The pandemic has created unprecedented strains on daily life for people across the globe. But for family caregivers, including those who care for wounded, ill or injured veterans or service members, that stress is magnified.
Asking for help can be a challenge for some caregivers, and bringing someone from the outside into your home during the pandemic raises fears for many. Even those willing to ask for help and take the risk can find it difficult to find qualified caregiving assistance.
Research from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that many caregivers believe services like respite care, in which someone comes in to provide temporary relief and support for a regular caregiver, would be helpful, though use of these programs remains low. Just 14 percent report having used respite care, though 38 percent feel it would be helpful (up from 33 percent in 2015), according to the AARP-National Alliance report “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020.”
How to apply for respite relief
Respite Relief for Military and Family Caregivers is administered by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation with care assistance provided by CareLinx — a qualified in-home respite care provider — and national outreach support by AARP and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Requirement: You must provide care to a wounded, ill or injured veteran or service member (and submit proof of service).
Veteran and military caregivers can apply online to receive approximately 24 hours of respite care in four-hour blocks to help with activities of daily living, such as cooking, grocery shopping, light housekeeping, bathing and medication reminders.
For the caregivers who do secure respite relief assistance, the benefits are numerous. To this end, AARP and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced that Respite Relief for Military and Veteran Caregivers, originally a pilot program in a handful of states, is going nationwide. The program gives some eligible family caregivers access to no-cost, short-term assistance to help those caring for wounded, ill or injured veterans or service members. It helped 500 families in 2020.
Here are the stories of two military caregivers who applied to the original pilot program and benefited from the respite assistance.
Lara and her husband’s ALS
Since 2016, Lara Garey, 50, of Cedar Park, Texas, has been a caregiver for her husband, Tom, 52, an Air Force veteran. He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a terminal, degenerative, service-connected disease. The progression of his ALS over the years has left him paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator to breathe. Garey manages all of her husband’s daily living needs, such as eating, bathing and getting dressed, and handles an assortment of health tasks, including tending to his trach and PEG tubes, which assist with breathing and nutrition, respectively.
Before the pandemic, the Gareys had family members and clinicians coming in and out of their home every day. Once quarantine restrictions began last year, that all came to a halt.
“His care now went to just me,” Garey said. “It meant my day is truly 24-7, very little sleep at night, because I’m caring for him. And during the day, all those things that family members would take care of, like helping with the laundry and food and different things like that, now fell on to me.”