Military Caregivers: Take Care of Yourselves Too

Military Caregivers: Take Care of Yourselves Too

Posted by the T2 Public Affairs Office on August 16, 2017

“You’re just always thinking about the other person and never, ever thinking about yourself. You don't realize exactly how much of yourself you are giving. It’s not until you stop and you do something for yourself that you realize, ‘Hey, I really did need this.’ And it rejuvenates you. And in turn you can then give more to the person that you're caring for.”

— Military caregiver Susan Barnes, The TBI Family Podcast for Caregivers (Episode 3)

More than 5.5 million people in the U.S. — family members, friends, neighbors and volunteers — are dedicated to helping the service members and veterans in their lives face health issues. If you’re a military caregiver, you’re one of our nation’s “hidden heroes.” But doing your best for the person depending on you also means taking care of yourself.

This month, as the Military Health System highlights the topic of preventative health, take a moment and assess what you personally need to do to avoid burnout and maintain your physical and mental well-being. Stress can be a significant cause of health problems, so reducing your own stress will help keep you well. Unrelieved stress can also lower your patience and attention to detail, and you need that tolerance and mental sharpness to maintain the same level of care.

That’s why knowing when and how to take a break from caregiving is important. So is finding people in similar situations who you can lean on for support and advice. Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Check out AfterDeployment’s online Life Stress program. It can help you evaluate how stress may be affecting you. The program also includes exercises to train your body how to relax.
  • Download the Provider Resilience app developed by psychologists at the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2). Available for iPhones, iPads and Android devices, the app helps you assess when you need a break and includes day-off reminders, stress-reduction tools and inspirational messages.
  • Call the VA's Caregiver Support Line (855-260-3274). Licensed professionals are there to listen to you and connect you with Department of Veteran Affairs services that can help.
  • Connect with a Caregiver Support Coordinator at a VA Medical Center near you.
  • Make use of the VA’s Respite Care service. The VA will pay for a veteran to go to a program or for someone to come into the home while a family caregiver takes a break.
  • Visit the VA Caregiver Support program for a listing of additional services available to family caregivers of veterans who are eligible for VA health care. These include peer support and a free online workshop.
  • Find more than 200 other helpful resources at Hidden Heroes, an Elizabeth Dole Foundation initiative to support military caregivers. You can find the resources that best suit your needs by category or keyword search.
  • Join the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network.

Caregiving is a selfless commitment, but it’s also a very stressful one. Remember that it’s not selfish to take care of yourself. And doing that will help ensure that your own health doesn’t suffer. In the long run, that will be better for everyone. Community Terms and Conditions

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