Category Archives: military families

Military Families

Communication “In the Crunch”: Upcoming Caregiving Webinar

May Webinar Announcement

We invite you to join us Wednesday May 4, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for our free webinar Communication “In the Crunch.”

This webinar will focus on practices that open communication possibilities, and provide strategies for improving communication when under pressure.

Although we all have the intention to communicate clearly, during times of high stress or when we are “in the crunch,” we often revert to less skillful styles of making our point.

In this interactive 60-minute online session, participants will have the opportunity to discover how personal ‘agendas’ repeatedly interfere with effective communication, and will take away a RECIPE for more effective and efficient communication.

Reflective listening
Compromise and cooperation
I” Messages



Jane B. Riffe, Ed.D., LISCW, LPC

West Virginia University Extension Specialist in Family & Human Development, retired.


A certificate of completion will be available following the webinar. For more information about this event please go to the learn event page at

Interested in Joining the Webinar?

To join the webinar, simply click on Communication “In the Crunch.” The webinar is hosted by the Department of Defense APAN system, but is open to the public.

If you cannot connect to the APAN site, an alternative viewing of this presentation will be running on Ustream. Mobile options for Ustream are available on all Apple and Android devices.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on April 29, 2016.

FD Webinar|Battles on the Home Front: Working with Multi-Crisis Families

Battles on the Home Front: Working with Multi-Crisis Families

Date: May 19, 2016

Time: 11:00 am-12:30 pm Eastern


Window on red house
Flickr [Broken by Lambert Rellosa, April 16, 2012, CC BY-ND 2.0]
Dr. Andrew Behnke, PhD, CFLE  is an associate professor of human development and an extension Latino parent specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. In this webinar, Dr. Behnke will assist service professionals in identifying available resources for helping individuals and families with multiple, complex family issues. He will outline similarities and differences within treatment issues, such as addiction, and discuss various treatment approaches from an Addiction Interaction Theory framework. Join us on May 19th at 11:00 am Eastern!

We offer 1.5 National Association of Social Worker CE credits and CE credits for licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Georgia for each of our webinars, click here to learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2016 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

Credit Score Refresher

By Ayesha Haider, BA, MBA, AFC Candidate

Your credit score is often the first indicator that banks, potential employers and landlords and financial institutions turn to when assessing your financial health and deciding whether to do business with you. But what exactly makes up a credit score? Are certain items given more weight than others in determining a score? And how good or bad is your score compared to the rest of the Nation?

Let’s start with the basics:

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number derived from your current and past financial behaviors which lenders and other organizations use to assess how much risk they will be taking on by extending you credit. There are numerous credit scores that are used by financial institutions, and each of these has a different formula for calculating your level of risk. The most well-known and widely used score is the Fair Isaac Corporation’s FICO score.

What makes up a credit score?

A credit score is determined by collecting and classifying individuals’ financial transactions. The FICO score is calculated based on payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), credit mix (10%) and new credit (10%). Keep in mind that your credit score is constantly changing with every financial decision you make – from taking out a new loan, to paying your bills every month – so it is important to know what will have an adverse or beneficial effect on your score.

What is not included in a credit score?

Your credit score will never be affected by your race, religion, national origin, sex or marital status. It will also not take into account where you live, your salary or employment history, age or the interest rates that you are currently being charged. Oftentimes, your credit score may suffer as a result of stolen identity, illness or other unforeseen life events. It is important to know that you reserve the right to have a personal statement included in your credit report that can be viewed by potential lenders and may assist in explaining a poor credit score.

How “good” is my score?

A good or bad credit score really depends on which score you are looking at and what financial transactions you will be using your credit score for. Most scores range from 301 to 850 with anything above 650 being considered a “good” score and anything below this number to be considered “bad”. Experian’s 2015 state of credit report shows that the average score for Americans last year was 669 (up three points from the 2014 average of 666).

Knowing how your credit score is calculated and what it is used for is the first step to working towards (or maintaining) a favorable credit score. To obtain your FICO score, visit the myFICO website or visit your base Personal Financial Counselor who may be able to obtain your score free of charge.

Credit Scores- What's New- (1)Join us next week on Tuesday, May 3 at 11 a.m. ET for Credit Scores: What’s New? with Dr. Barbara O’Neill and Rod Griffin from Experian. This 90-minute webinar will cover the fundamentals of credit reporting and credit scoring and what you must do to get the credit you want and need. This webinar is approved for 1.5 CEUs for AFCs through AFCPE and CPFCs through FinCert.

Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Relocation

By Ayesha Haider, BA, MBA, AFC Candidate

Relocation is a challenging time for even the most seasoned service members who have experienced numerous PCS moves. In addition to the emotional difficulties of leaving friends and familiar surroundings behind is the burden of starting from scratch in a foreign location. While finances may be the last thing on your mind during this hectic time, the following tips are sure to ensure a smoother, less stressful relocation for you and your family:

Photo by Chris Waits
Photo by Chris Waits
  1. Really know what your expenses are: On the surface, the expenses associated with relocation may seem fairly obvious but there are many other “hidden” costs of relocation that are often overlooked and may result in a stressful relocation experience. Basic examples include, fuel (if you are driving to your new location), furniture/appliance replacement (for damaged items not covered by insurance), and costs associated with buying/selling a house or car. Some less obvious examples include the costs of living “on the go” such as eating out more. Keep track of your expenses by creating a list of potential expenditures associated with the move. This can even be a brainstorming activity for the whole family and a great way to introduce your children to the basics of financial management.
  1. Have an emergency fund: It is important to have an emergency fund that covers 3-6 months of expenses regardless of if you are relocating or not. However, during relocation an emergency fund can provide you with an unprecedented level of financial security. Many of the costs associated with relocation are reimbursed but you are not likely to receive reimbursement for many weeks after they have been incurred. Knowing that you have a cushion to cover any short term financial needs associated with the move can give you the peace of mind to focus on other important matters such as finding accommodation or researching school districts.
  1. Update your bank and utility accounts: it is crucial that your banking institutions and credit card companies are aware of your move and have your new address as soon as possible. This prevents them from sending sensitive information to an older address that may be occupied by another tenant now. It also prevents credit card companies from freezing your account due to transactions you make while on the move. In addition to your financial accounts, remember to close any utility accounts under your name that you will no longer be using. To avoid penalty fees for early termination of contracts, refer to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
  1. Create a new budget for your new life: A new living situation is most likely going to have an effect on your financial situation as well. You may be paying more or less rent, have a higher or lower BAH, and may have less disposable income as a result of one spouse having to resign from their job as a result of the move. Once you’re settled into your new home, be sure to create a new budget to reflect these changes and to see how they affect your saving and investment goals.
  1. Make use of your resources: Knowledge is power – and knowledge is also the most important tool you have at your disposal when PCSing. Conduct research on the new location you are moving to and shop around for the best deals on housing, cars and other purchases early on in the moving process. The internet is a great source of information on both your new location and any obstacles you might be facing while planning your move. It’s also a good idea to tap into your network of friends and family to get first-hand information from anyone who has lived at this location in the past or currently resides there. There are also numerous organizations on base to help with your transition, such as the Airman & Family Readiness Center that offers a Plan My Move tool.

Following the tips listed above and staying positive and focused throughout the PCS process is sure to make your relocation experience less stressful and virtually hassle-free. Treat relocation as a valuable life lesson that allows you to practice your flexibility and planning skills and remember to share best practices of your moving experience with those around you to help them in their time of transition.

Featured Military Caregiving Mini-Series: 444 Days in the First Year

By Tabitha McCoy, MS

MFLN Family Development is featuring a 6 part blog series titled, 444 Days in the First Year, written by  Tabitha McCoy. Tabitha is one of MFLN Family Development’s Anchored. podcast guest speakers. Tabitha originally wrote this blog series for the MFLN Military Caregiving team about her experience as a caregiver to her husband, Steve McCoy, Army SGT. Tabitha will be speaking more about her perspective of marriage from the stand point of a civilian married to an active duty military serviceman in Anchored. Episode 2| Married to the Military: Part 1. Be sure to check out her podcast being featured this summer on Anchored.

Read the additional parts of the Military Caregiving mini series, 444 Days in the First Year, here:

444 Days in the First Year Part 1

The Phone Call

Picture of Tabitha McCoy's husband, Steve McCoy
McCoy, Tabitha (2006). Former SGT Steve McCoy. Personal photo of Tabitha McCoy used with her permission.

“Mama, what happened to my daddy?”  My three-year-old son asks from the back seat.

It was Easter weekend and we were an hour into our three-hour drive back to my hometown to spend the weekend with my family.  I had just hung up the phone from yet another less than 5-minute phone conversation with my husband who six months prior had left for his second deployment to Iraq.

