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Family Caregiving Tips for a VA Spouse

Veteran holding his knee sitting next to a caregiver
By Homewatch CareGivers of Sterling

When it comes to caring for a family member who is a service member or veteran, there are not only additional techniques that can be utilized to help, but a different set of resources as well. Often times the spouse of a veteran will report feeling like they are part of their spouse’s medical team, which requires organization, a willingness to take time to educate yourself, and going out of your way to put together advice and suggestions that you may receive from many different origins. VA spouses find themselves in the role of caregiver not only for aging veterans, but also for injured veterans. Young spouses can find themselves at a loss and unprepared for this circumstance. This article is designed to help.

When Your Spouse Is Sent Home it is Important to Stay Organized

Whether you are leaving the VA with a spouse that has an injury, or a diagnosis of a debilitating chronic condition, it is a scary and often unexpected thing. Something that can help you focus and keep track of what should be done is to stay organized. Doing this can help you and your spouse avoid unnecessary setbacks in recovery or extra trips to the emergency room. Some things that may help are:

  • A dedicated calendar to keep track of appointments, prescription refills, and anything else that is needed
  • A medical journal or log that helps you keep track of conversations, observations, and information that you get from doctor visits
  • A medication log that includes dosages, side effects, time taken, and restrictions.
  • A medication file where paperwork and diagnosis information is organized and maintained.
  • Don’t forget that hospital case managers are also on hand to help if you get overwhelmed with information, they can help you sort out and organize the information that you need, and let you know what is important and what isn’t.

The More Information You Have – The Easier it is to Understand

Have you ever wished you could simply take the emotion out of a certain set of circumstances, so that you are able to see the path to recovery more clearly? The more information you have when it comes to the diagnosis of your loved one, the easier it will be to do this so that you can prioritize your caregiving accordingly. Here are some tips to help you gather information:

  • Ask other caregivers, friends, family, or support groups where they have found information on the specific conditions that are affecting your service family member.
  • Make a list of sources that you may need to contact in the future if you have questions about your service member’s condition. Include the phone number and email address for each of them.
  • Ask the medical team for a list of appropriate steps to take if there’s a problem or if you have questions about the condition of your veteran after discharge.

Stay Involved in the Treatment Plan

Many spouses haven’t had to deal with the injuries or medical conditions that they are now facing with their spouse, which means it is hard to know what questions you should be asking the doctors and medical professionals who are helping to treat your veteran. As an advocate for your spouse, you should stay involved in the treatment plan, it is your spouse’s best opportunity for success. Here are some tips to help you as you talk to medical personnel:

  • Always attend each medical appointment for your service member if you are able.
  • Ask as many questions as you can, and if you don’t know what to ask use the phrase, “tell me more” to encourage the medical team to provide you with more details and information.
  • Recruit a friend or family member to attend appointments with you and your spouse so that they can take notes and help you remember everything that was said.
  • If your service member spends a significant amount of time in the hospital you can ask for the direct phone number of the nurses’ station, they are an excellent source of information after discharge.
  • No one expects you to understand medical jargon, so if you don’t understand then don’t be afraid to ask. You can ask how to spell things, how to pronounce things, and what anything means. This allows you to look up more information later and be better informed at the next appointment.

Get Support – Anywhere and Everywhere You Can

Caregiving for a family member can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. But there are always people who are able and willing to help, you may just have to ask. Here are some things to help:

  • Keep a list of individuals who have offered to help so that you can reach out to them if you feel like you need to. Many people don’t know what kind of help they’ll need, but when they do, it is helpful to have a list of friends to call who have offered.
  • Choose a dedicated spokesperson to update friends and extended family members on the progress of recovery. This limits the amount of time you spend on the phone with others so you can focus on the tasks at hand, and you are still providing others with updates.
  • Create an updated list of daily tasks so that if you need help, you can simply dedicate these tasks to others. These tasks might include laundry, shopping, picking up prescriptions, and more.
  • Talk to a friend, close family member, support group or even a therapist if you start to get overwhelmed and need some stress relief. Maintaining personal bonds and connections is important when caregiving.
  • Consider respite care, it helps to have someone step in for a few hours here and there so that you can take a break. Military families can get assistance through TriCare and through the VA.
  • Don’t forget to download the DoD Caregiver Resource Directory so that you are completely informed on the benefits you have, as well as the resources you have available to you.

Don’t forget that Homewatch CareGivers of Sterling is here for you. It is always a great privilege to provide our military clients with compassionate and professional assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have more questions or keep browsing our website for more information.

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