BACKGROUND: Significant others of older persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be more likely to face increased caregiving responsibilities, leading to increased relationship challenges. Relatively little is known about this cohort. The study aimed to describe the impact of experiencing a mild/moderate TBI on the older adult as well as the significant other in the year post injury. DESIGN AND METHODS: This is a multiple-case study using data from a larger parent study. Qualitative content analysis of interviews conducted at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months post injury with 3 dyads was performed (24 interviews) and included cross-case and cross-time comparisons. RESULTS: Dyads that included persons 65 years and older with a mild-moderate TBI and their significant others were enrolled (N = 3/6 individuals). The identified themes were struggling to accept limitations and acceptance, gratitude, fear and concern, frustration/anger/guilt/resentment, broader social support, emotional coping, and the presence or absence of broader social support. CONCLUSIONS: Feelings of hope, gratitude, and acceptance serve as vital ways for couples to continue toward a path of recovery and healing. Lack of social support was a stressor, creating a barrier to recovery. Significant others tended to focus on others versus self-care needs. Nurses should integrate social support and self-care into the assessment of the spousal dyad after TBI. These findings can also inform the development of support groups and case management models for both patients after TBI and their significant others.
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