Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Military Caregiving Educational Course NOW Available!

Caregiver CourseNew military caregiving online course entitled, The Unique Challenges of Military Caregivers, is now available. The course was created under the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Wounded Warrior Program and provides insight into the life of military caregivers and identifies the many challenges they may face. Emphasis is placed on possible resources and supports that professionals can reference or share when working with military caregivers and families.

To view the course, go to The Unique Challenges of Military Caregivers.

Course Background

Spouses, partners, parents and others become a caregiver of military personnel when they learn their loved one is wounded while serving. These hidden heroes are at the bedside of their service members and with them until they learn to live a “new normal.” Military caregivers focus on their wounded warriors often at the determent of their own health and well-being. Being a military caregiver isn’t easy as they advocate for their warrior, provide medical care and deal with the uncertainty of their future. They do this while also continuing as a parent, employee, spouse or other life roles.

Professionals often don’t recognize the essential role military caregiver’s play in the service member’s healing process. The caregiver provides information to medical staff or other professionals when the wounded warrior can’t remember or doesn’t want to accept the reality of their situation. Since they are a critical part of the service member’s care team, professionals need to understand the trials and tribulations military caregivers face daily.

Upon completion of the course, professionals should be able to recognize a variety of caregiver challenges and identify resources and support services to address each challenge. *The course may take approximately 45-60 minutes to complete.


The Unique Challenges of Military Caregivers course was created by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Wounded Warrior Program. Course content was developed by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., owner of MBP Consulting, LLC and Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension.

This article was originally published Tuesday, August 19, 2014 on the Military Families Learning Network blog, a part of eXtension.

AUGUST CAREGIVING WEBINAR: Compassion Fatigue

cover_fatigueMark your calendars for Wednesday, August 20th at 11:00 a.m. EDT as we host our FREE monthly professional development webinar entitled, Caregiver Compassion Fatigue, presented by Brian Bride, Ph.D.

*No registration is required; simply go to https://learn.extension.org/events/1604 the day of the event to join. All interested participants are encouraged to attend. 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit is available for credentialed participants (pending approval from NASW).

Webinar Background

The negative impact of traumatic events can extend beyond those who directly experienced the trauma to family members and professionals who support the traumatized individual. As such, military caregivers are at risk for a phenomenon called compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress.

Compassion fatigue may lead to impairment in social and occupational functioning for many military caregivers. During the webinar, Dr. Bride will introduce participants to the concept of compassion fatigue, describe its symptoms, and discuss strategies to minimize the negative impact of compassion fatigue.

How to Join the Webinar

To connect to this webinar, go to Caregiver Compassion Fatigue the day of the event. Remember, no registration is required to join.

The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense so you must install security certificates if you are not located on a military installation. Instructions for certificate installation can be found by clicking on DCO Adobe Certificate Installation.

For those who cannot connect to the Adobe site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream. You can connect to the Adobe webinars using iPhone, iPad, and Droid apps. Search for DCO Connect in the respective stores.


This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on August 8, 2014. 

Caregiver Mini Series: 444 Days in the First Year (Part 5)

Caregiver’s Final Moments with Service Member & the Advice She has for Professionals Communicating to Families during Grieving Process

iStock_000016563675Small“Please don’t leave me.”

I stood by my service member’s bed; my arms were wrapped tightly around him and my head was on his chest, just as I had done every other day before– but today was different though.

His room was quiet, with the exception of the nurse who would occasionally come into the room to monitor his heart rate. There was no talking, no questions, or any of the typical noises. I’m not sure how long I actually stood there, but I would have stood there forever if it meant he would eventually come home with me.

Tears quietly fell from my eyes and I squeezed him tighter as the reality of what was happening began to sink in.  The slower his breathing became, the tighter I held on hoping that the love I had for my service member, my husband, was somehow strong enough to miraculously heal his body. I stood there hoping that he would wake up and we would be a family again.  “Please,” I begged him, “Please don’t leave me.”

