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J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2002 Jun;24(4):434-47.

Caregiver burden during the year following severe traumatic brain injury.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.


Fifty-two primary caregivers of people with a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) were assessed at 6-months and 1-year postinjury. Caregiver appraisal of the person with TBI's physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioural, and social functioning was assessed. Caregiver psychosocial functioning and levels of subjective and objective burden were also assessed. Some aspects of the difficulties reported for the people with TBI remained stable, while others increased in frequency, over time. At 6-months postinjury, approximately one third of caregivers reported clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression, and poor social adjustment. By 1-year postinjury, the prevalence of anxiety and depression remained the same, although only one-quarter continued to report poor social adjustment. There was some evidence of adaptation by caregivers, as the frequency with which various types of objective burden were reported remained stable, while the distress caused by these decreased in the first year postinjury. It appears that the impact on caregivers of physical impairment is comparatively short-lived and that caregivers learn some practical ways to manage the behavioural problems of the people with TBI. Despite this, over time the person with TBI's behavioural and cognitive problems begins to play a larger role in the level of distress experienced by the caregiver. However, it is the person with TBI's social isolation that has a stable and consistent role in the experience of subjective burden for primary caregivers in the first year postinjury.

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