By Lizann Lightfoot
Caregivers to military veterans face unique challenges. Most have no medical training or time to prepare for the responsibility. They may be living far from family and friends. Some caregivers put their own career or college plans on hold to make time for their spouse’s medical appointments and needs. If the service member is not able to continue in active duty, the family may also face a financial crisis. Together, these challenges can take an emotional, financial, and physical toll on veteran caregivers.
Luckily, the military spouse community is also full of supportive individuals who are willing to use their trials to help others and many programs designed to support military veteran caregivers and families. If you know a veteran caregiver, remind them that they are not alone. Offer to help and support them, even if it is by watching their children for an hour each week, or making them dinner on occasion. Then share this list of resources with them.
1. VA Caregiver Support provides a monthly stipend, travel expenses, health insurance, caregiver training, and up to 30 days of respite care per year for home caregivers of seriously wounded veterans. The veteran must be enrolled in the VA to receive these benefits for their caregiver.
2. The VA Coaching into Care program provides caregiver support over the phone.
3. The Military Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) connects military caregivers with hundreds of partner organizations to provide caregivers with community support and valuable resources. You can chat with other caregivers, find a mentor, or search their resource library. MVCN is a program developed by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
4.The DoD’s Caregiver Support Directory lists national resources and programs that assist military caregivers, including helplines, training, caregiver support programs, financial support, and support for children’s needs. The directory is a free resource available for download. The DoD also offers peer forums and discussion groups for caregivers.
5. Yellow Ribbon Fund has a caregiver program which offers retreats, activities, spa days, and family days. Their wellness events encourage healthy lifestyles through exercise like yoga or Zumba. And their Pillars of Strength scholarship program offers full scholarships to caregivers who choose to pursue a degree.
6. The Semper Fi Fund offers financial aid to family members and caregivers of wounded veterans. The grants can be used for travel expenses, lodging costs, or childcare while a veteran undergoes long hospitalization or therapy.
7. Wounded Warrior Family Support has a mission to support families of those who have been wounded, injured, or killed during combat operations. They serve caregivers by providing secondary caregiver assistance, child care, respite programs, and resources.
8. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation has multiple program to assist caregivers. The Caregiver Community Program raises awareness of caregiver needs. Hidden Heroes provides support and resources for the caregiver community. The foundation also assists with training programs and job searches for caregivers.
9. Project Sanctuary offers family retreats to military service members suffering long-term effects from deployment. The program aims to serve each family member individually in order to help the family to reconnect as a whole.
10. Military One Source offers free, confidential consultations, and counseling for veteran caregivers. You can schedule a meeting face-to-face, or speak to someone on the phone 24 hours a day on their consultation hotline (800-342-9647). Their website also offers educational products and downloads specific for veteran caregivers.
11.Easter Seals offers free caregiver training and respite care to military caregivers. The organization specializes in serving those with disabilities but offers workshops and trainings specific to military caregivers.
12. The Unspoken Heroes Program supports Gold Star families and veteran caregivers with a variety of thoughtful gifts. They send care packages and spa gift cards to military caregivers. The program also hosts appreciation banquets to pamper deserving caregivers.
13. Hearts of Valor, created by Operation Homefront, is a network of caregivers. They provide support groups, retreats, and online forums for their members.
14. Blue Star Families has workshops that respond to caregiver needs. Caregivers Empowering Caregivers offers local training activities and meetups near military bases. Operation Caregiver helps when you are first adjusting to the challenges of being a caregiver.
15. The Caregiver Action Network is not specific to military families. It connects millions of caregivers all over the country, whether they care for a wounded family member or for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s. They offer support such as helpful tips, videos, questions to ask your doctor, and legal options to pursue.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at [email protected] .