Recent studies show that caregivers of veterans – while similar in many ways to those caring for the aging or someone with a chronic illness – actually face many additional challenges and experience a longer-term, more encompassing life-change when becoming a caregiver.
- 30% of caregivers of veterans have been caring for a loved one for more than 10 years, compared to only 15% of national caregivers.
- 70% of caregivers reported that their veteran experiences depression or anxiety, and 60% were dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Almost half decided to take an early retirement or leave work early to become a full-time caregiver, compared to only 9% of national caregivers who did the same.
That said, 94% of these caregivers of veterans reported that they are “proud to serve” by caring for those who have “borne the battle” and often sacrificed so much for their nation. Caregivers of veterans are strong, caring, and determined. But everyone can use support and, thankfully, there are many resources available.
The U.S. government established a substantial online presence to support veteran families serving as caregivers with a special section of the Veterans Affairs (VA) website called VA Caregiver Support. Visiting the site offers a great amount of encouragement and resources, as well as some helpful facts, including:
You can get paid.
As a special benefit for post-9/11 veterans, stipends are available to actually pay a family caregiver a similar amount as it would cost to have a professional caring for the veteran. Payment is based on what services are needed and performed, and there is an eligibility process and requirements. Additionally, the VA must check in regularly to ensure standards are being met, but the possibility of bringing in this extra income could make a big impact to a family budget. Work is currently underway to make similar stipends available to veterans from earlier service; in the meantime, other financial resources are available to help ease financial burdens for older veterans as well, and are referenced on the support site. One of the benefits that can help pay for care for an elderly veteran or their spouse is the Aid and Attendance pension benefit. Go here to find out more information on eligibility and how to apply.
You can talk to someone immediately.
The VA website offers numerous points of contact, including phone numbers where you can talk to a live person for immediate advice and support. This can be especially helpful for someone just beginning his or her caregiving journey. The site also allows you to find local resources based on your zip code, as well as links to an online support group and signup for a newsletter with ongoing tips and stories.
You can get training.
If your veteran has special needs due to aging or an injury, you may be eligible to receive additional training to help you care more effectively for him or her. In addition, you may be able to leverage free transportation to the training, as well as respite care (someone coming to the home to care for your veteran while you are away) if you are the primary caregiver.
You can get organized.
Among the site’s numerous resources are several documents and tips regarding getting organized. They include recommendations for creating a master file of all important documents for your veteran, medication dosage templates, tips for making claims and working through the systems, and a crisis symptom reporting guide. Set aside some time to browse through all the PDFs and you may find your caregiving experience a bit more effective and, ideally, less stressful.
While families and friends of veterans know what it’s like to support their loved one while they were in service, taking care of them once they return often takes time to adjust and flexibility from so many. With these resources, caregivers can spend less time worrying or trying to figure things out on their own, and more time helping those who have served our nation with honor.
For more information on tips for dealing with the stress that can come with being a caregiver, please visit these resources:
If you are looking for help with finding other means of assisted living care, please call 1-866-913-2555. This number can give you free information and help with finding the right assisted living care for your loved one.
Written by: Megan Hammons