As I was gently pulled away from him I remember looking back over my shoulder to see him one last time, and with a piece of me missing, I walked out of his room for the last time.

Advice for Professionals and Family Caregivers

What happens when a wounded service member succumbs to their injuries?  As professional caregivers does your “job” stop?

In many ways I suppose it does, as there are specific agencies and programs in place for the families of our fallen that are filled with people who are willing to go above and beyond for our families during the transitioning and grieving process.

However, there are still ways to be part of this new process for the family members, should you have the opportunity.

It has been my experience both personally and professionally that families appreciate respect and acknowledgement.  Loosing a loved one is unbelievably hard, as well as exhausting.  In some cases, the mere presence of someone else beside them is all that is needed for an individual to feel comforted.

We do not always have to have the “right words” to say.  In fact, it was my experience that many words, or innocent “meant well” phrases made the hurt worse, and some were in fact down right disrespectful and almost unbearable.

Below is a list of common sayings that I heard following my service member’s death.  While the reasons I give as to why you should not say a certain phrase comes from my own personal experience and how it felt for me, I have heard many of these said to other families as well.  Admittedly, I too have been guilty of saying a couple of the phrases listed below, however it was not until I lost my service member that I realized how hurtful these comments could feel.

We are taught to make meaning through the use of language, and in many instances we rely on language to be the bridge between others and ourselves in creating our “New Normal.” But as most of us know, loosing a loved one is one of the hardest experiences we will ever face and I personally feel that learning to simply sit quietly with someone during their darkest hours of grief can sometimes convey a stronger message than any words could ever express. Silence speaks volumes.

The following statements are examples of what NOT to say to caregivers during the grieving process and my own personal response or thoughts to such comments.

What NOT to say to Military Caregivers during the Grieving Process

  1. “I’m so sorry, is there anything I can do?”
    •  Personal Thought: No, because what I wanted no one could give me, which was to have my service member back.
  1. “You are so young, you will find someone else.”
    • Personal Thought: As if my service member could simply be replaced. Regardless of age, loosing a loved one hurts.
  1. “Thank God your kids are so young, and won’t remember.”
    • Personal Thought: Hearing this hurts, even now.  My children do remember…a lot actually.  But because my children were so young there were so many firsts that we went through with out him, and so many still yet to be had.  Those words simply remind me of what we will never have.
  1. “Time heals all wounds.”
    • Personal Thought: Time healed nothing; I simply learned how to live without my service member. I redefined who I was as a person because every piece of me was forever changed. The wound is still very much there, and I am okay with that.
  1. “I know exactly how you feel.”
    • Personal Thought: No you do not, because you are not me.  Hearing this completely denies a person of their ability to grieve. Grief is unique and personal to everyone who experiences it. Everyone grieves differently regardless of shared relationships to the loved one who has passed. 

Missed the beginning of my series? Go to ‘The Phone Call’ to read the first installment of this caregiver series.


Tabitha_FamilyMeet Tabitha…

The caregiving mini-series, 444 Days in the First Year, was written by Tabitha McCoy. Tabitha is a contributor to the MFLN–Military Caregiving concentration team and is a former military caregiver to her husband, SGT Steve McCoy. In this mini-series, Tabitha shares her personal story of caregiving, loss, grieving, and transitioning, as well as insight and advice for both professionals and family caregivers as she recounts the 444 days following her husband’s injuries and then unfortunately his death in June 2008.

Tabitha holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and is currently a graduate student at Valdosta State University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on July 29, 2014.

July Caregiving Webinar: Identity Discrepancy & Implications for Practice

Identity DiscrepancyThe Military Caregiving concentration will be hosting it’s FREE monthly professional development webinar at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, July 23rd on Caregiver Identity Discrepancy, presented by Rhonda J.V. Montgomery, Ph.D.

*No registration is required; simply go to https://learn.extension.org/events/1631 the day of the event to join. All interested participants are encouraged to attend.