Fighting back the tears of frustration from not being able to remember the last “real” conversation I had with my Soldier, I slapped on my “brave, everything is great face”, looked at both my son and daughter through the rear view mirror and said, “Nothing has happened to your daddy buddy, he just had to go work, but he said to tell you both that he loves you, and he will try to call us back this weekend.”

Friday…no phone call, Saturday…no phone call, Easter Sunday…no phone call

It was beginning to feel like forever since I had heard my Soldiers voice and I was more than happy to be woken up before daylight to the sound of my phone ringing.  I was immediately wide-awake, over come with relief and anticipating the sweet sound of him saying, “Good morning baby.” However, as I reached for my phone my excitement quickly turned to dread as I read the number on the caller ID. It was not an “unknown” Iraqi pay-phone number that my husband would sometimes use to call me from, nor was it his satellite phone number.  No, this was a new number, one I had never seen before.

I looked at my two babies who were still asleep in the bed beside me, and all of sudden I was reminded of the question my son asked me just a few days before, and with a shaky voice I said “hello.”

Caregiver’s Advice to Professionals and Military Families

The time shortly following the injury of a service member is stressful for everyone involved, and as both professional and civilian caregivers it is easy to place our focus solely upon the wounded service member. We must remember however, that the service member is only a part of an entire family system: and while the majority of the focus should be placed on the service member and their recovery, the family members have also in a sense, been wounded.

The mental and physical health of the primary caregiver is such an important part in facilitating both recovery and health in the wounded service member, yet it is also something that can be easily overlooked; not only by the professionals who are being paid to take care of the service member but by the caregiver themselves.

As professionals, education is key in understanding how to treat not just the wounded service member but the wounded family, and while the suggestions I make may seem simple or insignificant, I am drawing from my own personal experience; the brokenness I felt, the roller coaster of emotions I experienced, and how lonely it felt even though I was in a room full of people.  As I remember the first few days and weeks following my Soldiers injuries, I am reminded that it’s the “little things” that truly mean the most.

  • Be genuine:  One of the first things that seemed to be the most noticeable was how genuine someone was being.  I never wanted to have someone’s pity, however it was extremely obvious when someone was being nice because they had to be.
  • Smile:  I remember looking forward to the smiles of the doctors, nurses and volunteers in the waiting room at Brooke Army Medical Center.  It made me feel safe, it always lifted my spirits, and above all it was typically contagious.
  • Journaling:  Offer this as an idea during conversation to the family member(s).  This may sound silly but there has been research done supporting the idea of keeping a daily journal, especially during times of stress. I kept one while I was with my wounded Soldier and I remember it becoming one of the most valuable tools I had.  A great stress reliever, and while it didn’t alleviate all stress; it did help, and it quickly became my release.  I didn’t write much, and I didn’t even write everyday, actually I didn’t always actually write, sometimes I would just “add a calendar event” on the particular day.  Either way, it helped and even now, 6 years later I will go back from time to time just to reread some of the thoughts.
  • Eating and nutrition This may seem like a “no brainer” for many, but nutrition plays such an important role in our stress and anxiety management.  I remember there being days that I wouldn’t eat, especially in the beginning when my Soldier was first hurt.  I didn’t intentionally skip meals I just had way too much on my mind to worry about food.  Lack of eating and nutrition can lead to a host of other mental and physical issues that can further hinder care-taking abilities.  It doesn’t take but a second to check in with the family, or to give a friendly reminder that they too need a “lunch break”.
  • Access to resources:  Make sure the family caregivers of the wounded service member have access or information regarding resources that may be helpful (i.e., Chaplin, therapist, counselors, gym, library, etc.).  Remember that a family may not be from the area of where their wounded service member is receiving care.   Some times just knowing where to go is reassuring enough for some, regardless of whether the information is ever utilized.

Read the additional parts of the Military Caregiving mini series, 444 Days in the First Year, here:

 Like what you read here? Check out the….

2015 MFLN Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event  focusing on Reimagining Your Skills as a Helping Professional: Working with Military Family Caregivers. Be sure to visit their Virtual Learning Event webpage for more information and to view archived recordings of each event.

Tabitha McCoy and family
McCoy, Tabitha (2014). This is personal photo of Tabitha McCoy and family used with her permission.

The caregiving mini-series, 444 Days in the First Year, was written by Tabitha McCoy. Tabitha is a contributor to the MFLN Military Caregiving 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 death in June of 2008.

Tabitha holds a Master of Science in Marriage & Family Therapy, is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Marriage & Family Therapy with a concentration in Therapy with Military Families at Northcentral University, and is the Clinic Manager at FamilyWorks Therapy Clinic housed within Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.

