Our military caregivers are American heroes. Often overlooked but never forgotten, they play a critical role in backing our military mission. With their humble aid – serving those who have served – our military culture is stronger than ever. Show your appreciation and offer your support by sharing these helpful work-life-balance tips with your military caregiver community.
1. Create a realistic routine that leaves you feeling prepared and less stressed.
A well-planned routine can make the most demanding parts of your day run more smoothly, especially if your Veteran needs considerable help. It ensures that nothing important gets forgotten and that your care recipient does not develop problems that could have been prevented.
- Make a list of all the items you need for morning and bedtime routines, buy several and keep them close at hand (e.g., bathing items, medications and clothing).
If you use the items in different rooms, have duplicates. This saves time and keeps you from having to search for things.
- Have someone help you with the morning and bedtime routines, if possible. Getting up and going to bed are often the most challenging times of the day.
- Ensure your Veteran practices good oral hygiene that includes toothbrushing, preferably after every meal.
Good oral hygiene helps to prevent tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease and secondary infections that can result from poor dental care.
- If your Veteran:
- Has a disability, poor eyesight or cognitive impairments, you may need to remind him or her about personal hygiene and/or assist him or her.
- Is incontinent, make sure that he or she is clean at all times, and to use protective (barrier) creams and change incontinence aids, clothing and bedding as often as needed.
- Has limited movement, ensure he or she is turned in bed on a regular basis to prevent pressure sores. Correct bedding, such as sheepskin or egg carton bed coverings and/or an air mattress, can help to prevent pressure sores.
2. Learn how to recognize excess stress and care for yourself.
As a dedicated military caregiver, you may sometimes forget about your own needs – compromising your own quality of life and your ability to care for your Veteran.
Caregivers are more likely to suffer from depression than their peers.
Take the following steps to make your health a priority:
- Try to get enough sleep and rest.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and low in saturated fats. Visit the USDA's MyPlate website for useful healthy eating tips.
- Find time to exercise and stay physically fit.
- Have periodic health checkups. Tell your doctor you're a caregiver. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms of depression or sickness you may be experiencing.
- Do not abuse alcohol and drugs.
- Spend time with family and friends. Social activities can help you feel connected and may reduce stress.
- Pursue your own interests.
- Seek support from family, friends, professionals or your religious advisor – or join a support group for caregivers in person or online.
- Ask for and accept help. Use appropriate VA- and community-based services.
- Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.
- Take it one day at a time.
3. Learn more about what help and resources are available to you.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program offers training, educational resources, tools and other services to help you care for the Veteran you love – and for yourself.
Visit the VA Caregiver Support website to learn more about:
- Supportive in- and out-of-house resources for military caregivers.
- Services available for Veterans with family caregivers.
- Caregiving tips by diagnosis.
- Other advice, tools and resources.
You can also call VA’s Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274 to speak with your local Caregiver Support Coordinator, who will:
- Tell you about VA assistance available to you.
- Help you access services and benefits.
- Just listen, if that’s what you need right now. Sometimes the best thing to do is just talk it out.