I was recently reading about how caregiving for veterans is different than caring for other populations, or even from caring for veterans from other time periods. So often, when we think about the term “caregiving,” we think of elderly individuals with dementia or other disabilities that are more common in older adults.
I also did not realize how many individuals we were talking about. According to the e-magazine Caring Suggests, there are more than 48,000 veterans who have been injured in recent military conflicts, and approximately 400,000 service members who have combat-related stress, major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health issues. Finally, another 320,000 veterans have a traumatic brain injury. That’s a lot of people needing care….but, in addition, that’s a lot of young people who will need care for years and years to come.
In some instances, the parents of these individuals are stepping forward to provide that care. That’s not surprising, but consider the physical and emotional effort that is required to take on that kind of task when you are older yourself. These caregivers are not looking at providing care for someone over the next couple of years as that person reaches the end of their lifespan. Instead, they may be facing another 40 to 50 years as a caregiver.
Another part of the problem is that many of these caregivers must remain employed, so they have the added stress of managing their jobs while caregiving after work hours. When they do reach retirement age, their caregiving job doesn’t stop. It may go on for many more years.
So, what can we do to help? First, knowledge is our best defense. We have to recognize the problem and all of us need to get behind finding the answers. We need to look at what caregivers need to provide appropriate and adequate care for our veterans. We need to ensure that there are programs and resources in place to support them, and that includes some financial support when it’s needed.
Each of us has to be part of the solution. We need to ensure our caregivers aren’t burned out while providing care. We need to be there for our service men and women who laid so much on the line for each of us and for the families that support them.