowded waiting room for 30 minutes. However, because of his brain injury, Dave often gets overwhelmed in rooms like this and proceeded to wait in the car just outside the front door. This common adaption for survivors can ensure a necessary medical appointment gets off to a strong start.

The medical tech eventually called him, and I informed them that he would be right there. Dave exited the car and entered the facility within 30 seconds of his name being called, but the medical tech slammed the door in my face, announcing it was unacceptable for Dave not to have been in the waiting room. A few tense moments passed, and the tech finally relented.

During the intake interview, the tech continued to be aggravated whenever I helped Dave answer questions. As his caregiver, it’s my responsibility to ensure medical providers receive accurate information since his brain injury often prevents him from formulating words and accessing memory. Without my help he becomes overwhelmed and falls back with the answer of, “I’m fine,” leaving his medical concerns unaddressed as the medical staff shuffle off to the next patient.

I explained to the tech I was there to make everyone’s job easier – from the receptionist to the doctor. I know Dave’s medical history, medication, diagnoses, and current symptoms, and can communicate these precisely to all involved. Without my assistance, progress is hampered for my husband as well as the medical staff.

Compounding the situation, this facility is contracted with the Veterans Administration (VA) and should have been able to treat Dave with a greater understanding of brain injury challenges. As we look toward 2023, it has been 20 years since Dave and many fellow Marines sustained a service-connected brain injury. It’s time for medical providers to be more culturally competent with veteran culture, the way a brain injury can hamper communication of vital medical information, and the crucial role of the family caregiver.

To all the caregivers out there, 2023 is going to be our year. Make sure you have signed up for updates, social opportunities, and educational sessions with the Brain Injury Alliance if you care for someone with an acquired brain injury such as stroke, tumor, aneurism, TBIs, concussion, Long-COVID, PTSD, or other brain health concerns. Our veterans services team is here for the whole family. SIGN-UP HERE

I would urge professionals to recognize that brain injury is complicated and worthy of time spent on continuing education. Know that including the caregiver leads to better health outcomes for the veteran, while also making providers’ jobs much easier. You can connect with The Campaign for Inclusive Care for short training modules that teach how to identify a patient’s caregiver and include them on the care team. Professionals can also earn 2 hours of Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

Psych Armor is another great resource. Short 15-minute modules are designed for medical providers to better understand military culture, veterans, and the role of caregivers. CEU credits are available for Healthcare and Human Resource professionals.

Let’s work together for healthier and happier outcomes for members of the brain injury community—survivors and family caregivers alike!

Anne Adkinson is the military caregiver advocate for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. 
You can reach out at 888-500-9165 or info@biaaz.org.

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts virtual and in-person support groups for survivors and families
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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