Tag Archives: militaryfamilies

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.

Caregiver Mini Series: 444 Days in the First Year (Part 2)

The Waiting Room

Waiting RoomThere I sat on the cool leather couch staring out of the large panoramic glass window that looked out into the hallway of the waiting room.

Occasionally the door would open with a nurse, volunteer, or a fellow waiting room family member coming in or out.  Quiet conversation could be heard throughout the waiting room, as I continued to sit in my new ‘home away from home.’

I would watch a little T.V. or watch the hands of the clock continuously chase each other around and around.  “Is this room getting smaller?”  I asked myself.   I would pray, “God please give me strength because I don’t know how much longer I can possibly sit here.”

Some days I just wanted to leave, I needed a break, a walk, anything to get some fresh air.  I just wanted to be anywhere but within the confines of that waiting room.

Caregiver’s Advice to Professionals and Military Families

The “waiting game” is something most military families are accustomed to.  We become numb to the geographical separations we endure, and learn to hope for the best while expecting the worst.  Or so we think, or so I thought…

I am not sure I could have ever prepared myself for what would prove to be the wait of my life–the unknown of whether or not I would get to see my service member today or if he would even make it to a new day. I was trapped in a waiting game.

I can distinctly recall the myriad of conflicting feelings I felt as I sat day-in and day-out, trying my best to patiently wait for the next time I would be allowed to go back and see my service member.  Watching others pass through the halls, the changing shifts of doctors, nurses and volunteer workers.  I remember thinking on more then one occasion, “I just want to leave”.  I had no real plans of truly going anywhere, I just wanted to be anywhere but right there in that moment.  Of course those feelings were always quickly replaced by feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment.  “How selfish”, I remember thinking. How dare I wish to be anywhere else other than there waiting on my Soldier?

No one ever told me these feelings were okay.  No one ever told me that I could leave, take “a breather”, a break from it all, and not have to feel guilty.  Sure, people would say, “you have to take care of yourself,” but what did that even mean?  So there I would sit, embarrassed, scared and extremely anxious as I continued to wait.  Watching the clock until the minutes turned to hours and the hours into days.

It seems as if these types of feelings are seldom spoke of, and I cannot help but to reflect upon my own personal experience and wonder why as professionals we are not more aware of how it is not just the service member who suffers.  Expectations of recovery should at least in some ways revolve around the wounded family as a whole.  Just as the wounded service member begins immediate treatment, perhaps the family as a whole could benefit from some type of immediate, hands on (i.e., outside of online or web-based groups or forums) family therapy, or support group, or at the very least information on where to find such support.

I was fortunate enough to have an amazing support group.  I had family with me at all times, and I became very close to another wounded family who arrived only a few weeks before us.  The waiting room volunteer’s whom we were blessed with were amazing, and the doctors and nurses who worked with my husband everyday were more than willing to listen to any concerns I had.  However my worry is that not every family will be this fortunate, not every family will have such a strong support group.   As professionals, I think it is our duty to educate ourselves on how to help wounded service members in the most holistic way possible, beginning with the family members who wait.

Missed Part I of the series? Go to ‘The Phone Call’ for read the first installment of the series. 


Tabitha_FamilyThe 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 Masters degree in Marriage and Family.

Outdoor Recreation and Restoration Engagement for Military Caregiver Professionals

Outdoor Recreation BlogDuring a recent Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) webinar, the audience, composed of military caregiving practitioners and professionals, was polled regarding perceptions of outdoor recreation and caregiving.  Participants were asked three questions.

The first question was: “Do you feel that a person involved in delivering outdoor recreation programming could at times find themselves in a caregiver role?”  About 95 percent of participants answered yes, and a small number answered “unsure.” No one answered no. The second question was:  “I know from experience that service men and women have experienced significant therapeutic benefits from outdoor recreation.” About 41 percent answered “strongly agree” and another 50 percent answered “agree.” Less than ten percent answered “no opinion” and no one disagreed with the statement. When the third question was posed, “Is there room in the military caregiver definition to include occasional caregivers who provide important and valuable outdoor recreation and restoration opportunities?” participants answered 100 percent in the affirmative. This points to a need for additional educational and training needs for occasional caregivers, especially in the area of outdoor recreation and restoration and related environmental education topics.

