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He Looks Normal But … Challenges of Family Caregivers of Veterans Diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury

Saban, Karen L. PhD, RN, APRN, CNRN, FAHA1,2; Hogan, Nancy S. PhD, RN, FAAN2; Hogan, Timothy P. PhD3,4; Pape, Theresa Louise-Bender DrPH, MA, CCC-SLP/L1,5

doi: 10.1002/rnj.182
Continuing Education

Purpose: To describe the experience of family caregivers providing care to veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Design/Methods: Using a qualitative design, interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of women caregivers. Data were analyzed using content analysis procedures.

Findings: Findings resulted in the key concept phrased by participants as “He looks normal but.” This phrase conceptualizes the participants' description of their experience caring for a brain injured veteran who could appear normal to others but the caregiver's description revealed substantial cognitive, social, and emotional deficits. Concepts include (a) Becoming aware of his disabilities, (b) Observing his troubling symptoms, (c) Dealing with his memory loss, (d) Being fearful of his anger, (e) Sensing his loneliness, (f) Acknowledging the effects on the children, and (g) Managing the best I can.

Conclusions/Clinical Relevance: A better understanding of the needs of caregivers of veterans with TBI may allow clinicians to better support caregivers.

1 Center of Innovation for Complex Chronic Healthcare, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital, Hines, IL, USA

2 Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Loyola University Chicago, Maywood, IL, USA

3 The Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital, Bedford, MA, USA

4 University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA

5 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA

Accepted 2 September 2014


Karen L. Saban, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Loyola University Chicago, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood, IL 60153.


Grant sponsor: Edward Hines VA Hospital; Grant Number: LIP #42-104; Grant sponsor: Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Service Research and Development (HSR&D) Postdoctoral Fellowship; Grant Number: TPN-42-001.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

© 2015 Association of Rehabilitation Nurses.
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