AARP, Ad Council address needs of military veteran caregivers
In 2003, Roxana became a full-time caregiver of her husband, Victor. He was met with a moderate traumatic brain injury after being wounded in Afghanistan. She was also a full-time student. Life became a struggle to juggle her own studies while taking care of her healing spouse -- it wouldn't just be through recovery -- it would be for the rest of their lives.
Now 18 years later, it’s a balance they work on together, with Victor gaining help from therapists to help with everyday chores. Roxana also said it’s important to take care of herself to remain a providing source to her spouse; caregivers can’t pour from an empty cup.
This is the story they shared in a recent campaign stressing the importance of military veteran caregivers’ own self-care.
Unique challenges of military caregivers
Oftentimes caring for a military veteran means becoming a caretaker at a young age – more than 40% are under 50, which means being a full-time caregiver for decades. It’s a reality for nearly 6 million caregivers in the United States. And it’s one that comes with many challenges that often go unseen by family members and friends, such as mental side effects or behaviors caused by deployment trauma.
These injuries may be invisible, but that doesn’t make them any easier to address, for the veteran or their caregiver. Studies also show that veteran caregivers experience worse health outcomes, bigger rifts with loved ones, and larger hardships at work in comparison with their civilian counterparts.
The community of veteran caregivers provides a combined $14 billion in uncompensated care every year. They do so in addition to responsibilities like work, parenting and everyday life challenges. It's a mental toll that weighs heavily, and can do for years on end. But there are a growing amount of resources to help.
A campaign toward the future
That’s why AARP and the Ad Council, along with Gig Line Media, have partnered to advance their Caregiver Assistance Campaign. One addition to that reach is to help educate the public on what veteran caregivers deal with via a PSA, by sharing the experience and advice of Roxana.
Here's some behind the scenes footage (different from the video above):
“Through this campaign, AARP will continue to recognize and provide resources to support these valued caregivers who play such a vital role for military and veteran families,” Bob Stephen, VP of Family Caregiving and Long-term Care at AARP, said in a press release.
In the release, Michelle Hillman, Chief Campaign Development Officer of the Ad Council added, “We’re humbled to continue this campaign to remind the millions of military veteran caregivers that they do not face these unique challenges alone.”
The program will help advance military caregivers by offering free resources from AARP while minimizing the stigma of asking for help. Self-care and taking time for oneself can actually create a better caregiver. By asking for assistance, it’s not a sign of failure, but proving to others you know when to bring in help.
AARP’s available resources include planning resources, legal and financial guidance (also available in Spanish), and additional self-care tips. To access these free resources and get connected with additional programs for veteran caregivers, head to www.AARP.org/Caregiving and www.AARP.org/Cuidar.