Traumatic Brain Injury – Memory Loss Help

Many returning injured service members are asking questions about TBI – about resultant memory loss and seeking practical tips for dealing with the life issues.  I recently received an email from a friend whose husband was severely injured in Iraq.  He is now showing one of the signs of TBI – memory loss.  She asked me if I had any suggestions for dealing with this.  I don’t have any experience in this area, but I bet some of you do.  Can you help her?

Hey Everyone-

Well I think it’s official! We are going nuts over here!

I think that over the past few weeks we have determined that DH must have suffered some sort of brain injury, and actually I am not joking. His memory has been really bad, and not the “guy bad” it’s been tough because on some points I am not sure if he wasn’t paying attention or whatever…you know how that goes with your husband, you just think he is being a guy. DH agrees that he has been having a hard time concentrating and remembering simple things. Well there is really no sense in having him evaluated for a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) because really it won’t matter, he has the highest rating in the VA, so it won’t do anything for us really, I think we are just going to work on his memory at home and work on taking notes on his computer so that he can remember things more easily. I think we might try and figure out how he can do voice notes somehow, I haven’t figured that out yet, his phone doesn’t do it, and when we are out he doesn’t use his PDA, but for a while when I would say “can you remind me later about….” He started calling my phone and leaving me voicemails. Like everything else we will figure it out in time.

Anyway, as always we are open to suggestions to anyone that has had memory issues. (just remember that he can’t push buttons…)

I’ve spent time trying to research this on the net.  Oddly enough, it’s not easy to find simple tips to help someone.  Keep in mind that her husband is a quadriplegic, which makes it more difficult for him. Everyone wants to feel in control of their life. So, do any of you have any helpful ideas I can pass on to her and others dealing with memory loss?  Please include ideas for service members who don’t need to consider voice activated alternatives?  I’ll pass on any tips you send! Thanks!

About the Author


GBear is a current SpouseBUZZ blogger.

  • Semper Fi Wife

    I’m just going to chime in with “what they said!!”

  • shannon

    My fiance has a significant TBI (hard-fought 100% service-connected disabled)and you really should get your husband checked out for the TBI no matter his rating. If he starts to get any other symptoms (severe migraine-like headaches, cognitive problems such as having trouble speaking the words that’s he’s thinking or using words that sound similar but aren’t the right words) you want to be prepared and know what to look for. There are many rehabs through the VA to help with the cognitive problems and medication to try to prevent the headaches or lessen the pain. The tests are painless except for one if he’s at all light-sensitive. So get a referral to a neurologist and be on the safe side. Best wishes and I hope he doesn’t have a TBI. God Bless

  • AJ

    Shannon’s right – get it documented by the VA. I know it doesn’t matter if he’s 100% rated on something else, he needs it on his records so you can make them help him. (They don’t always want to help.)
    My husband has TBI also. While the VA isn’t really helping in this area, they know about it and can’t deny it. Your VA might be more useful than ours is.
    My only other suggestion is to look to civilian agencies and anything your state might have available for disabled people. They might have support groups, literature, social workers, etc., that could be of help to you. Also, if you live near a major medical facility they probably have a head trauma unit that might have resources for you.
    Thank you both for your service. I wish you all the best.

  • tara

    Check on the reader’s digest archives. Sometime last year, they had an article on memory loss. There were a lot of helpful tips there. Good luck with the memory.


    I am just going to put it in a few sentences and you all may think its hokey and even a poor taste call; but here goes Something anyway.
    ANyone remember Adam Sandler in the 50 first Dates Movie? The sweet chic thought for YEARS it was her birthday, she was going to get a pineapple w/Dad and the whole side of Island in Hawaii played along with the chirade?
    In the end, Adam gets the Girl, they have a baby and are sailing in the Artic Ocean with her Dad, watching wwhales & it shows her waking uup to a taped VCR segment that brings her up to speed to where they are in that day in Time. She watches it like everyday or something.
    In TBI’s some things might need that, and for other things it might be coming to that – you might want to go on and make those tapes or DVD’s to help you all remember the times when your loved ones DID Remember You and Your Names, and those Special Jokes you shared. It seems to me that it it is a shame you would have to lose them twice knowing that you are watching them slip away into themselves somewhere you can’t reach and eventually, later when Death comes for us. Cuz weather we like it or not, we are all going to go sometime, right? The only question to some is when, how and where will it be? It is mostly the pre-planned ‘after thought’ most have had about what they’d like to have done afterwards of their passing.
    Sorry to have gone from Here to There in such short order – I hope that some glimmer of nspiration and/or understanding is found within these words. May you all find some semblance of peace as you hold each other in the aftermath of the madness, Sister and Brothers.
    None of you are Forgotten Here!
    Highest Regards. SHESRVD2

