Rehabilitation after a serious injury can be a lengthy and confusing process that may leave Veterans and their family caregivers feeling isolated and adrift in an uncertain sea. VA’s Caregiver Program can be a life raft during the transition period. The program aims to support caregivers who in turn support Veterans in ways VA cannot.
Caregivers play an important role in the health and well-being of Veterans, and caring for a wounded, ill, or injured Veteran is not easy work. Without family caregivers, many of these Veterans could not remain close to family and in their communities.
VA knows that family caregivers who care for Veterans in their own homes have been putting Veterans first since the founding of our nation. That’s why VA’s Caregiver Support Program provides training and education to enhance the caregiver’s role. The program focus is to improve the caregiver’s understanding of the impact their work has on the health and well-being of the Veteran they care for and their families as well as how their work affects them, too.
All caregivers are essential
While recent media attention has focused on caregivers of Veterans injured after 9/11, all family caregivers, regardless of the era the Veteran served or why a Veteran requires assistance, are essential to their ability to have a positive quality of life. After applying and qualifying for the program, participants may leave for different reasons, including at request of the Veteran or caregiver. Sometimes Veterans wish to change caregivers or a caregiver is no longer able to provide the needed level of care. There could be a death of the Veteran or caregiver; the Veteran may move into a long-term residential program; or there is non-compliance with program requirements such as failure to participate in home visits, fraud or abuse.
Veterans and caregivers may also be removed from the program if the Veteran’s condition changes, making him/her no longer clinically eligible. When Veterans and their caregivers are not satisfied with decisions made by the local VA Caregiver Support Program and his/her healthcare team, we welcome a review, also called an appeal. Requests for an appeal can be directed locally to your patient advocate at your nearest VA health care facility. To learn more about the process, review the appeals fact sheet on our website.
At the national level, we remain focused on increasing oversight through audits, site visits, process improvements and support services. Did you know we offer a variety of local and national programs? There’s Building Better Caregivers,™ peer support mentoring, caregiver self-care courses, respite, home and community based care programs, a national caregiver support line, and specific programs for issues such as dementia, stroke, and spinal cord injury. All these evidence-based programs can empower caregivers to deliver care to their Veterans with confidence while acknowledging caregivers’ own needs of self-care.
Program helps caregivers feel more proficient
Caregivers who participate in VA’s Caregiver Support Program tell us that the program has helped them feel more confident in their role, that it has made them even more proficient in supporting the Veteran they care for in treatment and rehabilitation.
To learn more about the VA Caregiver Support Program, visit the Caregiver Website or call the Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274. You can also contact your local Caregiver Support Coordinator located at every VA medical center across the United States.
And to all the Veteran caregivers out there, we cannot thank you enough for what you do for Veterans, and for our nation. We stand with you, ready to support, ready to care compassionately for one Veteran at a time.
Meg Kabat, LCSW-C, CCM is the national director of VA’s Caregiver Support Program.