Perseverance, Resilience, and Strength: What we can learn from caregivers during a health pandemic.
The Nation and our great State of Maryland have faced innumerable challenges this year. Some among us are enduring sporadic unemployment or job loss, students are struggling to learn in a virtual environment, and to a large degree almost everyone has seen a disruption in normal routine. Despite the trials we have all faced in 2020, all around us there are signs of resilience, perseverance, and strength.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Kingdom Celebration Center in Odenton for a Thanksgiving meal giveaway to service members, veterans and Gold Star Families in need. The outpouring of support truly made my holiday season. Many of the volunteers were veterans themselves and Gold Star Mothers. In just a few hours more than 75 turkeys and fresh produce was distributed. We truly are a nation that rises to the occasion to help a friend, a neighbor, or a veteran in need. I truly believe we are also a nation that refuses to hang up the hat and that will never give up the ship.
Perseverance and strength are also qualities found in the nation’s 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers. As we close out November’s National Family Caregivers Month, I believe we can all learn something from the resilience exemplified by family members who provide care to a loved one. But during a national health crisis, even the most resilient can struggle.
Today, I watched a PREVENTS sponsored discussion on caregiver mental health. The health pandemic has undeniably increased stress for family caregivers, not just for those caring for military veterans. And now more than ever, they need to know there is community support and opportunities for respite.
The discussion today highlighted the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Program. The mission of the program is to bring “vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and seek solutions for the tremendous challenges and long term needs they face”. Hidden Heroes has established a national registry for caregivers to better connect them to resources. If you are a caregiver to a wounded service member or veteran, please visit the program today.
We also learned more about the Independence Fund. Founded in 2007, the Fund’s mission is to “empower severely wounded veterans and their caregivers to take control of their lives. They provide the resources and tools that enable veterans to regain their independence, and fight for their ability to sustain it”.
Finally, a program I was already familiar with but remains worthy of mention is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. Veterans can appoint a primary family caregiver and up to two secondary family caregivers. Services include caregiver education and training, mental health counseling and travel/lodging when traveling with the veteran receiving care. In addition, eligible veterans and caregivers may receive a monthly stipend and up to 30 days a year of respite care. Veterans and family caregivers can learn more by calling the Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274.
As the former military spouse to a combat wounded veteran, I wish I’d known of these programs. My hope is that all who read this blog entry will share these resources with friends and family who may be serving in a caregiving role. And if you are one of the millions who care for a service member or veteran, I hope you will make these connections, too.
As always, if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.
Dana Burl, Outreach Program Director
MD Department of Veterans Affairs