What is Your Caregiver IQ?

In our recent MFLN Military Caregiving webinar, presenter Mary Brintnall-Peterson Ph.D., gave an overview of who caregivers are, their similarities and differences, challenges and joys they experience and ways you can provide support. Dr. Brintnall-Peterson got the conversation flowing with webinar participants as she provided an interactive learning session to test their caregiver IQ. The quiz results proved interesting as military helping professionals provided varying levels of experience and feedback to working with caregivers. If you missed the webinar session, there is still a chance test your caregiver knowledge.

Use the quiz below to “Test Your Caregiver IQ” and provide your response in the ‘comments’ section of the blog. You can learn more about caregiving by watching the latest recording of Test Your Caregiver IQ and earn a certificate of completion for training hours.

1 2 3 4 5 6 87

So…how well did your knowledge of caregiving fare?

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on April 22, 2016.


Breastfeeding Infants with Disabilities

mother and baby
Flickr [Pucallpa, Peru by ReSurge International, February 28, 2011, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
On April 26 at 11 a.m. EST the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration area will offer a webinar entitled “Breastfeeding – Nature’s Best.”  This topic is also of interest to the Family Development Early Intervention audience as our professionals work with young children, some of whom are breastfeeding.  We asked the speaker of this upcoming webinar, Rose Marie Straeter, MA, RLC, IBCLC, a few questions about breastfeeding the premature infant or one born with a disability.  Here’s what she had to say:

Why is it important to breastfeed infants with disabilities? Is there research which supports better outcomes for children with disabilities who receive breastmilk and/or are breastfed than those who do not?

There are numerous research articles describing the health benefits of breastfeeding for infants’. These include a reduction in diarrhea, enhancement of the response to vaccines, fewer ear infections, less respiratory infections, fewer allergies, reduction of diabetes and childhood cancers, and a decreased chance of obesity later in life. Breastfed infants can digest breastmilk easier with less constipation. Breastfeeding improves infants’ jaw, teeth, and speech development and increases brain growth resulting in higher IQs. These benefits are important for all babies, including infants born with disabilities. Breastmilk provides the best nutrition possible.

How can professionals help a mother understand the importance of pumping when she might not even be able to touch her baby for days? Also, what are some strategies for pumping while a baby is in the NICU?

The best strategy is empowering the mother to make an educated decision about the nutrition her infant will receive both while he/she is in the hospital and after the baby’s discharge. The mother may not be able to hold her baby but she can give the infant a special gift of breastmilk that will provide numerous health benefits. Research shows breastmilk shortens the hospital stay for babies in the NICU. They are less likely to have NEC (Necrotizing enterocolitis), a gastrointestinal emergency that occurs when the bowel undergoes necrosis (tissue death). NEC is the second most common cause of morbidity in premature infants. Infants who are breastfed are three times more likely to avoid NEC.

Pumping should begin within the first hour after birth with a hospital grade pump. Most mothers find double pumping not only saves times but increases their milk supply. There are numerous techniques to improve the amount of breastmilk obtained via a breast pump.

It should be noted that this is an emotional time for families and professionals should respect that. Consider seeking additional help from the social worker or other professionals within the hospital.

What are some common breastfeeding issues for babies born with health, physical, sensory and other types of impairments and/or disabilities? What are some possible solutions to address these issues?

Tongue-tie can impact breastfeeding but is easily remedied by having the frenulum clipped as soon as possible after birth. Some of the most common problems related to breastfeeding have to do with low muscle tone. Prematurity and medications given during labor might result in problems with sucking. Consulting with an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) can help to manage these issues. Other conditions such as tongue protrusion (common with children with Down syndrome), cleft palate/lip, low muscle tone or oral motor control (common with CP), irritability (common with FAS or children born with addiction) can also be addressed through consultation with an IBCLC. Each infant and each breastfeeding situation is unique and should be handled on an individual basis.

Is there a specific length of time that it typically takes for a premature baby (or a baby with a disability) to successfully breastfeed?

The general rule of thumb is that breastfeeding reaches a successful state around the time of full gestation. In other words, most premature infants can breastfeed successfully around the time of their gestational due date. This should not be misunderstood to mean that a newborn cannot breastfeed if he/she is born prematurely or is a late pre-term infant. Often babies born prematurely or infants with disabilities will need some assistance to ensure they are able to obtain sufficient breastmilk, as they are typically sleepy and have underdeveloped muscle tone. With proper breastfeeding management these babies succeed and thrive.

