This day and this month

Wikipedia defines caregiver as an unpaid or paid person who helps another individual with impairment with his or her activities of daily living. Merriam-Webster defines a caregiver as a person who gives help and protection to someone (such as a child, an old person, or someone who is sick). Veterans Day is almost over and perhaps this is a good time to reflect on war injured veterans who require another individual to help them with activities of daily living.

When we think of disabilities the obvious first comes to mind – paraplegia, blindness, single or multiple amputations, maybe severe scarring. When we think further we may think about the invisible disabilities – traumatic brain injuries (blasts are the leading cause of TBI), psychological injuries, internal injuries with lasting effects. For these veterans, their war goes on. It also goes on for their caregivers. November is National Family Caregivers Month.

Family caregivers are unpaid yet they care for many, if not most, of our disabled veterans. Caregivers also care for our elderly who may have one of the dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or are frail due to age. They care for our children and adolescents who may have congenital, traumatic or illness related disabilities. They sometimes care for our dying.

It’s their family responsibility you say? Maybe. But whose responsibility is it when they need care?

Caregiving is grueling work. It is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. Anyone who has been responsible for a toddler for even one day knows this. But a toddler grows into a child and becomes more independent. Imagine having a toddler for all of your life. That is not to say that there aren’t rewards in caregiving. But the rewards don’t come in the form of free time or rest, things that everyone needs. These rewards are intangible and don’t really make up for disturbed sleep, postponed or forgotten social engagements, or disturbed relationships.

So today and this month and all the time, let’s thank our veterans and let’s thank the caregivers. Let’s do something for them. Are you listening Veterans Admiration? Are you listen Federal Government? Are you Listen State Government? Are you listening?

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Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN

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