The Heroes Who Care for Our Heroes

As the Fourth of July approaches, Americans from coast to coast are preparing for barbecues, parades and fireworks as we celebrate our country’s birthday — and our independence. At this time of year, I like to take a moment to recognize our patriots — the veterans who have fought to keep our country safe and free. I also think about another group of heroes, the family caregivers — spouses, parents, siblings, adult children and others — who care for our veterans so they can live independently at home, where they want to be.

Bill
Bill and Debra

Bill and Debra from Virginia
A disabled Vietnam veteran, Bill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s over 15 years ago. Today, his wife, Debra, is his sole family caregiver, providing help 24/7 so Bill can stay at home. Part of this care is organizing and administering Bill’s daily medications — nearly 60 pills every day, including his vitamins. Without formal training, Debra learns what she needs any way she can including webinars, support groups and her own online research. Debra shared on I Heart Caregivers:

“Our goal is to have Bill remain home as long as possible. I do my best to care for my husband and myself but need to set up a plan for help and support. This is challenging.”


Doug
Doug, Michelle and Elaine

Doug and Michelle from Oklahoma
Doug, an Iraq war veteran, had been home just four days when he was in a horrific motorcycle accident that left him severely injured. Doug is still recovering brain function and uses a wheelchair, requiring help 24/7 from his wife and now family caregiver, Michelle.

Not only does Michelle help with tasks like preparing meals and dressing but she has also had to take on more complicated medical tasks — like wound care and operating complex medical equipment — all with little or no instruction. Unfortunately, this lack of knowledge led to another injury: Doug broke his leg as Michelle was transferring him into the car just several weeks after he had returned home from the hospital. She shared:

“It’s just inevitable, when you don’t know what you’re doing, something is going to happen.”


Help is coming, state by state
Doug and Bill gave years of service and now it’s time to support our veterans and the incredible family caregivers who help them. The good news is, the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act is here to help. This new act, now signed into law in 14 states across the country, supports caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home by requiring hospitals to:

  • Record the family caregiver’s name in the medical record of their loved one
  • Notify the family caregiver if their loved one is to be transferred or discharged home
  • Provide live instruction and demonstration on the medical tasks — like wound care, medication management or giving injections — the family caregiver will need to perform at home

As featured in a recent Stateline story, Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to pass the CARE Act to support family caregivers like  Michelle and Debra. The CARE Act has also been signed into law in Virginia and 12 other states: New JerseyColoradoWest VirginiaNew Mexico, MississippiVirginiaArkansasConnecticutNevadaIndianaNew HampshireOregon and Rhode Island.

And we’re still fighting.

Thank you to all veterans and the family caregivers who care for them. Wishing you all a happy and safe Fourth of July!

If you are a family caregiver, you’re not alone.

 


elaine
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Follow Elaine on Twitter: @RoamTheDome

 

Search AARP Blogs

Related Posts
December 11, 2018 10:07 AM
In an election year filled with partisanship and political fights, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel that their voices aren’t being heard or that the issues that affect their lives aren’t being addressed. But, many outstanding elected officials work hard every day to make a positive difference for their constituents.  That’s why AARP recognizes state legislators, governors, and other elected officials – from both sides of the aisle – who have stepped up and worked together to write, support, and advance common-sense policies that help older Americans remain in their homes and communities and retire with confidence. AARP is proud to announce our fifth annual bipartisan class of Capitol Caregivers, who fought this year to increase support for family caregivers and their loved ones, along with our fourth annual bipartisan class of Super Savers, who championed policies that enhance retirement security.
December 05, 2018 01:06 PM
Caroline is a mother of two children and a preschool teacher who unexpectedly became a family caregiver for her father after he suffered a major stroke. Her father, Tom, now deceased, lost the use of his right side and his ability to speak. Multiple surgeries and rehabilitation treatments later, he was able to live at home with the help of nurses. But it was up to Caroline to provide daily care, such as overseeing appointments and handling certain nursing responsibilities, like managing his medications. “I became the person my father could rely on more than anyone in the world,” Caroline said. “I became his safe place and his best friend.” In communities across the country, family caregivers like Caroline are caring for older parents, spouses and other loved ones, helping them to remain at home – where they want to be. Their tasks are done out of love and commitment, but are not easy. That’s why AARP is fighting for family caregivers and their loved ones in every state. In 2018, AARP advanced new policies to provide more help at home, flexibility at work, training, relief and more, which will benefit over 30 million family caregivers. Here are a couple highlights:
November 27, 2018 08:55 AM
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the vital role that transportation options play in what we at AARP call “livable communities” – great places to live for people of all ages. Being able to get around is critical to earn a living, raise a family, contribute and stay connected to your community and enjoy life. And, having alternatives to getting behind the wheel of your own car is particularly important for older adults who want to stay in their homes and communities as they age.