Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A reporter recently asked a Maryland woman caring for her husband, a severely injured combat veteran, what kind of help she needed in the first months following her husband’s return.

She responded, “If someone had offered to pick up the groceries for me, I would have cried out of relief. They wouldn’t have had to pay for the groceries, just pick them up, so I could stay by my husband’s side and take care of what he needed.”

As the nation has grown more aware of the enormous responsibility taken on by the 5.5 million Americans caring for wounded, ill and injured veterans, it has left many thinking, “What can I do to help?” As it turns out, there is something just about everyone can do to support the caregivers in their local community.

Military and veteran caregivers often feel isolated and overwhelmed by the challenges of caring for individuals with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and physical injuries, and many look to their communities for support. There is a connection between a supportive social environment and caregivers showing fewer symptoms of depression.

Evidence also suggests that a strong, healthy, well-supported caregiver is the most valuable resource for their care recipient’s recovery and well-being.

Our nation has rightly dedicated significant resources to studying the needs of returning wounded warriors, implementing national policy solutions, and supporting them through much private philanthropy. But the needs of their caregivers remain largely overlooked.

According to the Foundation’s RAND study, the majority of care-related services in communities target the care recipient, not the caregiver, which makes it especially difficult for caregivers to identify services that support their own health and well-being. Additionally, coordinated support among individual providers and organizations in the community would make it easier for caregivers to

know what’s available and beneficial so they don’t have to spend precious time sorting everything out.

The Community Support at Home Impact Council is responding to a compelling need to bridge the gap between the resources caregivers need and what organizations and grateful Americans in their communities are able to provide.

The RAND study uses the phrase “helping hand” to categorize and describe the wide range of aid provided directly to caregivers by private, nongovernmental and military-sponsored programs.

These services, which include legal guidance, assistance with mortgage or rent payments, home and family care, and assistance with transportation, are some of the most common forms of assistance and make the lives of caregivers a little easier. But because caregivers struggle with finding and accessing these services, the Council is driving efforts to remove these obstacles and improve accessibility and marketing to help target the needs caregivers seek.

Impact Council members are also working together to build awareness and support platforms that range from state and local government efforts to local community grassroots campaigns.

Their goal is to ensure these communities know the needs of their local caregivers, and the importance of assisting these hidden heroes, as they are so critical to America’s ability to properly care for its veterans.

Strengthening and creating access to services and resources in organizations and government programs that are sensitive to the cultural norms of military families is a primary driver Council members are employing to help ensure caregivers and their loved ones receive a continuum of high quality care. The Community Support at Home Impact Council encourages continued private/public partnerships to embrace and address continuity of

care, and broad-based awareness of the needs and challenges of military caregivers among organizations and the general public.

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