Providing Care for Military Caregivers
Millions of injured, ill and disabled veterans in the United States depend on friends and family for personal care. In fact, according to the RAND Corporation, there are 5.5 million unpaid military caregivers in the United States.
Of that group, nearly 20% are caring for someone who served after 9/11. This new era of family caregivers is facing unique challenges.
In a video released by the RAND Military Caregivers Study, Rajeev Ramchand, senior behavioral and social scientist, said: “Pre-9/11 caregivers look really similar to civilian caregivers; they’re caring for an aging spouse or an elderly parent. The conditions are associated with aging. On the other hand, the post-9/11 caregivers are caring for people who are younger. They tend to be younger themselves, and the conditions they’re caring for are much different as well.”
The study found that post-9/11 caregivers are more likely to care for someone with a traumatic brain injury, mobility-limiting disability, or a mental health/substance abuse condition. In addition, a post-9/11 family caregiver spends more time than a civilian caregiver helping care recipients cope with stressful situations.
Mental Health Care for Family Caregivers of Veterans
One thing is certain: All family caregivers spend a significant amount of time caring for a loved one, often while juggling other family and work duties. Research has found that this devotion can take a toll on the caregiver’s mental and physical health as well as their career and home life. This is especially true for military caregivers.
Many families have been impacted by the struggles faced by military veterans. The RAND study found that post-9/11 caregivers miss an average of four days of work per month (compared to one day per month for civilian caregivers). In addition, nearly 40% of post-9/11 caregivers meet the criteria for a probable depression diagnosis — that’s four times higher than the national average.
While there are several programs in place to train military caregivers, provide financial assistance, and offer social support, the RAND Corporation found there are few programs that provide respite care services. Respite care and related support services give family caregivers time away from their caregiving responsibilities to rest and recharge. This is essential for preserving the mental health and wellbeing of family caregivers and vets alike.
“The consequences for not caring for these military caregivers are quite profound,” Ramchand said. “We may expect an increase in the number of veterans who become homeless. We may experience an increase in the number of veterans who die prematurely. So supporting these caregivers remains of critical importance.”
One organization dedicated to supporting military caregivers is Hidden Heroes. It’s part of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which was established after the former U.S. senator saw firsthand the challenges military families face when her husband, Bob Dole (a veteran and former presidential nominee), was hospitalized for nearly a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Hidden Heroes raises awareness about the issues military caregivers face and advocates for policy changes. It also connects military caregivers with much-needed resources, such as respite services, workplace support, and financial/legal guidance.
In addition, those receiving income through the Veterans Pension may be eligible for a home care allowance through what’s known as Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits. Let's take a closer look.
Veterans Benefits, Aid, and Attendance
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides numerous benefits for former active duty military personnel and surviving spouses.
A basic VA pension is a needs-based benefit program for wartime Veterans. Among the VA benefits are various types of financial assistance, including monthly payouts to anyone with mental or physical incapacity as a result of wartime injury. VA disability compensation is available for those who have permanent service-connected disabilities. The monthly benefit amount is calculated by subtracting your household's eligible income from the maximum annual benefit amount.
In addition, housebound benefits include monthly increases to the pension amount for those with a permanent disability or those who are mostly bedridden or confined to their homes. Special aid and attendance benefits help these eligible veterans (and their surviving spouse, if applicable) pay for in-home assistance they need with daily living (preparing meals, bathing, dressing, medication management, memory care, and more). This can help senior veterans avoid nursing homes and continue with independent living for as long as possible. Veterans may also be eligible for the social security disability insurance program.
For more information, contact your VA regional office or reach out to a ComForCare advisor.
Get Professional Care for Disabled Vets Now, with ComForCare
The compassionate professionals at ComForCare can provide assistance and support for as little as a few hours a week or all the way up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This can serve as an alternative to a nursing home or assisted living facility, or can help your loved one as they transition from one living arrangement to the next.
Our personal care services assist veterans with cooking, hygiene, light housekeeping, medication reminders, transportation to medical appointments, and much more. We can also help you explore the full range of VA benefits and VA aid options available to you and your family.
If you or someone you know could benefit from home care or respite services, contact your local ComForCare Home Care office for a free in-home consultation ASAP.