A RAND study released on March 31 notes that 1.1 million Americans are providing care to disabled Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
About half these caregivers are suffering from depression, according to the study, while 60 percent say they are under constant financial strain.
A quarter of caregivers are aging parents, the study reports. Another 40 percent are considerably younger, somewhere between 18 and 30-years-old. Many in this group are young spouses struggling to keep their lives together, as well as their marriages.
The RAND study also notes that 53 percent of post 9/11 caregivers have no caregiving network, no individual or group they can depend on to help them with their caregiving responsibilities.
“This is a statistic I find particularly concerning,” said Laura Taylor, national director of VA’s Caregiver Support Program. “Taking care of a seriously ill or injured Veteran is a labor of love, but it’s also demanding work. It’s not something caregivers should have to do all alone,” she added. “And they don’t have to.”
“Caregivers for Veterans of all eras are eligible for respite care, education and training on what it means to be a caregiver, how to best meet the Veteran’s care needs, and the importance of taking care of yourself when you’re in a caregiving role,” Taylor explained.
“Caregivers of Veterans can participate in programs that VA offers in person, on-line, or over the phone,” she continued. “These programs are specifically designed to help them cope with the emotional challenges of caring for a disabled son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife.”
I am proud VA…can offer direct support to the loved ones who give the Veterans we serve a greater quality of life by allowing them to remain at home, surrounded by family and friends.
— Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs
“However, a law passed four years ago allows VA to do even more. “The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 allows VA to provide unprecedented benefits to family caregivers of Veterans,” Taylor said.
“Additional services for primary family caregivers of eligible post-9/11 Veterans and Servicemembers include a stipend, mental health services and access to health care insurance, if they are not already entitled to care or services under a health care plan.”
If you’re taking care of a Veteran, you can call the toll free Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 to receive the help you need and deserve.
“Your call will be answered by a licensed social worker who has extensive knowledge of VA services and programs,” Taylor said. “They can provide you with information, supportive counseling, resource information and referrals to local VA medical center caregiver support coordinators.”
Caregiver support coordinators are stationed at every VA medical center. “These individuals are clinical experts on caregiving,” Taylor said. “They can help caregivers navigate the services and supports that are available to them.”
The RAND study was funded by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. In compiling it, researchers surveyed more than 28,000 military caregivers between July 1 and October 15, 2013.To learn more about VA’s Caregiver Support Program, or to locate the caregiver support coordinator closest to you, visit www.caregiver.va.gov. www.caregiver.va.gov