Are you a caregiver of a Veteran? Ill and injured United States Veterans who have served our country are reaching out to their family members and friends for support. We cannot lose sight of the fact that there is an emotional cost of caring. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki recognizes that caregivers make tremendous daily sacrifices and are partners with the VA in comforting and caring for Veterans.
My first suggestion for caregivers is to get organized and learn how to manage well (e.g., appointments, transportation). Be creative. Become educated about your loved one’s disease/condition, and learn proper caregiving techniques (e.g., lifting, wound care). Ask for help from family, friends, and neighbors and use home/skilled care services. Contact your local medical center, county health department and VA Social worker. Reach out to the organization that is specific to your loved one’s disease/illness/situation. You can also look into adult day health care, Employee Assistance Programs, and support groups.
A VA credo, “It takes the courage and strength of a warrior to ask for help” speaks volumes, so contact your VA’s Caregiver Support Coordinator at 1-855-260-3274 and get the help you need. Caregivers need to be good listeners but find someone to listen to you. Your VA cares about you. Reach out to them.
Although it can seem overwhelming, try to remain calm and be open minded as you learn to adapt to your new world, which possibly has turned upside down. Remain confident as you do the best you can. Be brave, fierce, and loyal as these traits will keep you going and help you to remain dependable. Although you may feel as though the caregiving role has zapped your ability to smile, it is okay to laugh. Do something fun. You deserve it!
Be loving and gentle with your loved one and yourself. Hold onto your faith and spirituality and take breaks whenever you can. Your own health is a priority. Give yourself permission to look into respite care. Although it may be difficult to do so, I recommend that you also plan for the future (e.g., advance directives, Power of Attorney).
Both of my parents served in the armed forces and on 11-11-11 I will think of them proudly. I realize that this is just a blog, just a few words of inspiration, but my hope is that all caregivers of Veterans realize that the VA cares about them and so do their fellow Americans. Lastly, I want to thank Barbara Kaminer, a very special caregiver who knows what it means to prevent suicide and build resiliency in veterans.