Webinar Background

Participants will be introduced to the basic tenants of the Caregiver Identity Theory and implications for understanding the caregiving experience and its impact on military families. A centerpiece of this perspective is the assertion that the caregiving role is not a new role, but rather a transformation of an existing role. Participants will learn about three specific types of caregiver stress and identity discrepancy, which many caregivers experience as they take on this role. The implications of this perspective for strategically intervening to support caregivers will also be discussed.

Dr. Montgomery, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Tailored Care Enterprises, LLC will present a 60-minute webinar on the caregiver identity change theory. The caregiver theory helps us understand:

  • Sources of caregiver distress
  • Differences in the way that caregivers experience distress
  • Reasons that caregivers use or do not use services
  • Strategies for helping caregivers
  • Differences among caregivers in the types of support needed.

How to Join the Webinar

To connect to this webinar, go to Caregiver Identity Discrepancy the day of the event. Remember, no registration is required to join.

The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense so you must install security certificates if you are not located on a military installation. Instructions for certificate installation can be found by clicking on DCO Adobe Certificate Installation.

For those who cannot connect to the Adobe site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream. You can connect to the Adobe webinars using iPhone, iPad, and Droid apps. Search for DCO Connect in the respective stores.


This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on July 16, 2014.

Caregiver Mini Series: 444 Days in the First Year (Part 4)

“Mrs. McCoy?”… “Mrs. McCoy?”… “I know this is hard but we need to know.”

Even though his voice was soft, empathetic, and understanding, it echoed loudly through the tiny consultation room.  I remember feeling as though the walls were closing in around me and there was nowhere I could go. I was trapped.

‘How did they expect me to make this decision?’ So many different scenarios raced through my mind and our entire history together. The last seven years of my life replayed over and over again.  The day we met, our first kiss, our wedding day, the day our babies were born…over and over I replayed those moments in my mind. .

Softly the doctor says once again, “Mrs. McCoy, Ma’am we need to know your decision.”

A few days prior…

Just day’s ago we celebrated my husband’s 23rd birthday.  He was wide-awake and extremely alert.  He smiled as I walked into his room, and I remember feeling so lucky that I was able to share another day with him.

I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, but before he could answer the nurse spoke up and said, “a Dr. Pepper and a kiss”.  I looked down at my Soldier who had clearly already had this conversation with the nurse, and was now grinning from ear-to-ear.

Reality

I will never forget this day, as it was the last kiss he and I shared together, and one of the last days he was able to talk. This new life that he and I had come to know was once again about to quickly change.

As the weight of the world fell upon my shoulders, for the first time the thought of not sharing a future with my husband crossed my mind.  ‘How was I supposed to process all of these feelings? ‘How was I to make all of these decisions?’ ‘I can’t do this,’ I remember thinking.  Everything I once knew, everything I once depended on, my world, my life, and my future was beginning to unravel.

Advice for Professionals and Family Caregivers

As in most situations in life we will be required to make decisions.  Some decisions of course will be harder to make and some will need immediate action. But what do we do when family members are not prepared to address such decision-making?

In dire moments some may not have the ability to answer our questions as quickly as we would like, such was the case for me personally.  I could not quite pull my thoughts together quickly enough as I was flooded with emotions, questions of “what if”, the unknown of my future, and the memories of my past.

There are two key elements that I have learned during my time training to be a Marriage and Family Therapist that I believe transcends to the professional caregiving field and can be used in situations similar to my military caregiving experience. These elements include (1) pacing and (2) space.

