Military family caregivers are unique in that many are caring for individuals with complex injuries such as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, amputations, blindness, burns and other conditions unlike nonmilitary family caregivers. In a two-part article series on Helping Military Family Caregivers, the author identifies similarities and differences among caregivers of service members and veterans and identifies challenges within their caregiving journey.
Part I: Recognizing their Similarities and Differences
While little research exists on military family caregivers, Part I, illustrates similarities and differences among caregivers of service members and veterans. For example, women most often serve as primary caregivers of service members/veterans. Of those caring for service members involved in Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts, 79 percent are women, and nearly all caregivers of veterans (96 percent) are women (Griffin, J.M., et al., 2012; NAC and AARP, 2009; NAC, 2010). Among caregivers of service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 62 percent are parents, and 84 percent are younger than 60. On the other hand, 70 percent of caregivers of veterans are spouses older than 50.
To continue to read about similarities and differences among caregivers of service members and veterans go to, Helping Military Family Caregivers, Part I: Recognizing Their Similarities and Differences.
Part II: Recognizing their Challenges
Many military families struggle to grasp their “new normal” as caregivers to their wounded, ill, or injured service members. Part II of the Helping Military Family Caregivers series identifies challenges caregivers commonly face, along with some important rewards they reap along the way. Challenges the article describes include:
- A bumpy start to the caregiving journey
- The potential length of the caregiving journey
- Complex medical tasks
- Feelings of exclusion from the care team
- Stress and apathy
- Mental and emotional distress
- Secondary PTSD
- Lack of support
- Loss of income
- Navigation through multiple bureaucracies
- Military culture
The challenges that family caregivers experience as they care for their service members and veterans are significant. However, many feel that the role as caregiver has benefited them. To learn more about the challenges and rewards to giving care go to Helping Military Family Caregivers, Part II: Recognizing Their Challenges.
As a military professional, one of the most important things you can do is let family caregivers know that they’re not alone. Letting a caregiver know that he or she is not alone will help that individual realize that others are in similar situations and are coping with many of the same challenges.
Griffin, J. M.; Friedemann-Sanchez, G.; Jensen, A. C.; Taylor, B. C.; Gravely, A .; Clothier, B.; Simon, A. B.; Bangerter, A.; Pickett, T.; Thors, C.; Ceperich, S.; Poole, J.; & van Ryn, M. (2012). The Invisible Side of War: Families Caring for US Service Members with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Polytrauma. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation 27(1):3-13.
National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) (2010). Caregivers of Veterans—Serving on the Homefront. Bethesda, MD: National Alliance for Caregiving. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2009). Caregiving in the United States. Bethesda, MD: National Alliance for Caregiving. Retrieved January 10, 2010.