Caregivers play a critical role in our country’s health care system. A 2015 study commissioned by the AARP found that approximately 34.2 million Americans had provided unpaid care for an adult age 50 or older in the previous 12 months. These unpaid workers often provide help with the non-medical tasks of daily living like dressing, bathing, or meal preparation — the important tasks frail patients can’t accomplish for themselves and doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals can’t provide. Now imagine the scale of suffering that would occur if these caregivers ever disappeared.
Nestled within that large pool of caregivers is a smaller subset of people who care for our military veterans. The Rand Corporation recently completed a study documenting the needs of this unique cohort and found that some 5.5 million U.S. adults currently act as veteran caregivers. The study also found that, “military caregivers consistently experience worse health outcomes, greater strains in family relationships, and more workplace problems than non-caregivers.” What’s more, as the Vietnam generation continues to age into retirement and the United States continues to fight in protracted conflicts in the post-9/11 years, the number of veterans requiring in-home care will grow as will the needs of their caregivers.
Two Different Groups of Veterans
The RAND study divides veterans into two distinct groups: those that served before 9/11 and those who served after. The study found the veterans and their caregivers in these two groups had very different needs.
These veterans are obviously much older than their post-9/11 colleagues, with a rapidly diminishing number having served in World War II or the Korean Conflict. The largest group of pre-9/11 veterans served in Vietnam and are joining the retirement ranks in large numbers. These veterans most often struggle with mobility-limiting disabilities or chronic conditions like heart disease. As a result, their caregiving needs closely mirror those of aging Americans at large, like getting in and out of chairs, dressing, or eating.
The typical caregiver for a pre-9/11 veteran also closely resembles a civilian caregiver. They will most commonly be the veteran’s child who is older than 30. They’re also less likely to be employed and more likely to have some kind of support network in place. By comparison, post-9/11 veterans and their caregivers face much different circumstances.
Post-9/11 veterans served in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terror. These veterans tend to be much younger and suffer more often from traumatic brain injury (TBI), hearing and vision problems, and mobility-limiting disabilities than their pre-9/11 colleagues. Their caregivers are also very different.
Post-9/11 caregivers are most commonly the veteran’s spouse, a large number of which are under age 30. They also work more often than their pre-9/11 counterparts, and are less likely to have outside support. Post-9/11 caregivers help their veterans administer medication or physical therapies and manage finances more often than other recipient groups. A full 75% of post-9/11 caregivers also help their care recipient cope with stressful situations, which dwarfs the needs of other recipient groups.
The RAND report lays out four recommendations for ways we can help veteran caregivers be more successful in their important jobs:
- “Efforts are needed to help empower military caregivers, and should include ways to build their skills and confidences in caregiving, mitigate the potential stress and strain of caregiving, and raise public awareness of the caregivers’ value.
- Creating contexts that acknowledge caregivers’ special needs and status — particularly in health care and workplace settings — will help caregivers play their roles more effectively and balance the potentially competing demands of caregiving and their own lives.
- Programs relevant to the needs of military caregivers are typically focused on the service member or veteran, and only incidentally related to the caregiver’s role, and there are specific gaps in needed programs, particularly for programs that help reduce the time spent performing caregiving duties, provide health care to caregivers, and offset lost income. Therefore, eligibility issues and these specific programmatic needs should be addressed.
- Ensuring the long-term wellbeing of caregivers and the agencies that aim to support them may each require efforts to plan strategically for the future, not only to serve the dynamic and evolving needs of current military caregivers, but to anticipate the needs of future military caregivers in a changing political and fiscal environment.”
Generations Home Care Serves Veterans
As one of Arizona’s leading in-home care providers, Generations Home Care is well acquainted with the unique needs of veterans and their families. In response, we’ve recently partnered with Veterans Care Coordination to ensure all our veteran clients and their family members receive the benefits, and care, they earned through their brave service. We’ll share more about this exciting new program in future posts. Until then, let’s all do what we can to make sure America’s veterans — young and old — feel appreciated and cared for in their times of need.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care can help provide the quality in-home care and support services seniors need to live fuller, healthier, independent lives.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. We take a holistic approach and emphasize a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.