  1. Pacing in its simplest form has to do with the rate at which you are speaking as well as asking questions. This constantly remains in my peripheral when I am with my clients and I do my best to remain cognizant of not only what I am saying but also how I am saying it.  I personally believe this includes my tone of voice, the rate at which I speak and perhaps even my facial and body expressions. Pacing in my opinion is invaluable to us as professional caregivers, especially during stressful situations. Remaining mindful of the rate at which we speak and the tone of our voice we have the ability to reduce at least a small amount of the stress and anxiety a family member may be having.
  1. Space and pacing of course go hand in hand and it is hard if not impossible to have one without the other.  For me personally I think of space as belonging to my client, it is theirs to use however they see fit. It is not my job to determine how much time my client may need to answer a question or finish a thought. As professional caregivers when a question is asked to the family and there is no response we have the choice to either immediately ask the question again, or allow the family some space to sit with question and at least attempt to think through the possibilities or potential outcomes. I am not implying that we allow family members an infinite amount of time, as I am aware that some decisions require immediate action.  What I am suggesting is that we remain mindful of their needs and sensitive to their situation. When our pacing is pressured or rushed and we constantly fire question after question wanting an immediate response we rob our clients of the space that is needed and potentially become yet another stressor for them.

Life is full of hard decisions, some of which we never imagined we would have to make.  For the families of wounded service members, life-altering decisions are made regularly.  As professional caregivers we do not have the ability to eliminate the decision making process, however we do have to the ability to offer comfort and reduce the anxiety surrounding the process if we remain mindful how we speak and the space we allow the family member to have during these difficult times.

Missed the beginning of my series? Go to The Phone Call to read the first installment of this caregiver series.


Tabitha_FamilyMeet Tabitha…

The caregiving mini-series, 444 Days in the First Year, was written by Tabitha McCoy. Tabitha is a contributor to the MFLN–Military Caregiving concentration team and is a former military caregiver to her husband, SGT Steve McCoy. In this mini-series, Tabitha shares her personal story of caregiving, loss, grieving, and transitioning, as well as insight and advice for both professionals and family caregivers as she recounts the 444 days following her husband’s injuries and then unfortunately his death in June 2008.

Tabitha holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and is currently a graduate student at Valdosta State University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

RAND Corporation Webinar: Hidden Heroes – America’s Military Caregivers

Join us this month a1396318272007s we host our FREE military caregiving professional development webinar, featuring presenters from the RAND Corporation. *No registration is required.

 

 

 

 

Webinar Background

Military caregivers play an essential role in caring for injured or wounded service members and veterans. Yet playing this role can impose a substantial physical, emotional, and financial toll on caregivers. This presentation will provide an overview of RAND’s recent study that examined the magnitude of military caregiving in the United States and assessed the array of policies, programs and services available to support the men and women who render this care.

 

Rajeev Ramchand, Ph.D., Senior Behavioral Scientist and Terri Tanielian, MA, Senior Social Research Analyst from RAND will present findings from the study and highlight:

  • The size and makeup of the military caregiver population
  • Differences between caregivers who support pre-9/11 and post-9/11 service members
  • The burdens experienced as a result of performing caregiving duties
  • Gaps in services and supports
  • Recommendations for providing better support for military and veteran caregivers now and in the future.

 

Continuing Education Credit

1.00 Continuing Education credit hour will be available through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to credentialed participants. Note: The following states do not accept national CE approval programs and require individual program/provider application processes: California, Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia. For more information on how to receive credit go to the event’s LEARN page (https://learn.extension.org/events/1601).

UPCOMING WEBINAR: Effects of Visible & Invisible Parent Combat Injuries on Military Families

May 2014 WebinarJoin us next week as we host our FREE military caregiving professional development webinar.
*No registration is required.

Webinar Background

Both visible and invisible injuries affect the climate of the family and every member.  The presenters, Adrian Blow, Ph.D. and Hiram Fitzgerald, Ph.D., will provide practical suggestions for military professionals and families to successfully negotiate key developmental milestones, in spite of stressful circumstances caused by war injury.

It is well documented that military life presents risks to mental and family health. Drawing from both the civilian and the military literature, the presenters will provide guidance on what sets the stage for successful family functioning, how military life can interrupt these processes, and what families can do to safeguard against risks.

