Caring for the Caregiver
Caregivers have many different faces during deployment. We usually think of the spouse as a primary caregiver left at home while the service member is deployed. This person is now taking on the everyday responsibilities that were previously handled by two, but now is shouldered solely by one. We must be aware that single service members may have parents who have taken on the caregiver role. They also may be caring for the single service member’s children. You may become the caregiver following the injury, wound, or illness of your service member.
The role of caregiving won’t necessarily end when the service member returns from deployment. Caregivers may face new challenges, such as the service member suffering from Combat Operational Stress Disorder, mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The caregiver’s role may never end, especially when there is a long-term injury, wound, or illness involved.
It is extremely important that caregivers take time for themselves, to unwind and recharge. The stress and strain of caring for family members, such as children and/or elderly parents, coupled with concern over the service member’s well-being while deployed, can feel overwhelming.
There are tools available to help alleviate the stress and strain of being a caregiver. It is important to have a communication link to your spouse, son, or daughter’s command during deployment. There are support networks within the command structure and within your community. The military Services have developed programs, such as the Army’s BattleMind and Spouse BattleMind, to help identify deployment-related issues.
There are many great resources available online. The Department of Defense has a great website: www.pdhealth.mil/main.asp and www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil. Military OneSource is another great resource at: www.militaryonesource.com. They have counselors available 24/7 to listen. They can help you with pointers to alleviate stress or arrange counseling sessions for you. Additional resources are found in recently published books and articles, such as: Surviving Deployment A Guide for Military Families by Karen M. Pavlicin, Courage After Fire Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families by Keith Armstrong, Suzanne Best, and Paula Domenici and, Coping with the Deployment of a Spouse or Partner.
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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