Thanks to advances in battlefield medicine, thousands of our troops who would have perished in past wars, are now surviving. However, many have devastating wounds, illnesses and injuries, both visible and invisible, requiring care long after they have left the military health care system. Who are their caregivers?
They are spouses, parents, siblings and other loved ones performing a stunning array of functions at home. These caregivers are administering medications, navigating complex health care systems, providing emotional support, arranging rehabilitation, handling the family’s legal and financial matters, and acting as advocates on behalf of those for whom they are caring. Many are also raising children and providing an income for the family.
Military and veteran caregivers are an unpaid workforce saving our nation billions in health care costs and potential institutionalization. In some cases, the time demands of caretaking may result in lost jobs, lost wages, and possible loss of health insurance. Though caregiver needs are many, no national strategy for supporting them has existed. As they put the well being of their loved ones before their own, the physical and emotional toll on caregivers over months and years can be devastating.