June is PTSD Awareness Month and while the focus is most often on those dealing with PTSD, we must not forget those who offer of themselves in the role of caregiver. Caregivers are relied upon by those battling PTSD for help with their day to day lives devoting themselves fully to the healing process. In 2008, it was estimated that 1 in 5 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffered from PTSD or major depression (Rand Corporation, 2008). According to a recent RAND study on military caregivers, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is the leading mental health condition for post-9/11 military care recipients. Currently, there are approximately 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States with 1.1 million caring for these post-9/11 individuals. This group of caregivers are varied, including family members, friends, or acquaintances. (Ramchand, et al, 2014)
The role of caregiver can be extremely gratifying but it also can come at a cost. Caregivers providing full-time care can experience depressive episodes associated with the help they give to the PTSD sufferer. The assistance they provide in helping with behavioral issues can be taxing both mentally and physically. Their mental and physical health can be impacted as well as the difficulty of managing not only their caregiver role but that of their personal life as well.
How can we better support the caregivers of veterans dealing with PTSD? We can start by offering support through a variety of ways. One way to better support caregivers is to empower them by providing necessary skills and training that help them better understand their role as caregiver and a deeper knowledge of PTSD. Oftentimes, caregivers are thrown into a role simply because they are related to the individual diagnosed with PTSD with no prior knowledge or understanding of what they are dealing with. A better understanding of the diagnosis could give caregivers a more complete idea of the issues they will be faced with and ways to advocate on behalf of their veteran.
Another way to support caregivers is through individual programs that provide assistance and encouragement to those giving care to these veterans. Military Spouses of Strength is one such organization. MSoS is leading the way in research on the mental health of caregivers and how we can better cater to the needs of these individuals. By providing resources such as Peer to Peer Sofa Talks where caregivers can come to receive encouragement to our upcoming resiliency trainings that will provide workshops to cover a variety of topics to promote individuals to be resilient through all life experiences.
Our military caregivers deserve our support as they care for those that have defended our nation through so many years of war. It is our duty to make sure they are also receiving the care and support they need. Do you have ideas how MSoS can better support our military caregivers? We would love to hear your thoughts.
~Tiffany Bodge is a military spouse and the Director of Public Relations and Communications for Military Spouses of Strength
Ramchand, R., Tanielian, T., Fisher, M. P., Vaughan, C. A., Trail, T. E., Epley, C., Voorhies, P., Robbins, M.W., Robinson, E., & Ghosh-Dastidar, B. (2014). Hidden Heroes: America’s Military Caregivers. Rand Corporation. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR400/RR499/RAND_RR499.pdf
Rand Corporation. (2008). One In Five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Suffer from PTSD or Major Depression. http://www.rand.org/news/press/2008/04/17.html