Commitment, love and sacrifices are accurate descriptions for both members of the armed forces but also describe characteristics of those who provide care for those who are hospitalized or disabled. However, those caregivers attending to the daily care needs of Veterans that have an injury or illness are recognized during November each year.
Their services often come with great sacrifice to their personal lives and with limited medical training or preparation. “It’s a labor of love,” says Mary Wilde, who has attended to and provided loving care every day her husband, Norm, was admitted to the Old Glory Community Living Center at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center. Like many other caregivers, Mrs. Wilde says , “there is no question about why” she carries out the commitment to spend time with her husband each day, but sincerely equates it to promise and pledge that she took on the wedding altar, and the same oath that her husband took when enlisting in the ES Air Force.
Like Mrs. Wilde, US Marine Corps Veteran Jim Hoflund, his wife and niece also make the time every day to visit Navy Veteran Marvin Hoflund in the Old Glory Living Center. They join him for special events as well as dinner, every night. Conner Hoflund, Jim’s niece, explains that “caring for Grandpa is not about any kind of payback. He’s always been there for us and it’s just what we do. He is my best friend.”
Caregivers like the Wilde’s and Hoflund’s both share two keys to be successful while providing care for others. One is to strive to find a balance with the demands of caring for that loved one, while at the same time, being honest with your personal needs and making time for yourself and striving towards your personal goals. Another means to be successful is to establish and maintain the relationships with others that can provide support to the primary caregiver. VA fosters this by employing caregiver support coordinators at medical center’s across the country.
Sonya Tennyson, LCSW and caregiver support coordinator at the Cheyenne VAMC says, “Caregivers are such an important link in the safety chain of care, often bridging that gap between the quality of life of Veterans and the high quality clinical care we provide. Personal caregivers bring that warm, family touch of love that we, try as hard as we can, just can’t provide.” Tennyson is planning and coordinating a “Caregivers Resources Fair” at the Fort Collins (CO) CBOC on November 17 and 19, 2010. Several community agencies will be there including Caregivers Support Program of Larimer County, Elderhaus Adult Day Care Center, Volunteers of America, Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, Stepping Stones Adult Day Care and more. Tennyson also notes that recent legislation signed last May will offer lots of services & support to caregivers. The Caregiver & Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 will provide assistance to family members who forgo jobs and health insurance to provide care for an injured loved one.
Many are pleased to learn about the possibility of financial assistance for eligible caregivers, likely to relieve financial burdens, particularly for young families. Unsure if this new legislation will provide Wilde with benefits, she says that her primary motivation is to treat others like she would want to be treated. It is Wilde’s outlook on life and positive attitude that has produced a safety net of friends and family that help her when she asks and sometimes, even when she doesn’t ask. Wilde says, “Sometimes you just need to have friends to talk to. You know, the friends that just listen, really listen.”