WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Having to suddenly take care of a loved one who is no longer able to care for themselves due to an injury or illness is life altering and can be both mentally and physically exhausting for caregivers.
November is Warrior Care Month, according to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which honors the service and sacrifices of wounded, ill or injured post 9/11 service members, their families and professionals who support them. It also is a time to recognize the caregivers who sometimes are overlooked.
A 2014 Rand Study on American military caregivers reported that more than 1.1 million people in the United States are supporting a wounded, ill or injured post 9/11 service member or veteran. The study also found that gaps existed in providing support programs for these caregivers. At the time of the study, most programs that related to the needs of the caregiver concentrated on the military member and would incidentally associate to the caregivers needs.
To ensure caregivers received the needed support, DoD launched the Wounded Warrior Caregiver Forum to provide individualized support and services to caregivers as an integral part of their wounded warrior’s care and recovery.
One of the many services offered by the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, AFW2, is the Caregiver Peer-to-Peer Forum. The program provides a platform for caregivers to connect with other caregivers who are in similar situations caring for wounded warriors.
“Although the caregivers, who majority of time is the spouse, travels the journey with their wounded warrior, they become so consumed with being the caregiver that they stop taking care of themselves.” said Clark. “Being a caregiver can be stressful, frustrating and they can get burnt out to where they stop participating in daily routines or activities such as putting on makeup or going to grocery store. The caregiver peer-to-peer forum gives them that outlet.”
Clark said caregivers are trying to balance it all and need to ensure that they taking care of themselves. She recommends that caregivers have “Me time” by reengaging in what they normally did and stresses that caregivers must also take care of their health and ensure they go to their annual preventative screenings.
From sharing their experiences as caregivers to job assistance to VA benefits, the peer to peer support group provides caregivers a multitude of resources at the monthly meetings.
“The necessity of the program becomes more relevant every day” Johnson said. “From a caregiver’s perspective, they are invaluable asset to our program and the service member. From the time they get up to the time they go to bed, it’s about taking care of the warrior so they often are the last person to reach out for help because they don’t want to burden others. Sometimes they are drowning and they may not even see it so programs like this are necessary.”
The Peer-to-Peer Caregiver Forum meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. Caregivers can also phone in at 937-255-0106 if they are not able to physically attend. For additional information on the Caregiver support meetings, contact the Recovery Care Coordinator office at 937-257-9784 or the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 937-257-3592. For additional information on the Wounded Warrior Program, go to www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.
Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.