Environmental Education: Engaging Military Communities

To begin to address this gap, Cornell University’s Civic Ecology Lab and EECapacity program are conducting a professional development course entitled, Engaging Military Communities, that is designed for environmental educators and community development professionals interested in working with members of the military community. Exposure to nature through outdoor recreation, gardening, tree planting and similar activities has been especially valuable to returning warriors and their families. The potential impacts include improved personal health, resiliency, strengthening family ties and community cohesion.

NatureThe objective of this course is to increase participants’ capacity to develop programs that increase environmental awareness and utilize the therapeutic value of nature in building resilient communities.  Topics covered in this course will include:

  • Current environmental education related practices that address military communities.
  • Environmental education programming for military families and personnel.
  • The role of nature for community building and therapy for veterans.
  • Environmental Education Guidelines and Military Communities.

This online course duration is four weeks, beginning 05/12/2014 and continuing thru 06/08/2014. This is a 4-week course focuses on developing group projects relevant to the work of environmental education (EE) that addresses the unique perspectives of military communities.

Participants will work on crafting a program plan (outdoor adventure, garden party, tree planting activity, etc.) that combines environmental education in a way that addresses the specific needs of veterans, military families, and/or the broader military community. This class project will serve as one of the key outcomes of the learning experience. Participants will also be exposed to environmental education topics through video, weekly webinars with leaders in the field, as well as print publications.

Note: The course is limited to 30 participants and registration is open from now thru 05/10/2014. To register, please visit the EELearning Portal.


This post was written by Keith Tidball, Ph.D., Senior Extension Associate with the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University. Dr. Tidball is a member of the MFLN–Military Caregiving Concentration team. This blog was posted to the Military Families Learning Network site on April 11, 2014.

Preparing Caregivers to Communicate Effectively Using Three Types of Communication Skills Webinar

iStock_000011132527LargeBy Carlee Latham, MFLN–Military Caregiving

Remember to mark your calendars for this Thursday, April 10 at 11:00 am EDT, as the Military Caregiving concentration hosts a professional development webinar on caregiver communication skills.

Preparing Caregivers to Communicate Effectively Using Three Types of Communication Skills will focus on preparing caregivers to have those difficult conversations with a variety of individuals, including military professionals. The presenter, Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., will help caregivers and professionals:

  • Distinguish between the communication skills of “I messages”, Assertive, and Aikido and the types of situations they are best used in.
  • Identify caregiver situations where professionals could use one of the communication styles.
  • Prepare to use one of the communication skills.

For more information on Thursday’s webinar visit the eXtension website here. Event materials, like the presentation slides and handouts are available within the eXtension Learn site.

The Military Caregiving concentration has applied for 1.00 continuing education credit hour from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). Credentialed participants may contact woundedwarrior@ag.tamu.edu for more information.

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

Military Home Buying & Selling

By Molly C. Herndon

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcodePermanent changes of station (PCS) make moves frequent for military families. The complexity of buying and selling a home is compounded by deployments, one-earner incomes, and the slow-to-rebound housing market. In fact, the 2012 FINRA Military Capability Study found 38% of military families have mortgages that are underwater.  So how do military families ease the burden of buying and selling a home? Fortunately, many programs are in place to assist service members and their families with this process.

The Service Member’s Civil Relief Act protects active duty service members and their families from foreclosure, termination of leases, and eviction. In the event a service member has been a victim of a wrongful foreclosure that violates the terms of the Service Member’s Civil Relief Act, they should take legal action.

Service members can also qualify for low-interest home loans using VA home loans or other special loans available to military members.

On April 15, Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Personal Finance Manager Barbara Lang will present Military Home Buying & Selling, a 90-minute webinar that will discuss these and many other home buying and selling options available to service members. This session will be worth 1.5 CEUs for AFC-credentialed participants.

To join this session, click here. Here, you’ll also find supporting resources, the PowerPoint Slides, information about the speakers, and connection information.

This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on March 31, 2014.