ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – People start out in life needing care and support, and many others may need care and support in their later years. November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to thank those who care for others -- the elderly, the disabled, and those needing assistance doing activities they can’t do themselves. Caregivers are a literal daily lifeline for millions of Americans.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, this year’s theme is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” The VA says this theme aims to encourage caregivers to embrace their own sense of self, including their identities outside of being caregivers.
Caregiving can be stressful, and it’s important to know that others are there for them, just as they are there for someone else. In the military and veteran community, a number of resources are available for caregivers.
Tracy Warren is the Army Community Service’s Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator at Rock Island Arsenal. She works with military families and civilian agencies to provide resources, referrals, care coordination and support for housing, education, medical and other services to families with special needs.
“Caregivers want support in finding services for their family members who have special needs,” Warren said. “They want to be sure a plan is in place, and someone who can assist them with finding resources in the area.”
Additionally, Warren provides resources for respite care services available in the community, which is extremely important. “Respite care services give the caregivers the break they desperately need,” she said.
“Caregivers need a break,” Warren added. “Caregiving can be a highly demanding and stressful responsibility, and no one can do it without some help. Respite care provides short-term breaks for caregivers that can relieve their stress.”
“Being a caregiver for a family member is not an eight-hour job where you have the opportunity to leave stress at work and go home,” Warren said. “It can be physically and mentally exhausting to be a caregiver 24/7. Without having time to take care of themselves, it can lead to caregiver burnout.”
Warren said that “burnout” can lead to a change in attitude, including having negative feelings toward the care recipient, and sometimes even causing feelings of resentment. The longer it goes on, the worse it can get for the patient and the caregiver. That’s why it’s vitally important to understand the physical, emotional and economic burden that falls onto the caregiver, she said.
“If you don’t take care of your own physical and mental health,” Warren said, “it becomes impossible to properly take care of someone else.”
For information about caregiver support services at Rock Island Arsenal, contact Army Community Services at (309) 782-0829.
Additionally, ACS recommends other avenues of community-sponsored programs and events to find support during Caregiver Awareness Month. For caregivers in the Quad Cities area, there is an opportunity to learn about resources at the 10th annual Caregiver Conference Saturday, Nov. 20 at the Golden Leaf Banquet Center at 2902 East Kimberly Road # 1 in Davenport, Iowa. It’s free to attend for both Illinois and Iowa residents. For more information, click on the link below.
QC Caregiver Conference – Milestones (milestonesaaa.org)