For more information head over to Rose’s Facebook page.

This post was edited by Jenna Weglarz-Ward & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Challenge Yourself to Save Money

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension,

Aside from making a New Year’s resolution, there is perhaps no better time for military families to save money than April. If they are early tax filers, a tax refund may be coming or may have already arrived. In addition, big winter home heating bills are in the rear view mirror and, ideally, lingering holiday credit card bills too.

Photo by Steven Depolo
Photo by Steven Depolo

What’s the best way for military families to save money? There is no one right answer. Automatic payroll deductions work well for many people, For example, they have deposits into a credit union account or Thrift Savings Plan retirement savings automatically taken out of their paycheck, before they spend it. Other people do well saving loose change in a jar and depositing it periodically in a savings account as the jar fills up.

A third way to save money is to complete a savings challenge that gradually ramps up deposits. While many people start these challenges during the first full week of January, as a New Year’s resolution, they can be started in April or at any other time. Another option is to make a “catch up deposit” in April, perhaps using tax refund money, and then complete a calendar year challenge from that point forward until the end of December.

Below is a description of four different savings challenges and how they operate:

The 52-Week Money Challenge– Perhaps the oldest of the money challenges (original source unknown) that are all over social media, especially in January, this challenge begins with a $1 deposit during Week #1. The weekly deposit rises by $1 per week and reaches $52 during the final week of the Challenge (Week #52), with total savings of $1,378. Some people have suggested doing the 52-Week Money Challenge in reverse. Some people have more money in January (e.g., from holiday gifts or a year-end bonus at work) than they do in December, which tends to be a very expensive month for many people with holiday gifts and travel. The “reverse challenge” strategy is also very motivating. After five weeks, you already have $250 saved. A third way to do the 52-Week Money Challenge is to pick an amount each week that you can afford (e.g., $25 one week and $16 the next) and complete the challenge in any order. Tracking forms are available at

The 52-Week Youth Money Challenge– I created this challenge for parents to use with their children. See Weekly savings deposits are 10 weeks each of $1, $2, $3, $4, and $5, resulting in $150 of savings. Week #51 is an optional $25 from birthday gifts and Week #52 is an optional $25 from holiday gifts ($200 total). There is also an option for parents to provide a 50% ($100) match of their child’s savings, resulting in total annual savings of $300.

The 15-Week Money Challenge– I created this challenge for high school and college students and adults with short-term financial goals. See The Basic Challenge includes five weeks of $10 savings, five weeks of $20 savings, and five weeks of $30 savings, resulting in a total accumulation of $300. The “Hard Core” Challenge starts with a $10 weekly deposit and ramps up the savings deposit by $5 per week for a final deposit of $80, resulting in a total accumulation of $675. The 18 students in my Fall 2015 Rutgers University Personal Finance class took the challenge as an initial pilot test and collectively saved almost $6,000 over the course of the semester.

The $2,500 Savings Challenge– I created this challenge to ramp up the amount saved from the 52-Week Money Challenge. I also like round numbers. Hence, the $2,500 savings goal. See The challenge begins with a $2 deposit during Week #1. The weekly deposit rises by $2 per week and reaches a high of $98. There are two weeks “off” at a saver’s discretion and a $50 deposit is made during the final week of the Challenge (Week #50), with total savings of $2,500. Like the 52-Week Money Challenge, the $2,500 Savings Challenge can be done forward, backward, or in any order that works for individual savers.

Want to save money for future financial goals? Challenge yourself and/or your children to save by completing one of the four savings challenges described above. For more information about the benefits of saving money, visit and


More than Words: The Role Communication Plays in a Relationship

By Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Couple talking in restaurant
Flickr [Talk by Karsten Bitter, September 11, 2011, CC BY-ND 2.0]
I love you. Certainly a common phrase used in relationships. But, does it mean the same thing to everyone who delivers and receives it? In the 1970’s, it was Gregory Bateson who taught us about meta-communication, the idea that communication is so much more than just the words we speak [1]. We all communicate with each other all the time, even if we don’t ever utter a single word.