  • SeabeeSeniorWife

    My heart goes out to all those who have suffered injuries and the struggles they face during recovery. I also have great respect and compassion for their families that also must go through the healing process.
    I just finished reading the book, In An Instant by Lee and Bob Woodruff. Good book and it helps others to understand the long process others face while recovering. Anyway, at the end of the book is a web site contact for the Woodruff organization that will help the injured and their families get access to the treatment they need for injuries, including possible access to civilian help in cases that need it. Just thought it might be an avenue worth exploring. The site is

  • Monica

    First,an evaluation by a neurologist is EXTREMELY important as several suggested to determine if the memory loss is caused by TBI. Memory loss is a symptom for many other conditions as well as TBI.

  • Kay Moser

    After reading the posts, I agree with the others to have it documented. Don’t take it lightly. I’m not military..but was civilian DOD. Suffered from a TBI in an auto accident where the survival rate is less than 2% for the type of impact. The drs. downplayed the TBI (closed head injury); as I was able to walk away from the accident. Fourteen years later I still have mild residual affects. A TBI will change a person’s personality…fear and anxiety become a part of you. It is VERY Frightening to not be able to retreive from your memory something you did. Think of it like this….say, you’ve missplaced your car keys, so you retrack in your head what you did when you came home. TBI – absolutely NO MEMORY of ever coming into the house–it is a blank slate….I always felt like…a hallway closet…someone put me on the top shelf and closed the door and everything was black. Also, did not dream for years. I did use a a small hand held recorder for a couple of years to remind myself or wrote notes all the time…..I really only get mixed up now with fatique…but will always have some trouble with vocabulary search (know the word and can’t retrieve it)Also, with multiple step tasks….have to write down if I’ve not done it before…as I will get jumbled, then anxious, then feel like a failure….BE KIND to the person with a TBI they are freaked out enough and not sharing with you what they really can’t recall, do, and they do not want you to know how anxious they really are… is as scarey as hell on your psyche to know that what was once very simple and routine can now present in such a way that your doubting yourself all the time. Also, need it documented as there is a correlation between TBI and adult onset seizures.

  • Nick Rackham

    Dear Constituents,
    December 18th 1996 I was in a car accident by myself while heading to my girlfriend’s house not wearing a seatbelt. I hit a telephone poll and was subsequently in a coma for 4 days. My TBI caused me to have severe short-term memory loss, petit-mal and grand-mal seizures over the last 12 years. I’m writing this email to tell every other TBI sufferer I’m with you and I wish you the best. Over the last 12 years, my seizures have decreased, but I still take anti-seizure medication. However, short-term memory problems have come a long way from where they started out after my accident. After the accident, I carried on with my college education and finally graduated with a BA in Liberal Studies 7 years ago. If I can do it, I believe you can do it as well. Short-term memory is still an issue but I plan on it getting better over the years because it has come a long way from where it started. I recommend to all TBI sufferers a dedication to note taking, counseling, following doctor rules, and persistent optimism. Take care, and I wish you all well.
    Nick Rackham

  • Gina

    It is very important to have this documented. If the VA diagnoses the TBI, they should set him up with speech and or occupational therapy which can help with all of these cognitive/memory problems. My husband has a mild TBI he received just before Thanksgiving. He sometimes has trouble recalling my name and our kids’ name. Just be patient and know that there are methods that can help with these things. The recorder should help in place of the PDA or notebook. If memory is the only sign or symptom, it also may be something else going on. PTSD has a lot of the same symptoms as a TBI. Hope this helps.

