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According to Statista, there are nearly 10 million veterans in the United States over the age of 65. This means that there are millions of caregivers caring for veterans across the country today.  Veterans have sacrificed an incredible amount to protect and serve our country. They undoubtedly deserve care and honor for their sacrifice throughout their lives. Their caregivers play an important role in both their day-to-day care as well as becoming their advocates in the medical system. In this article, we’ll explore 4 tips for caring for a veteran who wants to maintain in-home independence.

4 Tips for In-Home Veteran Care

Caring for your loved one in their home is one of the best ways to help them maintain independence, but this choice can also create a more complicated role for their caregivers. If you’re providing in-home for a veteran, here are some tips to make it more manageable.

Create a patient file

As an advocate for your veteran loved one, you may feel overwhelmed trying to keep all of their information (medications, diagnoses, records, doctors, etc.) organized. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s easy to feel that things are slipping through the cracks. Instead of relying on your memory or a scattered collection of papers, it’s often easiest to create a patient file and checklist. This will help you to prioritize what to keep while keeping it all organized. The VA offers a checklist so you know exactly what you need. Some of the basics are:

  • Your Veteran’s Medical History
  • Their Insurance Information
  • Medications from both VA and non-VA providers (don’t forget to include any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc. that they take as well)
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
  • Contact information (i.e., telephone numbers, addresses, email) for medical providers, nurses, case managers, and other health care providers 

Click here to see the VA’s full checklist.

Keep up their physical and mental exercise

There may be an intense combination of physical and mental health challenges your loved one grapples with daily, as many of our veterans do. Veterans are at an elevated risk for depression and suicide when compared to the general population, which means their caregivers are in an especially complicated role. For these reasons, keeping up your loved one’s physical and mental exercise is important. Here are some ideas to do that:

  1. Storytime. If there’s one thing veterans have in common, it’s an impressive repertoire of stories. Offer them times to share about their experiences (in combat or just of their lives in general if combat stories are traumatic or anxiety-inducing for them).
  2. Volunteering. Our veterans spent their lives dedicated to the service of others. While it may feel like they should rest now, many of our veterans find a level of self-worth in giving. Finding opportunities for them to volunteer (with younger veterans or others in the community, for example), can offer a sense of purpose and boost confidence.

Find a community
As is especially the case for veterans who spent so much of their lives in a tight-knit group, it can make all the difference to find a community. Once they are out of the service, it can feel like a loss to no longer have that built-in camaraderie that the military creates. Find a community of people where your loved one can share stories and experiences. 

Build and keep a routine
As another residual impact of military life, many of our veterans are used to and prefer a structured schedule and routine. This is why creating a regular schedule based on their natural energy levels/moods and sticking to it can have a positive impact on both you and your loved one.

Closing Thoughts

Providing in-home care for a veteran is both rewarding and challenging. There are many ways to make it a smoother and less stressful process for both you and your loved one. In addition to these ideas, there are many resources and benefits available through the VA, other non-profits like Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Angel Wings for Veterans, and more to help you and your loved one through what may be a challenging period.

If you provide regular care to your loved one, we are here for you. As a caregiver, you’re faced with new challenges every day. The California Caregiver Resource Centers are a network of eleven independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organizations across California. They were created with you both in mind and at heart to be a free resource as you navigate the challenging role you’re in. We would love to connect you with your local Center, where they can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer your questions, and explain how they can best support you.

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