Lately, I have been taking courses on being a caregiver. That may seem unusual, taking classes on being a caregiver, but I feel that these courses are incredibly helpful to understand what Veterans may face and how to better understand those challenges, ups, and downs, and engage with other Veterans to start a conversation.
Psych Armor Institute is a non-profit organization that provides free education and support to those who are interested in engaging with the military community. As someone who was a “peer civilian,” or an “outsider,” these courses, videos, and blogs have been so incredibly helpful to me.
A variety of courses are offered on a number of topics. For example, there are courses on preventing volunteer burnout, understanding the VA for caregivers, and communication skills with Veterans. Some of the topics included are military veteran caregivers and families, K-12 educators who support military kids, and educators who support student-veterans. New topics that are coming soon include courses for first responders, faith leaders, financial counselors, and legal professionals.
While there might be differences in how the VA determines if one is a caregiver, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation recognizes caregivers a little bit differently (and Psych Armor also provides one with a caregiver binder, which I’ll get to in a second).
As a military caregiver, you need support, resources, and materials that can help during this journey.
For peer support and vetted resources please visit http://www.hiddenheroes.org
For community resources check out this website http://www.redcross.org/military
If you need Veteran caregiver resources (through the VA), go to the VA Caregiver Program site at http://www.caregiver.va.gov
And if you are active duty, know someone that is an active duty caregiver, these resources are available too, check out the Department of Defense, Office of Warrior Care at http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/caregiver-resources/
You May Be a Military Caregiver…if you do any of the following for a service member or veteran…
- Manage Medication
- Schedule and coordinate medical appointments
- Assist in the care of a disabling wound, injury, or illness
- Provide emotional and physical support
- Monitor environmental issues or triggers
- Assist with activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Provide memory help
- Advocate for proper treatment and care
Now, remember, those are not the criteria for a caregiver as defined by the VA, that is through the EDF (Elizabeth Dole Foundation).
While taking courses through Psych Armor, I realized that going through the courses for caregivers granted me a free binder called A Caregiver’s Experience. I inquired about the binder and received a free one in the mail (did I mention that all of these courses are free and facilitated by subject-matter experts?)…and boy, is it incredibly handy.
What is in the binder? Well, a welcome letter explaining what the materials are in and how to add materials to the binder. The tabs are color coded and each course in the caregiver school comes with some Tips and Takeaways, which you can print and keep in the binder! That is fantastic for me because I love notes and any type of flier, poster, or handout.
Also included is a spot for my resources, documents that are important to us, to our family. This would be a great place for current health insurance information, a copy of the Veteran’s DD-214, and other information (VA phone numbers, doctor’s names, etc.) and there’s also a self-care tab with some information on self-care and mantram repetition (a course that is free on Psych Armor).
If you are interested, want to learn more, or just want to browse through Psych Armor, check out their website, http://www.psycharmor.org
While I am not recognized by the VA as a caregiver, I am a military caregiver. I help Sam out with a variety of daily tasks because sometimes he just needs extra help. He’s had some serious injuries, traumatic brain injuries, psychological trauma, and even some physical injuries. He needs reminders, he needs some assistance, and most of all he just needs love and support.