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Supporting Caregivers As They Support
Our Veterans

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 6)

Phase Five: “Acceptance”: realization that life is different, “I am different,” “you are different,”relearning takes place, negativity is replaced by gratitude

Phase Six: “Finding a New Normal”: aiming for stability and lifestyle balance, prioritizing life issues, working together to set new goals 

Understanding these phases and utilizing counseling support services through the military or local programs will be a key to a positive adjustment for the veteran and the entire family system.

The need for family support during times of deployment and upon the return of service members has always existed. Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) and support groups are available through each branch of the Armed Forces to provide social and emotional support, outreach services, and information prior to, during, and in the aftermath of military separations. The camaraderie and strength that develops between military families that face uncertain times together is priceless. 

Military family retreats, provided through many military branches, are another example of support for families and caregivers. They provide combat veterans and their families with the education, training and skills needed to manage their lives after serving in a war. The retreats are often held in a rural, private area, are staffed by trained volunteers and counselors, and are usually free. Youth and children’s activities are provided along with educational and support sessions for veterans and their spouses. These topics may include: self care, relaxation techniques, stress reduction, sleep solutions, problem-solving skills, money management, intimacy issues, communication, VA services and more.

Positive results have come from these retreats as families have attested: “This experience has pulled our family from the brink of destruction,” “The retreat gave our family a boost of self-worth,” and “Everybody faces challenges with the aftermath of war. It is good to know, see and feel that it is normal.”

Taking Care of the Caregiver:

Family members may face the prospect of starting a new chapter in their own lives if their loved one returns from military service with an injury or disability. Many have had to put life on hold, leave jobs or change residences to care for a spouse, adult child or significant other. Caregiving can be overwhelming as one tries to meet all of the emotional, physical and medical needs of a veteran. Mourning the loss of a “normal” life and relationship prior to the war may also occur. At this point, it’s important for caregivers to accept that things have changed and to surround themselves with their own spiritual, emotional and physical resources.


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