Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

Caregiver Compassion Fatigue

Is your service member experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or has he/she been exposed to traumatic events while serving? Has these traumatic events indirectly affected your ability to care, causing burnout and significant distress? If so, you may be at risk for a phenomenon called compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress (STS). Compassion fatigue, if not treated, can lead to impairment in social and occupational functioning.

What is compassion fatigue or STS? STS is ‘a syndrome of symptoms nearly identical to PTSD except that exposure to a traumatizing event experienced by one person becomes a traumatizing event for the second person’ (Figley, 1999). Compassion fatigue can occur in spouses or partners and children of service members who have experienced combat. Also professionals working with wounded warriors can indirectly be affected, limiting their ability to provide the necessary services for families and service members. Be aware of the symptoms that may be causing you compassion fatigue or STS. Symptoms may include:

  • Distressing dreams related to your service member’s traumatic experiences
  • Functional impairment due to family, social and occupational environments
  • Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the service member’s experiences
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger

Click on the image below for an illustrated look at additional symptoms related to compassion fatigue.

Compassion Fatigue

 

 

Self-Care for Compassion Fatigue

Caregivers – you can minimize the negative impact of compassion fatigue by learning a few simple self-care techniques. Brian Bride, Ph.D., professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia suggests’ using the “A-B-C’s of Self-Care.”

Awareness:

    • Recognize and identify compassion fatigue symptoms.
    • Monitor changes in symptoms over time.
    • Recognize and monitor changes in your functioning.

Balance:

    • Prioritize your personal life.
    • Attend to your physical health.
    • Seek therapy or counseling.

Connection:

    • Prioritize your relationship with family and friends.
    • Honor your connection to community.
    • Revitalize your sense of life’s purpose and meaning.

For more information on compassion fatigue and STS within the military, check out Dr. Bride’s recent presentation on Compassion Fatigue and self-care strategies for military caregivers and professionals.

What you once thought was stress related to your caregiving role, may actually be secondary effects from your service member’s traumatic experiencing while serving. Start today by learning how to identify and manage compassion fatigue in your caregiving role, so you can move forward to a healthier lifestyle for you and your service member.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on October 7, 2014. 

Caregiver Webinar Recap: Give Care, Take Care

iStock_000020584967MediumLast week the Military Caregiving Concentration team presented on the topic of Give Care, Take Care. The webinar included tips for military professionals and caregivers working with wounded service members in areas of autonomy and decision-making ability, Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), and finally learning to take care and give care. The goal of the presentation was to provide basic knowledge and some critical thinking skills so caregivers can effectively “give care” to their wounded warrior, while “taking care” of themselves.

Below we will briefly review lessons learned from the event. Remember, you can still view the presentation and receive continuing education credit and a certificate of completion by going to Give Care, Take Care.

Autonomy & Decision-Making

We togetherWhen a service member becomes wounded our first instinct as a caregiver is to take on all responsibilities and decisions. However, we often forget the importance that is placed on making one’s own decision and choices and how to respect the autonomy of the warrior as a surrogate decision-maker. Independence and self-esteem are promoted when the service member is able to have a say, even when the decision is simply to pick out an item of clothing for the day. Caregivers must be able to assess and recognize the services member’s abilities which will ultimately encourage the individual to feel that he/she still has some form of control.

ADLs & IADLs

ADLs are basic tasks which must be accomplished to function independently such as bathing, eating, dressing and undressing, toileting and transferring and positions. IADLs are tasks which support independent function and support life but are NOT necessarily critical. Examples of IADLs include grooming and hygiene, walking, cooking, grocery shopping, managing medications, etc.

When a wounded service member is unable to perform these activities, caregivers must step-in to provide assistance. These activities do not come without their challenges and is where the “give care” and “take care” theory comes into play.

Woman caring for sick manGive Care, Take Care

The term “give care” is simply stated–caregivers are providing care through assistance with various ADLs and IADLs. A few examples of caregiver strategies for “giving care” when it comes to eating include:

  • Beware of food hot enough to burn if the service member has weakness, shakiness or problems with grip.
  • Make sure service member’s mouth is empty before each subsequent bite.
  • Don’t rush the service member while he/she is eating.