  • Susan

    My sister suffered a TBI while on active duty in 1988. She was originally rated 100%. She was not able to live on her own. Was totally unable to work. Over the past 20 years there have been several times that the VA had tried to change her 100% disability rating. Every 3 or 4 years this would come up. Even if they only reduced it to 90% her pay would have been reduced more than that, because of the crazy formulas they use. Get everything documented. You never know when you may have to fight for the level of your benefits.

  • Melissa

    Depending on what type of computer you have, The new vista program has a voice activated program and they do have sticky notes for computer. Ensure that the phone you have has voice activation enabled as well. There are other phones out there that you can leave a voice recording on. If you need to, upgrade the phone. There are also organizations out there that would love to assist you in getting these items. Google Americans with Disabilities Act and that will give you more ideas for links and organizations to go to. If you need any other information or if you feel I can help, please let me know.
    Thank you for your service!

  • Nancy Layton

    TBI can be difficult to diagnose, given the invisible nature of the problem. However, the symptoms will probably increase in intensity and frequency because the brain is truly injured. It can heal itself over time, but sometimes intervention in the form of surgery to repair damaged blood vessels or some type of medication to lessen the mis-firings going on – something medical – may be required to begin that healing process. In February, 2006, I published a book written by a 62-year-old woman named Megan Timothy, who had had a complete lost of communicative ability due to a genetic defect of tangled blood vessels in her brain that lay hidden until suddenly they burst and bled into her brain. It took Megan nearly two years to regain her abilities to speak, read, and write and her book, Let Me Die Laughing! Waking From The Nightmare of a Brain Explosion, tells of her arduous recovery process. Her book, and Megan, herself, are inspiring. She can be reached at
    Her book can be previewed and purchased at
    In her travels around the U.S. by bycycle in 2006, Megan met many TBI people and their caregivers. Many found comfort and reassurance just meeting and talking with Megan. She’s currently working on her second book which tells about that amazing 12,000-mile solo bike trip.

  • Brian Simcoe

    I am a 100%service connected dissabled vet. In 1994 while serving in the Persian Gulf I suffered a TBI (I was hit in the head with a 80lb. piece of steel hard enough to damage 2or3 vertibra in my neck). At the time they said that there was no bleed, so I was “fine.” I spent only three days in the hospital and was then confined to quarters for three weeks, with daily Dr’s visits. I was assured that I was just experiencing muscle tension headaches and that the memory and several other cognitive and physical issues were temporary. When I returned stateside, everyone I knew said that I was different and many did not wish to associate with me. I spent most of my off duty time drinking to try and cope with the pain and confusion. I saw some of the best Mil. Dr’s in the country, all said that there was something wrong, but who knows what and how to fix it. I was discharged in 96. By 98 my life was going nowhere and I did’nt know why. I turned to the VA for help…2003 I finaly was awarded 100% dissability. The VA does not recognize TBI as a dissability however, they only recognize SOME of the individual symptoms. The best resource that I know of is the BIA (brain injury assoc.) also there was a good book written by a surgeon that suffered a TBI called “over my head”. Good luck and try everything, some things work better for some so try them all. The most important thing in my experience is a VERY understanding and informed support system. We can be difficult to live with, there is ALOT of fustration with our selves for not being able to do or remember what should be a simple thing to do or remember. Again good luck

  • jtd4

    My husband has just returned from his 3rd deployment and has been diagnosed with TBI as well. Congress has called for a 15 year study on TBI as it is so common in returning soldiers. My husband is in this study through Ft. Bragg. So far he goes to the TBI clinic in Neurology office a few times a week. They are providing him with adaptive technology to assist in the healing and coping process. Maybe a program like this exists in your area?

  • Justin McReynolds

    When I was 18, a friend and I were in his car when we lost control of the car from snow and ice. I was the passenger. After the driver lost control of the car, we hit a tree on my side and smashed the car in and we were traveling at 55 mph. I was in a coma for around 6 or 7 weeks. My memory is only one of the problems, but it’s one of the biggest problems. I forget some of the easier stuff and I used to remember.

