“[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” —1 Corinthians 13:7
Loving and caring for others doesn’t get any more real than when you take on the role of caregiver to a loved one who has come home from serving in the military. It can be the one of the most important and most difficult things that you’ll ever have to do. Every situation is different.
The person you’ve known your whole life may have come home a different person than he was when he left. Maybe a physical disability has left the easy going, happy best friend you once knew feeling constantly frustrated and angry at his situation. Or maybe a mental illness like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has changed your open-like-a-book son or wife into someone who shuts down and can no longer talk about his or her feelings.
You may find yourself scared, angry or frustrated with this new role as a caregiver to your loved one. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. Many others have walked this path before you. Here are just a few tips on what to do and where to go for help:
Give Yourself a Self-Assessment
The American Medical Association has a Caregiver Self-Assessment test that will help you analyze your own behaviors, health risks and limitations for helping others. Before you take on this new venture, see if you are physically and mentally prepared to do so. Take the test now.
Find Out All You Can
To be an effective caregiver, you must learn as much as you can about the injury or disorder of your loved one. For instance, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs provides a wealth of information regarding some of the most common complications facing veterans of war like PTSD and how to care for someone dealing with it.
One of the best things you can do for you for your loved and yourself is to keep a complete file for him or her as a patient.
Whether you choose to keep records on a computer or filed away in a filing cabinet, keeping the patient’s information organized will prevent future headaches and frustrations. Chances are, the patient will have multiple doctors and medicines to keep track of. Having all this information in one place makes for an easy resource at the ready. Be sure to include:
– Each physician’s contact information
– List of all allergies of patient
-Short list of health history including surgeries and other medical conditions
– Medication list including dosages and when to administer each
– Insurance information
– Legal documents including a living will and power of attorney information
– Receipts of every medical appointment or procedure
Service members are dedicated to serving for their loved ones as well as their country. When they get injured and sent back home, the roles are reversed. That can be tough for the service member used to being in charge and now has to rely on others. They don’t want to be served – they want to serve.
Understand that at times your loved one may fail to show his or her appreciation of your help. When appropriate, allow the vet to make choices to help give him a sense of some control. Be available to talk, but be sure to give patients space if they don’t feel like conversing about their time served.
Don’t Baby Them
At the same time, don’t find yourself doing everything for the person you’re caring for. Of course, be on hand to help when needed, but if the patient has exercises to do on her own or if she starts to refuse to do simple tasks, be strong. Don’t end up doing everything for the patient as that will not help anyone in the long run.
Don’t Ignore Offers for Help
As much as you want to, you can’t do everything. Allow yourself to take breaks throughout the day and allow someone to sit with the patient every now and then. Just getting out the house to pick up some groceries can be a huge help in keeping up your spirits. When someone asks what they can do to help, ask them for help with meals, rides to doctor appointments or maybe just a listening ear when needed.
Be Sensitive to Religious Matters
Depending on the patient’s state of mind, he or she may or may not be open to reading the Bible or praying. Don’t push it. Your loved one may be angry with God, and that is okay. Our God is a big God and if His children are not in the mood to converse with Him, He can wait until they are. Instead, pray for them on your own.
Rely on Professional Help
Sometimes you or your loved one will need the special attention from a professional. Here are some of the best:
- Caregiver Action: Full of suggestions, helpful hints and resources.
- The National Resource Directory: Resources for “wounded warriors” and the caregivers who care for them.
- Veterans Health Administration: America’s largest integrated health care system with over 1,7000 sites of care.