Study Shows Veterans’ Caregivers Vulnerable to Health Issues

woman looking forlornBetween 10% and 20% of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI), with more than 240,000 receiving a TBI diagnosis since 2000. Brain injuries can fundamentally change a person’s personality, and these injuries may demand long-term medical and psychological care. It’s no surprise that caring for a loved one with a brain injury can be stressful, but a new study published in Biological Research for Nursing suggests that the stress can be severe enough to cause health problems.

The Challenges of Caring for Injured Veterans

The study looked at a small sample of 40 veterans and the spouses or partners who care for them. Researchers asked the caregivers about their levels of stress, grief, and depression. They also tested each participant’s saliva for tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) each morning. TNF-alpha is a protein associated with chronic inflammation and heart disease.

Caregivers reported levels of grief commonly seen among people whose loved ones have died. Many caregivers also reported high levels of anger. Though grief was not correlated with an increase in TNF-alpha, blame and anger were. Researchers did not test for heart disease or inflammation, but the presence of TNF-alpha does suggest that caregivers are at increased risk for experiencing these serious health conditions.

Caregivers need and deserve help, too, and this study suggests that caregivers who don’t get the help they need may experience serious health issues. The GI Rights Hotline can help you get access to services and ensure that your rights are protected. The Veterans Crisis Line also offers assistance to military veterans and their families, with assistance available via phone, text, or online chat.

If you’re struggling to care for a veteran and need help, therapy can prove invaluable. GoodTherapy.org can help you find the right therapist for your needs.

References:

  1. Preidt, R. (2015, February 9). Loved Ones Caring for Brain-Injured Veterans May Face Health Risks. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2015/02/09/loved-ones-caring-for-brain-injured-veterans-may-face-health-risks
  2. TBI statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.braintrauma.org/tbi-faqs/tbi-statistics/

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  • Alston

    Alston

    February 12th, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    This is generally the case with caregivers across the board.

    It is difficult to help take care of someone who has going through the horrors that can be a part of being a veteran, because not only are you dealing with the physical elements of the injury that are so visible but you could also be dealing with the emotional and mental issues that lie beneath the surface and that we know even less about.

    Add this to the other responsibilities that this person likely has in their life and that can make for a stew of messed up-ness all the way around.

  • Bruno

    Bruno

    February 12th, 2015 at 4:00 PM

    I know that there are those who find comfort in giving this comfort to others but look at the toll that it has on their own health. That can be scary knowing just how much you are actually giving up to lend aid to another person in need.

  • callandra

    callandra

    February 13th, 2015 at 2:05 PM

    and we are talking physical as well as mental ailments right?

  • Allie

    Allie

    February 16th, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    As in so many other caregiver situations, those who are doing all of the heavy lifting are the ones who face the brunt of the pain. I know that the person for whom they are caring, don’t get me wrong, they have gone through alot of crappy things and do not deserve the pain that they are feeling. But the ones who care for them day in and day out? They are doing a great deal of work too and I can almost promise you that the compensation for what they do is not that much. Add to this the fact that they are facing a lot of pain in their own lives as a result and it sort of makes you wonder how so many of them continue to do what they do on a daily basis.

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