Now, let’s go back to I love you. Here are a couple of scenarios to consider:

  • Joe and Tina have been married for 10 years. Tina often tells Joe that she loves him. She tells him before they go to bed and when they are both leaving for work. She tells him when they hang up the phone from each other and via emails and texts. But when Tina and Joe are together, Tina rarely has any interaction with Joe. She spends most of her time on her phone texting or making calls and often spends time alone in her favorite room in their house. When Joe tries to hug or kiss Tina, she often acts as though she is inconvenienced by this interaction and will effortlessly hug or kiss him back so that she can quickly go back to what she was previously doing.
  • Now, think about Elizabeth and Ben. They have also been married for 10 years.  Ben tells Elizabeth that he loves her often. Just like Tina and Joe, before bed, when they’re leaving for work, before hanging up the phone, and via emails and text messages. But when they are home together, Elizabeth and Ben hold hands often and talk to each other about work and personal things. They often laugh together and enjoy working on projects in their home as a team.

Although both couples use the same phrase at the same frequency and in the same situations, do you think it means the same for both couples? What is the meta-communication that is happening during these interactions? Obviously, with Tina and Joe, the message and meta-message are not the same. What Tina is saying to Joe with her words does not match what Tina is saying to him with her actions. But, Elizabeth is receiving the physical messages the same way that she is receiving the verbal messages Ben is sending.  So, what does all of this mean? This means that while we understand the importance of communicating with one another, we really need to understand that the ways in which we communicate are much better received when all of the modes we use are aligned. If we experience more relationships with communication similar to Tina and Joe’s, we find ourselves confused and frustrated. Imagine where that can take a relationship.

It’s easy to see how relationships can be greatly impacted by the contradicting messages being conveyed within. It’s also easy to see why some couples will say in therapy that they are not communicating well with each other, when it may appear on the outside that they are communicating just fine. But, when a therapist watches the body language and pairs it with the words spoken, the disconnect may become more apparent.

Now what do we do with this information? While it is much easier said than done, I think it’s important that we slow down and spend more time thinking about how and what we are trying to communicate with others. While there is still possibility for some conflictual communication, being more cognizant of both messages and meta-messages may help relationships to be a little less confusing. And, couldn’t we all use a little less confusion in our lives?


Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the social media and webinar coordination specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development concentration on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Why Research Is Important To Today’s Caregiver


Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension

As a caregiver, I focus on the needs of my husband and on ways to manage our hectic lives. So when I get a request to participate in a research study about my caregiving experiences, my first thought was, “NO way.” I don’t have an extra minute to spare to take time to complete a survey or talk to someone on the phone. Yet lately, I’ve been wondering if by not participating in the research my voice and others like me aren’t included. My personal realization about needing to participate in research is reinforced as I reviewed some of the most recent studies on family caregiving. So the goal of this blog article is to convince you to join me in saying, “YES,” the next time you are recruited for a caregiving research project.

In looking at the research on family caregivers, a majority of the studies done over 20 years ago were mostly about caring for older adults. There was little research on military caregivers, especially younger military caregivers. There was some research on caring for children with disabilities who were under 18 years of age, but nothing on children caring for their parents. Within the last few years the amount of research on caregivers has increased for several reasons: (1) an aging population resulting in more people needing caregivers, (2) public programs (Medicare, VA, and other military programs) responding to needs of their clients, (3) recognition that family members providing care is less costly than institutionalization, and (4) interest in disease or illness specific research such as caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injury. This research provides data needed to help policy makers make better decisions, offers information to professionals so they can provide better services, and highlights the needs of families so services can be created and educational programs developed.

Regardless of the study’s caregiver audience, there are similarities and differences between the caregiver types. For example, all caregivers experience stress but the reasons for the stress are different. A young caregiver may experience stress because they are employed and caring for other children, while an older caregiver may be caring for an aging parent or spouse. There are many combinations, but what is important is that the differences come to light in the research. These studies have been helpful in creating public policy and educational programs resulting in professionals treating all caregivers as individuals as one size does not fit all.

In you aren’t aware of recent caregiver studies here are a few that might interest you:

  1. Caregiving in the United States – Focuses on older adult caregivers with information about caregivers over 75 years of age and multicultural caregivers.
  2. Rand Study of Military Family Caregivers – Focus on caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
  3. Creation of Multi-Institutional Center – Study the needs of families caring for people of all ages who have disabilities.

If you want to explore ways to participate in family caregiver research, search family caregiver websites review researcher’s descriptions of their project and identify characteristics of the caregivers within their studying. For example, there is currently a research project on TBI from the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Researchers also seek caregivers by connecting with blogs, other social media sites and caregiver networks as a way to secure possible caregivers for their studies. As caregivers, we can also promote and share announcements of research studies with caregivers we know and the caregiver social media outlets we visit.

So share your thoughts, ideas, and wisdom about being a caregiver so research will have the voice of military caregivers!

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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on March 18, 2016.