Ellen L. Timmerman, Auxiliary National Commander

Care for the caregiver

What defines a caregiver? “A caregiver is someone who is responsible for looking after another person, for example, a person who has a disability, or is ill or very young.”

“A caregiver is an unpaid or paid member of a person’s social network who helps them with activities of daily living. Caregiving is most commonly used to address impairments related to old age, disability, a disease or a mental disorder.”

When I looked up the written meaning of caregiver, I found so many different definitions that all lead back to the same thing: taking care of a person who needs help with daily life.

Being part of this organization, we mainly think of a caregiver as someone taking care of an ill or injured veteran, and we oftentimes forget that the role of a caregiver expands to possibly include the care of young children, an elderly family member and even a sibling with special needs. All of these types of care are done out of love and devotion.

DAV conducted a veteran caregiver survey in 2017, America’s Unsung Heroes: Challenges and inequities facing veteran caregivers, which brought focus to the daily hardships and silent battles veteran caregivers face. In that study, they found caring for a veteran with a service-related condition has widespread impacts on the caregiver’s health.

A significant majority of veteran caregivers stated they felt isolated, likely due to the perceived lack of understanding by others and the decreased time spent with friends and family. The DAV survey found that more than 84 percent of veteran caregivers saw their friendships and social relationships negatively impacted.

So while many of you are caregivers to your loved ones, be sure to remember to care for yourself. You can do that many different ways, such as keeping your own medical appointments, exercising, eating healthfully, attending social events and pursuing personal interests.

We were fortunate to have seen the VA MISSION Act passed last year, but we will have to stay vigilant about the VA’s implementation of the law and advocate for sufficient funding to ensure veterans and their caregivers get the support they need and deserve.

If you need help, call the VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274.