The Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a $1.3 million grant to researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to assist caregivers of veterans who are living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and dementia.
Linda Nichols, PhD, FGSA, FSfAA, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Heath Science Center and co-director of the Caregiver Center at the Memphis VA Medical Center, is co-principal investigator of the study. Jennifer Martindale-Adams, EdD, associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and co-director of the VA Caregiver Center, is a co-investigator. Drs. Martindale-Adams and Nichols also co-direct the Caregiver Center at UTHSC.
Paul Perrin, PhD, associate professor and director of the Health Psychology Doctoral Program at VCU, also a co-principal investigator of the study, and Ronald Seel, PhD, professor and executive director of the Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering at VCU, is a co-investigator. “This team provides the needed expertise to make a difference for caregivers,” Dr. Nichols said.
The research study, Supporting Caregivers of Veterans with TBI and Alzheimer’s Dementia/Mixed Dementia: The REACH Hope Behavioral Intervention, is a three-year randomized clinical trial to evaluate a behavioral intervention for caregivers of veterans with TBI and Alzheimer’s dementia or mixed dementia (AD/MD) to reduce caregiver depression, anxiety and burden, and improve veterans’ health management and safety.
The REACH Hope study will combine two behavioral interventions – REACH VA (Resources for Enhancing All Caregivers Health in the VA), a program which helps veteran caregivers take better care of themselves and their loved ones by providing them with important information in the challenging areas of caregiving, and the DOD’s Virtual Hope Box mobile app – to provide care for caregivers one-on-one in real time and as needed. The study, a four-session behavioral evidence-based VA national intervention for caregivers, uses education and skills building (problem-solving, stress management, cognitive reframing) to address caregiver safety, emotional and physical well-being, social support, and manage veterans’ diagnosis-related concerns. A program coach works with each caregiver.
The Virtual Hope Box, designed to support behavioral health and to facilitate adaptive coping and emotion regulation for military personnel, consists of supportive audio, video, pictures, games, mindfulness exercises, positive messages and activity planning, inspirational quotes, coping statements, and other tools that can be personalized by the user and the clinician. For REACH Hope, as the caregiver and program coach work on strategies, these will be integrated into the Hope Box for the caregiver to use as needed between and after sessions.
Dr. Perrin said, “We are grateful to the DOD for providing us the opportunity to address this critical and growing problem.” Dr. Martindale-Adams added, “We are excited to merge these two award-winning interventions.”