By Marianne Campano and Ronald W. Wolf, Army MedicineMay 14, 2018
More than 44 million Americans care for a family member, friend or neighbor who is wounded, ill or injured.
Within this population of caregivers is a group that has been identified for additional support--military caregivers. A military caregiver is a Family member or friend who provides assistance to a wounded, ill or injured Service member with activities they once did on their own, but are no longer able to do for themselves.
Impact of Caregiving
The effort caregivers provide is often unrecognized. According to the 2014-RAND Hidden Heroes Report, for example, post-9/11 military caregivers experience worse health outcomes, greater relationship strain and more workplace problems than pre-9/11 or civilian caregivers.
Nearly 40 percent of post-9/11 caregivers met criteria for depression, which is nearly four times higher than non-caregivers, and twice as high as pre 9/11 and civilian caregivers. The impact of caregiving affects more than just the caregiver. Forty-four percent of post 9/11 caregivers report that they spend less "quality" time with their children because they are busy caring for the care recipient.
The personal toll of providing this caregiving assistance is high; the impact of caregiving can often lead to reduced or lost income and high emotional stress. Especially important is the effect caregiving has on the health of the military caregiver over time.
Military Caregiver: Heart of Recovery Initiative
The Heart of Recovery Initiative, led by the Army Public Health Center, seeks to identify, empower, educate and support the caregivers of Active Duty and Reserve Service members to improve their health and well-being and to reduce the risks associated with caregiving. The team's goals include helping to achieve a healthy, fully supported, and well-trained military caregiver population and to provide a warm hand-off to either the VA Caregiver Program or support organizations in their local communities.
Military Caregiver Survey:
To understand the needs of caregivers, an anonymous survey opened May 14. The survey will be open to any Family member or friend over the age of 18 who provides care to a wounded, ill, or injured Service member at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. The Service member receiving caregiver support may be in a Warrior Transition Battalion, or going through the Disability Evaluation System, or may be suffering from invisible wounds and not seeking care at all.
If you are a military caregiver living in or around one of these installations, your support is needed! Your participation in this anonymous survey is critical because it will help leaders understand how to standardize support and link caregivers with training, and medical, financial, legal, career, spiritual and other services. You can find the survey at: http://militarycaregiver.health.mil/survey.
Where to Reach Out
Listed below are some resources for military caregivers:
The Heart of Recovery website includes useful resources, and you can find the anonymous Caregiver Survey on the site: http://militarycaregiver.health.mil/ .
The Ombudsman serves as a local resource, facilitator, and problem solver for Service members and their Families, and can help our Caregivers get the resources that they need.
For those Caregivers that aren't near an installation with an Ombudsman, each branch of Service has a hotline number (listed below) to provide assistance. The following phone numbers are available for military caregivers. Note: If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or contact your local hospital or Military Treatment Facility right away. If you call the numbers below, do not provide personally identifying information other than your name and phone number or email address. If additional personal information is required to assist you, the hotline will request it after your initial contact.
ARMY WOUNDED SOLDIER AND FAMILY HOTLINE: 1-800-984-8523: Stateside DSN: 421-3700 | Overseas DSN: 312-421-3700
NAVY SAFE HARBOR-SEVERELY INJURED SUPPORT
AIR FORCE WOUNDED WARRIORS (AFW2)
GENERAL ASSISTANCE AND CRISIS LINES
Military One Source: 800-342-9647
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)