Katherine Judge, associate professor of psychology at Cleveland State University, is partnering with the Veterans Health Administration to implement and test a non-pharmacological, psychosocial intervention for individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their family caregivers.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blunt force trauma to the head that causes severe mental and physical impairment including dementia-like symptoms, affects 2 to 4 million people annually and is the leading cause of death and disability in war zones. Given the number of veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are suffering from TBI, it has come to be referred to as the signature injury of these conflicts.
While there is no cure for TBI, Judge’s novel therapeutic approach is now being tested to greatly improve a wide range of outcomes as well as quality of life for individuals suffering from this injury. The initiative seeks to address common psychological symptoms associated with both TBI patients and their caregivers, including embarrassment, isolation and depression, while also providing caregivers with every day, counseling-based tools and exercises that can assist patients in improving cognitive function and memory.
“A key factor in the overall medical health of TBI patients is the community supporting them, particularly their primary caregivers,” Judge says. “By addressing the needs of both the individual with TBI and their caregiver we can improve their overall functioning, decrease care-related psychological side effects and strengthen the overall quality of life for patients and caregivers.”
The project will initially be piloted with several Veterans’ Administration Hospitals with the hope of ultimately creating best practice models that can be utilized as part of overall treatment for TBI nationally and internationally. The initiative is based on a long term rehabilitation research initiative, called Acquiring New Skills While Enhancing Remaining Strengths (ANSWERS), which Judge initially developed and implemented with dementia patients and their family caregivers in the Greater Northeast Ohio area.
“There are many similarities between the symptoms experienced by dementia patients and those who have suffered a TBI and similar side effects for their respective caregivers as well,” Judge adds. “By utilizing therapies that have been proven to work with dementia patients we ultimately hope to enhance treatment and overall health for those suffering from TBI as well as their families.”
Judge is collaborating with Virginia Daggett, a nurse researcher, at the VA Center for Applied Systems Engineering and Research & Development at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. The project is funded through the VA’s Health Services Research and Development Nursing Research Initiative program and will include work with TBI patients at VA medical centers in Indianapolis and Houston.