Care for the 'Hidden Heroes'
Some 5.5 million Americans serve as caregivers for wounded veterans, but many are getting by with a fraction of the resources they need to help their loved ones — or themselves, according to a recent RAND Corp. report. To change that, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, along with first lady Michelle Obama, vice presidential spouse Jill Biden and others, is developing a host of new programs specifically aimed at giving caregivers — "the hidden heroes," as Dole calls them — critical financial and legal support, and health care.
"Once these veterans come home, the challenges increase enormously," says Dole, whose Elizabeth Dole Foundation commissioned the RAND report. "Caregivers provide medicine and injections. They manage rehabilitation. They cope with legal and financial issues they hadn't expected. Post-9/11 caregivers, in particular, work to prevent triggers that may cause emotional and behavioral problems."
Obama and Biden, who began advocating for military families through their Joining Forces initiative three years ago, are now working with Dole and other partners to develop targeted caregiver programs, including:
- Peer-to-peer support forums at all military installations.
- A caregiver peer-support network with one-on-one mentoring, online communities and community-based support groups aimed at reaching 50,000 military caregivers globally.
- Training for caregivers on topics such as finances and legal issues.
- Free financial advice and legal resources.
- Job creation for the unemployed caregivers.
To tap into these new initiatives, visit whitehouse.gov/joiningforces.
For information on existing support, visit VA Caregiver Support at caregiver.va.gov.
Visit AARP's Caregiving Resource Center for a host of helpful resources and additional tools. —Paula Spencer Scott
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