If you're a caregiver, one of the most important tasks you must perform is taking care of your own wellbeing. You must maintain your health and mental toughness as the burden that you've undertaken strives to overwhelm you, just by the nature of its existence.
Although some days and nights may be easier than others, the tasks you perform are endless and contribute to a higher quality of life for the veteran(s) in your care, as well as other family members. You may have many questions that need answers, or your stress level may rise to a point where you may need to speak to someone.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a number of services to support family caregivers, aiding you in caring for the veteran you love and yourself. Most of these services are available both in and outside the home.
A Phone Call Away
With just a phone call, the help you need can be a moment away.
By utilizing the VA's Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274, you can talk to a caring licensed professional.
These professionals can provide information and connect you with VA services such as a caregiver support coordinator located in your nearest VA medical facility. They're available to just listen, as well. Sometimes, it helps to just talk with someone who understands what you may be going through.
As a family caregiver, you can look for support by participating in monthly telephone education groups. Subjects can range from discussing self-care tips to asking questions and getting answers on many topics caregivers may face.
Caregiver support coordinators are licensed professionals who are available to support you.
They can direct you to services for which you qualify and provide you with important information on other pertinent resources.
These resources are designed to help you remain strong, smart and organized while caring for the veteran in your life. Be sure to ask about free online workshops, as well. These workshops are geared toward caregiver well-being and reducing depression and stress levels.
Peer Support Mentoring
Caregivers of veterans may participate in peer support mentoring, either as mentors or as mentees.
This is usually a six-month program. Mentors and mentees can communicate by using the telephone, email and/or letter-writing.
This is an opportunity to build on your skills or possibly help other caregivers by passing on what you have already learned.
If you are caring for a veteran who's diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder or spinal-cord injury or disorder, ask your caregiver support coordinator about the REACH VA program.
REACH VA is a caregiver program set up to help caregivers cope with such challenges as taking care of themselves, mood/stress management, problem-solving and asking for help.
Over a two-to three-month period, a certified program coach will provide four one-hour sessions with the caregiver. If it's agreed upon by both the coach and caregiver, more sessions will be available. These sessions can be accomplished by phone, in person or via telehealth video conferencing.
Coaches help with caregiver confidence and individual strength. They will explain and educate caregivers on the importance of patient safety and caregiver skill-building. They can help provide skills to manage extreme patient issues, self-care, decrease caregiver stress and, if possible, tips on how veterans can help themselves.
For more information on this program, visit www.caregiver.va.gov/reach_va_program.asp.
Enhance Your Life
Caregiving is a challenging area, and obtaining any helpful information is important.
It's all about caring for the veteran the best way possible and striving to ensure his or her comfort and safety, but it all starts with a strong, well-maintained caregiver.
Take advantage of these programs to improve your quality of life, thus improving the life of your veteran.
By becoming a family caregiver, you have already taken the first step to enhance the life of your veteran. Now, take the next step to improve your skills, grow more confident and enhance your own life.
For more information or help with other benefit issues, visit pva.org or contact your local Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) national service officer (NSO) from the roster on page 52.
A Navy veteran, Kurtt A. Robinson has been a PVA NSO since 2016 and works at the Pittsburgh VA Regional Office.