Each caregiving journey is unique. My role of caregiver for my husband expanded from not only getting him to medical care but also making legal decisions in his stead. Common issues that affect most caregivers include navigating VA procedures, obtaining help with specific disabilities and diseases, learning how to deal with dementia, organizing paperwork, and knowing what legal documents are needed with regard to consent issues, legal capacity, and decision making.
During my journey as a caregiver, I found the following resources to be beneficial:
- MOAA and VA. Talk with members of your local chapter, join the Surviving Spouse Virtual Chapter whose outreach includes current spouses (firstname.lastname@example.org), and take a look at pertinent MOAA publications. Veterans service organizations will help with disability claims, requests for respite care, and pay for long term care, as well as other benefits. The VA and MOAA have planning brochures and guidebooks to help you collect and organize necessary paperwork.
- Health agencies. Search for caregiver resources on the National Institutes of Health and Department of Health and Human Services websites to find helpful information.
- Disease-specific associations. Contact organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association, the ALS Association, and the American Heart Association. These groups have educational information and support groups available to caregivers.
- Military family support groups. TAPS, Gold Star Wives of America, and American Gold Star Mothers, and others provide a wide variety of support services to military families and friends.
- Respite care. Organizations such as the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes and the Yellow Ribbon Fund provide resources and support specifically tailored to military caregivers.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, caregivers need to take care of themselves. Eat healthful foods, stay active, ask for help, and pamper yourself. Like the pre-flight instruction says, “Put your face mask on first.” If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your loved one.