Caregivers play a vital role in helping veterans recover from TBI and PTSD. In this article, we present the first-person perspectives of caregivers. We are grateful to the caregivers and to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation for sharing these stories with us.
What was one of your first major challenges as a caregiver and how did you address that challenge?
"I really didn’t understand invisible wounds. It was so difficult to figure out what was happening to him. I had no idea what his triggers were. I did a ton of research on his injuries, but at a certain point I just accepted I would have to live moment to moment. Reaching out for help was hard at the beginning; I thought I had to do everything on my own."
Elizabeth Rotenbury, Maryland, caring for her husband
"Maintaining employment was a huge challenge for me. For many years, I was only able to work part-time. As a non-spouse caregiver, I was not prepared for the financial consequences created by this role. Saving for my retirement, paying into social security, and building savings or my personal credit all took a backseat to caregiving."
Jennifer MacKinday, Indiana, caring for her brother
"One of the first major challenges I faced was moving our household back home to Massachusetts and establishing a routine. It was hard in the beginning to coordinate Charlie’s medical needs and appointments, childcare and working. The first six months or so after moving home, I’d have my little moments crying in the shower (so no one would see), worrying about what the next hour or even day would bring (I still have those moments, just not as frequently). I ended up changing my work to a more flexible position, and we made the decision to continue living with Charlie’s mother for the first few years. The extra family support was invaluable to our success, especially during really hard times…"
Emory Popoloski, Massachusetts, caring for her husband
"Grieving my relationship is an evolving process. I kept remembering my husband prior to his accident. I kept having to ask myself, “How do I fall in love again?” I almost had to develop a new friendship — a new marriage — with this person who was already in my life."
Roxana Delgado, Texas, caring for her husband