Upon completion of the presentation, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe visible and invisible injuries acquired through deployment.
  2. Describe the inter-connectedness of visible and invisible injuries.
  3. Relate military injuries to potential risks in children and families.
  4. Describe basic aspects of normative development and life-course risk and resilience factors.
  5. Describe critical factors that influence human development in major transitional periods.
  6. Discuss factors from military life that may interfere with normative development.
  7. Give practical examples of how military families can negotiate key developmental milestones in spite of stressful circumstances caused by war.

Continuing Education Credit

1.00 Continuing education credit hour will be available through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) to credentialed participants. Note: The following states do not accept national CE approval programs and require individual program/provider application processes: California, Michigan, North Carolina, and West Virginia. For more information on how to receive credit go to our Event Page.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 22, 2014.

Caregiver Mini Series: 444 Days in the First Year (Part III)

Unanswered Question

There was always a rush whenever I was given the “ok” to see my husband in the hospital. The anticipation of getting to see him, touch him, and talk to him was almost overwhelming at times. I craved to be near him, I’d give anything to just be in his presence during the road to recovery.

I would wash my hands, and put on the hospital cap, gown, shoe covers, and mask as quickly as I could. I would selfishly hope that he would be awake each time I went into the ICU burn-unit where he was being treated.

On good days he would be alert, constantly asking about our children, curious about everything and everyone coming in and out of his room.

I always looked forward to our conversations; however I also knew he would eventually ask questions regarding the day his unit was hit, and I wasn’t quite sure I knew how to answer them.

Lone Survivor

‘How would I answer?’ ‘Should I wait for him to ask, or should I approach the topic myself?’ ‘How could I possibly find the words to say what I could barely stand to even think about?’

‘How could I ever explain to him that he was the only survivor?’

Late one evening, as visiting hours were drawing to an end it happened, he asked.  I remember feeling so selfish. I fell to pieces right there in front of him, it was the first time he had seen me cry since everything had happened and I couldn’t stop the tears.

Caregiver’s Advice to Professionals and Military Families

Fallen ComradeThrough the numerous technological and medical advances we are able to offer state of the art medical procedures to our wounded service members that aide in the physical repair and healing process.

Unfortunately, in spite of our many advances we will never be able to see, heal or project the prognosis of the ‘invisible wounds’ many of our service members endure.

I remember my Soldier getting angry with me when I would say, “It’s not your fault.”  Truthfully, it wasn’t his fault. However that did nothing for his feelings of regret, or the loss and grief he was beginning to process.

Why?  Because I was essentially telling him he needed to stop feeling that way, something I had no right in doing.  Something none of us have the right to do, their feelings are real, their emotions are real, and the ‘invisible wounds’ are real.

As caregivers and mental health professionals we know that there are no “correct” answers. Traumatically and forever their lives have changed and the loss they may be experiencing is real.

Learning to “be” with our wounded service members is extremely important.  Whether they find comfort in remembering the past and re-telling their stories, or prefer to be silent in their reflections, our job as professional and caregivers is not to deny them of their feelings.

If they are feeling regretful, allow them space to feel this, and to begin processing what this means for them.  We should not stand constantly on guard waiting to disarm the first signs of grief, remorse, or sadness.  Our job is to aide them in their journey of finding healthy ways to process these feelings and new ways to navigate through each day.

We must learn to “be” with them as they sift through their emotions and begin to make since of their ‘new normal,’ always remembering that some of the deepest wounds are not seen, only felt.

Missed the beginning of my series? Go to The Phone Call to read the first installment of this caregiver series.


Tabitha_FamilyMeet Tabitha…

The caregiving mini-series, 444 Days in the First Year, was written by Tabitha McCoy. Tabitha is a contributor to the MFLN–Military Caregiving concentration team and is a former military caregiver to her husband, SGT Steve McCoy. In this mini-series, Tabitha shares her personal story of caregiving, loss, grieving, and transitioning, as well as insight and advice for both professionals and family caregivers as she recounts the 444 days following her husband’s injuries and then unfortunately his death in June 2008.

