The role of caregiver—the spouse, parent, family member, or friend who cares for and supports a wounded, ill or injured service member—is an important one. And we understand that behind every wounded service member is a wounded family.
You may suddenly become a caregiver if your service member is injured, or you may gradually become a caregiver if your service member's health deteriorates due to illness or injury.
Caregivers need support, too. Our Tips from Caregivers for Caregivers is designed with you in mind. We hope these tips from seasoned caregivers will give you suggestions on how to support your recovering warrior or veteran and yourself.
Ask for Help
"You should appoint a person to handle communications for you. I had one civilian and one military. I would call to tell them what was going on and they would make the other 50 calls to update people on the latest surgery."
- Keep a list of those who have offered help so you can reach out to them when you need to. You may not know the type of help you need, but when you do, this list will make things easier.
- Select one or two people you trust to communicate with the rest of your family and friends. This allows you to limit your outgoing calls and know that important people in your life are still kept informed.
- Start a free personalized webpage through CaringBridge to share quick updates to family and friends who live far away.
- Create a list of tasks you would be comfortable delegating to family and friends - things like doing laundry, writing thank you notes, providing meals, and driving kids to activities.
- Seek professional counseling to help you deal with the emotional toll of caregiving. It can help you process the grief, gain acceptance of the situation, and respond to day to day emotional challenges. To find counselors in your area, visit Military OneSource.
Seek Advice and Support
"I would have liked to have a mentor. A peer caregiver who has been where I am standing now. The amount of information we receive is overwhelming, yet often repetitive. The truly valuable resources for support, contacts, and information come from our fellow caregivers."
- Download the DoD Caregiver Resource Directory.This National Resource Directory vetted guide covers topics ranging from benefit information to suicide prevention and more.
- Find a mentor or peer support group (online or in person) of other military caregivers. Check with your local installation for information on any groups that may meet in your area.
- Use the power of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to identify resources as you transition into your new role. Other caregivers are generally happy to share a little advice, and their knowledge of programs and services that will help you.
- Always confirm informally shared information with official sources. All situations are different, and while a fellow caregiver may provide information that was helpful for their wounded warrior, it’s important to check with medical experts or case managers about your own loved one’s situation.
- Resist the urge to compare your situation to that of other caregivers. Pull yourself away from groups that become negative or unproductive.
Take Care of Yourself
"The hardest part is taking care of yourself. All the advice is on how to take care of your spouse. It is hard to pull yourself out. I don’t mean to sound terrible, but for me to get a break, I need to get away from my service member, get away from the situation."
- Slow down and create small breaks for yourself. Try 10 minutes of yoga or a walk around the neighborhood, or a phone call with a friend to help you to recharge and carry on.
- Consider utilizing respite care. Find a trusted friend or relative who can consistently step in and help. If that isn’t available, there are organizations that provide respite care for military caregivers; TRICARE and the VA are two options.
- Find a retreat specifically for military caregivers or families of wounded warriors. It can be a great networking opportunity and help a new caregiver adjust to his/her role. It will also provide a break from the day to day routine. The National Military Family Association, Wounded Warrior Project, and Operation Homefront’s Hearts of Valor are examples of organizations that provide military caregiver or wounded warrior family retreats.
- Be kind to yourself. Chances are, you’re a first time caregiver still learning how to help your recovering warrior. Give yourself time to adjust and, above all, know you are not alone.
- Find one activity that is just for you, away from being a caregiver. Join a book club, take a regular fitness class, incorporate meditation into your day, or write a blog.