THE HOLIDAYS are filled with joy and wonder, family and friends. The holidays can also be all-consuming and stressful, leaving too many people with feelings of low self-worth and loneliness.
With the holidays on the way, caregivers may feel pressured to keep up the holiday spirit and traditions. They may have concerns about having family and friends over, or may worry that a veteran’s behavior may be unpredictable. For all of these reasons, caregivers may feel more isolated than usual, or guilty or angry.
Being a caregiver can be the most rewarding work of one’s life. But for most it is not that easy.
Many get lost in the responsibility, forgetting that self-care is essential to continue to provide support to the veteran who has entrusted them to see to his or her care.
For caregivers, the very best thing they can do for those who depend on them is to take care of themselves.
The VA offers a number of services to support family caregivers. These services are available both in and out of the home to help them care both for the veteran they love and for themselves.
There are many things caregivers can do to make the holidays easier, such as adapting gift-giving to fit the veteran’s needs, including encouraging the veteran to help with the wrapping, and supporting his or her handing them out.
Caregivers should ask for help from family and friends; and when assistance is offered, they should accept it. They can choose gifts that can help reduce their stress, such as gift certificates for dinner, in-home respite care or a cleaning service, so that when asked what they would like, they will be ready. If caregivers don’t get the gifts they need, they should go ahead and get them for themselves, if possible.
Caregivers are encouraged to plan for a well-deserved time-out after the holidays, arranging care for the veteran so they can go to dinner or go for a walk with a friend. They should do something nice for themselves.
The Manchester VA Medical Center is honored to provide care for our nation’s heroes. Caregivers are often our unsung heroes, and the VA salutes and supports them. For both veterans and their caregivers, the VA is there to help.
The VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers provides support to the caregivers of post-9/11 veterans, and can include additional benefits such as a stipend, CHAMPVA insurance or mental health counseling. More can be learned at http://ow.ly/Ex1X30mH1hK.
For enrolled caregivers, the Manchester VA offers monthly support groups on the first and second Thursdays of each month. Additional supports include online support and education, peer mentoring and a monthly educational telephone call.
For more information about available support and resources, contact the Manchester VA Medical Center’s Caregiver Support Coordinator at 624-4366, ext. 2524. For caregiver support, call the Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or visit caregiver.va.gov.