  • Patti

    I recently started documenting my experience in dealing with my husband who has TBI from numerous explosions and IEDs.
    I hope this helps others know that you are not alone. :)

  • De

    Can I ask you a personal question? How did your girlfriend at the time handle it? My boyfriend was in a motorcylce accident in april and had TBI… It’s been really hard, and definitly draiing emotionally. I haven’t been able to find much as far as support for someone who’s not a family member, but more than a friend. Thanks

  • lea

    My son has a tramatic brain injury due to a car accident. He has short-term memory loss but has done fairly well considering that he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast at first. It has been 6 years since his accident and is almost 16 years old. He has his driving permit and is a pretty good driver, but gets flustered and anxious easily. School is difficult and he has to have accomodations in school. He is a happy person with a great, sweet personality. He is very athletic.
    The only medication that have been prescibed is adderal (which is used mainly for adhd) and hasn’t shown to help that much. He isn’t using it now. I was wondering if anyone has had success with other medications? Someone else had mentioned that they couldn’t remember their dreams. He has mentioned that too.
    Anyway, I know that I have gone on and on, but was hoping to talk to someone with similar symtons.

    • Glenda

      Lea: I just found this site today at the suggestion of my counselor. I was a passenger in my 1968, 427 Corvette Stingray being by my then boyfriend in 1974, November 2, He lost control and stuck a utility pole with a concrete base cutting the car in two. I did not have any external injuries, but was unconscious for 32 days, which my Mom was there everyday…. I made a miraculous recovery, after having to learn to walk, talk, write, and even be potty trained. Wore Pampers at age 19. After working my family members, I got to where I went back to Community COllege and graduated with an AAS in Secretarial Science with advanced standings. Then I secured employment at the same Hospital were I was a patient. I was having severe headaches, and having great difficult controlling my anxiety. THe Dr. prescribed Buspar 10mg. I now am up to 2 tabs twice a day. It has been a wonder drug for me. Perhaps you maight check into it. I noticed how long ago youe letter was posted, so you might have cone across this on your own. Best of luck to you and your son. God Bless. Glenda

  • sue

    I am very grateful to read all these posts. I have been feeling so alone. I married my husband 16 years ago, knowing he had had TBI, but not knowing him very well or even what it all meant! Mercy! Now I know. I am living by the grace of God with this and will sure look into some of these resources that were mentioned. I finally was able to get all his paperwork done to be 100% DAV, and even that was emotionally hard for me. Having to relive all his failures doesn’t promote marital happiness. If you pray, please pray for us. Thanks.

  • Bill

    Not sure how I got here and came across this, but I was looking for info on how TBI’s affected marital/family relationships and wound up here. All I am reading is very true and all too familiar as I suffered my TBI 3 yrs ago (was hit by a truck while training on bike one morning). I was in a wheelchair for 7 weeks, had to relearn how to eat, speak, relearn my kids names etc. But I will tell you this, that so much has come back and I can drive and do a lot I couldn’t before. I even swim and jog a few days to try to get some kind of exercise (even if it’s not what it once was). Just hope that my shortcomings aren’t too much on those close to me. If you are a survivor or family/friend I wish you all the best and please remember that it always gets better…stay strong. I know it’s not military injury, but similar results. Thanks to those that do help our country, we’re forever in debt.

    • alyssa

      Thank you for that.

  • David Aschmann

    I got hit by a motorcycle 1 year ago and was unconscious for a month. At first I did not even remember my second son. About 5 months in the memory of him came back a little, even dreams at night were nonexistent for 10 months. Now after passing my driving tests and getting the basic life skills back the memory issues are even more noticeable. Basics like my blackberry and LOTS of small notes get me through. It is easy to become lazy with recovery efforts. What’s worked for me is to use the approach “I will get back to the old me”. Granted that’s not possible but my goal is to appear like the old me. That means keep putting my efforts into compensation for my memory issues. Compensation for new memory issues is the trick, help your husband and push him. Over time he will develop the habits necessary to compensate. It takes years of effort, thanks for hanging in with him.

  • Frank Chavez

    Wow! Powerful testimonies about TBI. Sounds like some had AVM, direct head injuries, or other medical ilnesses that brought on the TBI. Having been born with AVM and congenital epilepsy I sought out professional help. If you have’nt done so yet, reach out to your nearest Epilepsy Foundation that serves your community. They have valuable resources to draw upon. Especially returning military combat veterans. If you have’nt done so you are doing yourself a disservice to yourself and family.
    God Bless.