In order to “give care,” “caregivers must learn to “take care” as well. By learning “take care” strategies, caregivers not only provide enhanced care for the service member but will increase their own personal well-being. For example, learn to practice good body mechanics and know your limitations to providing care.

While caring for a service member may seem a natural extension of one’s relationship, basic tasks associated with caregiving can become challenging and daily activities that were once simple may result in new approaches to care. For an in-depth look into decision-making, ADLs & IADLs, and giving and taking care, checkout the full presentation at Give Care, Take Care.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on September 23, 2014.

September Caregiving Webinar: Give Care. Take Care.

Join us on Wednesday, September 17 @ 11:00 a.m. EDT as we host our FREE monthly professional development webinar entitled, Give Care. Take Care, presented by Andy Crocker.

Watch and listen as Andy provides a sneak peek into what you can expect from the upcoming September 17th webinar.

How to Join the Webinar

*No registration is required; simply go to Give Care. Take Care. the day of the event to join. The Military Families Learning Network will be providing 1.0 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) continuing education credit to credentialed participants. Certificates of Completion will also be available for training hours as well.

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 September 2, 2014.

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

“…to this day I still cringe when someone refers to me as a widow.”

The first few days following my husband passing are still very much a blur.  I can remember the flight home, the loneliness that consumed me, and the reality that slowly began to sink in.  I was used to not having my service member home, however knowing I would never hear his voice, feel his touch, or have him hold me was almost too much for my mind to comprehend.

There was so much to do, and I was extremely overwhelmed.  I had plenty of friends and family around me but I still felt very alone.  There was so much to do and I was not quite sure where to start.  My mind raced. My heart pounded.  With every new thought I was once again reminded that I was alone.

No one could have prepared me for the transitional process, or the journey I was about to embark on.  I felt separated from those around me.  I was no longer part of the “active duty” family that I had known for so long, yet I did not quiet feel as though I fit in with the civilian world either.  I felt like an imposter in many ways, simply because I didn’t know what to feel or where I fit in.

My military friends were beginning to welcome their service member’s home, and I was in the beginning processes of “clearing housing.”  I didn’t want to be treated differently and to this day I still cringe when someone refers to me as a “widow.”  My entire world and everything in it was different.

Things moved so quickly that there was no time for me to even process what was going on around me.  Before I knew it, I was packing up our household goods and placing our entire life in boxes.  I was once again saying goodbye to something that I could never get back.  The last home Steve and I shared together would soon be occupied by another family trying to make their way in the uncertain world of the military life–I was to begin mine alone without him.

Grieving for what is Lost

For the military spouse, packing up and moving regularly is part of the military culture. However for a military spouse whose service member has passed away, the familiarity of packing up household goods, and clearing quarters quickly becomes unfamiliar territory.

Typically speaking, when a loved one passes away we are able to choose a little more freely the rate at which we will go through the grieving process.  We are able to reminisce with friends and family as we rummage through our memories, shared experiences, and material belongings or we have the ability to say, “I don’t feel up to this right now.”

When a Service Member passes away however, the entire process seems to be expedited.  Quickly quarters are to be cleared, a new home must be found, and papers must be signed. I remember feeling angry. I felt robbed of the ability to have any time to process what was going on around me, and it was the one time I wanted someone to understand and realize what it was they were asking me to do…I was a widow.

The transitional process that a military family will go through after their service member passes is different in many aspects than that of a civilian. Getting “stuck” in the grieving process is highly possible, especially for those families who never have the opportunity such as I, to be with their loved one during their final hours.

I am so grateful for the many wonderful people who were there during my time of darkness, and there are no words to describe the gratitude I have for those individuals. I realize I am blessed in many ways to have had the opportunities that I did, however I feel as though the need to take a closer look at the transitional process for the wounded family is real. I find myself wondering how many other spouses, children, mothers, fathers, and family members feel as though their ability to grieve has been stunted, or as if they are stuck within the process simply because of the expedited nature.

Missed the beginning of the 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 August 29, 2014.

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).