Tabitha holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and is currently a graduate student at Valdosta State University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Tips and Advice from our Audience

By Molly C. Herndon

In today’s webinar, 20 Steps to 7 Figures, our audience was on fire! You offered up book recommendations, investment tips, advice for avoiding risk, and shared personal experience about protecting and growing investments. What a great learning opportunity for all of us!

I was able to capture just some of the suggestions our participants made. Here are the book suggestions shared in today’s webinar:

  • Millionaire Next Door – Dr. Thomas Stanley
  • Who’s Afraid to be a Millionaire : Mastering Financial and Emotional Success– Kelvin Boston
  • Warren Buffet Invests Like a Girl – Louann Lofton
  • Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
  • Business at the Speed of Thought – Bill Gates
  • Getting Loaded: 50 Start Now Strategies for Making  Million While You’re Still Young Enough to Enjoy It – Peter Bielagus
  • Die Broke: A Radical Four-Part Financial Plan – Stephen Pollan & Mark Levine
  • Stop Acting Rich and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire – Dr. Thomas Stanley
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert T. Kiyosaki

But the investment advice shared was even more prolific! If you want to foster engagement in a chat box, just ask financial educators about investment tips. Here’s what they shared:

  • Teach your children how to save
  • Line goals to work toward
  • Consider being more aggressive while young, conservative when older
  • Mutual funds
  • Roth IRA
  • Index Funds
  • Start early, start small
  • Start now!
  • Buy, buy, buy
  • Start now with the TSP
  • Star early
  • Pay yourself first
  • The sure way to fail is to never try
  • Don’t invest unless you understand what you’re getting into
  • Invest any amount as soon as possible
  • Be educated, ask questions
  • Take advantage of Roth options, TSP expense ratio, use lifecycle funds if don’t have the time or knowledge
  • Lifecycle funds in TSP
  • Savings bonds
  • Roth TSP
  • Save and invest change
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t look at it everyday!
  • Mutual funds!
  • Pay tax now rather than later
  • Be aware that even pre-tax 401(k) and 403(b) are subject to Social Security and Medicare tax withholding – but not income tax
  • Review Roth 401(k) options
  • Claim all of your exemptions and save the difference
  • Maintain good records and substantiate deductions
  • Claim the correct amount of exemptions for your family and invest the rest
  • Track deductions
  • Optimize income tax withholding exemptions and save/invest the monthly difference
  • Maximize contributions to Roth accounts instead of kicking the tax can down the road
  • Keep all receipts if you pay local taxes – will usually be more than the calculated amount figured by tax software
  • Don’t pull 401(k) out
  • Manage exemptions to avoid large refunds
  • Don’t plan for the big refund – ID theft
  • Adjust exemptions to breakeven on tax liability and invest tax savings
  • See if your state has reduced taxes or no taxes for military
  • Try to avoid paying for tax prep
  • If purchasing individual stocks, only buy if you think you can hold for 366 days or longer
  • For military, switch to Roth when in combat zone to enjoy tax free growth on tax exempt dollars
  • Military are only taxed on “base pay” so they are in a very favorable tax situation and may want to put extra emphasis on the Roth side, especially if deployed
  • Don’t take IRA early, most don’t know about tax penalty

Think I missed some? Please share your own advice and recommendations in the comments section. Want to be a part of these great exchanges? Join us for 3 days of online learning June 3-5 during the Virtual Learning Event. 

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on May 13, 2014.

Stay Connected with Our Military Caregiving eNewsletter

Do you want to learn more about what the Military Caregiving concentration area of the Military Families Learning Network has to offer? If so, get connected with us by subscribing to our monthly email newsletter. The eNewsletter provides resources to current caregiver literature and includes links to upcoming educational events for learning opportunities. The eNewsletter is an easy way to get an outline of what the Military Caregiving concentration areas has to offer that month, as well as a place to find all of the links you need to access information.

To subscribe to the monthly eNewsletter, click here!

 

May newsletter

This post was written by Carlee Latham of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Military Program. Latham is a member of the MFLN–Military Caregiving Concentration team. This blog was posted to the Military Families Learning Network site on May 9, 2014.