The best thing a family caregiver can do for an injured, disabled or elder veteran is to take care of themselves. Putting their health and well-being ahead of their veteran loved one may seem a bit counterintuitive, but it is critical so that the caregiver will be healthy enough to provide care for the long-term.
We know this is often easier said than done. Especially considering the intense demands that caregiving requires, which often people do not realize at the beginning. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 5.5 million family members and friends who provide care for chronically ill, disabled, and elder former service members. A 2015 National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study found that these caregivers spend an average of 25 hours per week providing care for a loved one, with one-in-four spending more than 40 hours per week.
We know it can be a lot to deal with, and the stress involved can be overwhelming. When it comes to self-care, it’s helpful to think about caregiving as a marathon. It is a long-term commitment requiring healthy physical and mental maintenance. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep can serve as a solid foundation to meet the daily challenges associated with caring for a disabled or elder vet. Regular preventive health services may also be able to keep you in the race, so to speak, and not in need of care yourself.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. Chronic stress can lead to all kinds of physical and emotional problems, including feelings of hopelessness and isolation. This does not need to be the case. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a wide variety of caregiver support services, ranging from peer support groups, to caregiver mentoring programs and adult day care centers for caregivers who need a break.
Do not forget to talk to your VA accredited attorney as well as who can help you understand how health and pension benefits may be applied for and used to cover related costs. There are plenty of educational and support services to ensure that veteran family caregivers have the tools they need to help their veteran loved ones stay in their homes, and not in institutional settings. This journey, however, starts with taking care of themselves.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. We encourage you to talk to us about your long-term care challenges and needs. You may contact us to schedule a meeting with our attorneys.