WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2008 - Recognizing the risk of burnout among caregivers providing warrior and family support, U.S. European Command plans to kick off a program this spring that incorporates principles introduced by bestselling author and lecturer Dr. Stephen Covey.
Eucom is putting together a compassion-fatigue program based on principles in Covey's 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People', Wayne Boswell, the command's quality of life chief, told American Forces Press Service.

Delegates at two Eucom deployment support conferences identified the need for such a program to help prevent burnout among key volunteers, chaplains, medical providers, counselors, family support staff and family readiness group leaders struggling to provide warrior and family support, Boswell said.

The result is the POWER -- or Provider Outreach While Enhancing Readiness -- program. Developed in cooperation with the FranklinCovey Inc. consulting group, POWER is designed as self-help training for front-line staff struggling with the demands of providing warrior and family support.

"These are the folks who never ask for help", Boswell said. "But many feel overwhelmed and face high stress levels as they try to meet all the requirements on them."

Caregiver fatigue is particularly pressing within the chaplain corps, which Boswell called a cornerstone of the caregiver network.

The POWER program is designed to help participants diagnose and understand fatigue, then build strategies to overcome it. They will walk through a series of analysis and planning exercises to determine their risk of fatigue and develop a strategy to mitigate or prevent it. The goal, Boswell said, is to help caregivers master the tools needed to achieve a sustainable professional quality of life.

The program emphasizes communication, personal dynamics and each person's value as part of a team. "It's a very basic program, built on a lot of foundational principles", Boswell said.

More than 20 caregivers tested the program's concepts in September, and Boswell said he expects to begin rolling out the program theaterwide beginning in the spring. Initially, he hopes to reach about 150 people, who will report back on its value.

"Our hope is that this will decrease their stress and help them realize that they truly are human and have parameters," he said. "They are vital to our mission success."

Covey calls communication -- one of the POWER program's foundations -- a key in helping not just caregivers, but also military families struggling with the challenges of deployments, separations and redeployments.

During a Pentagon Channel interview last week, Covey advocated "empathetic communication", which he described as listening within the other person's frame of reference. The result, he said, is better understanding and affirmation of the speaker's worth and value.

Covey encouraged deployed troops to keep a journal to increase their self-awareness. He also recommended that military families develop a family mission statement that strengthens them through common values and principles.

"The separation will be difficult, but you will be unified through a common vision and purpose", he said. "So many unbelievable benefits come by being committed to a set of values and living by them."

Covey said he holds servicemembers sacrificing for their country in the highest regard.

"I admire so much what these people are doing and the tremendous sacrifices they are making for their families and the country", he said.