Brian and Natalie Vines: Strategies for Self-Care for Caregivers

 

Retired veteran Brian Vines is the fulltime caregiver for his Army veteran wife, Natalie Vines, who has TBI and PTSD. He knows that to be a good caregiver, he has to take time for himself whether that means a short break in the day or a meaningful reboot through retreats with other caregivers.

For example, one week during each summer, he volunteers at a summer camp for kids who have prosthetic limbs or who are in wheelchairs. Helping others and sharing ideas and experiences with other caregivers fuels him to be his best caregiver self.

Shortly after Brian and Natalie Vines met in the military in 1998, their unit deployed to Kuwait. Fueled by assignments on nearby bases, common interests, and shared military experiences, their friendship grew into a romantic relationship that eventually led them to the alter. Brian and Natalie loved their careers in the U.S. Army — Brian served for 28 years and Natalie for 21.

After several sustaining several TBIs and living with PTSD, Natalie retired from the Army. And in 2012, Brian, who lives with PTSD as well, decided to retire to take care of his wife. Since then, both Brian and Natalie also found significant growth and healing through their participation in the WWP Independence Program. Brian volunteers as a peer mentor helping his fellow veterans on WWP Project Odyssey® events.

For information about treatments for TBI and PTSD, please visit The Treatment Hub.

Caregiver fatigue is a real thing, and you have to make an honest effort to find respite, to find some time off throughout the day just to keep your batteries charged. The better that you are as a caregiver and rested and alert, then the better care you’re giving to the person you’re taking care of.

And so, I’ve learned that. Some of the things that I do for respite is volunteering. I kind of have what I call short respites throughout the day when I may go over and just check email or check in with one of my support groups. That kind of helps distract me a little bit, lets me take a break. And then also longer respites, it may be - I think the first caregiver respite I went on was with the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

And I’ve also done them with Wounded Warrior Project and the Independence Fund. But it’s great to be around other caregivers and learn that you are not alone. That your situation is not unique. And lots of people share what I call best business practices that make you, when you return, a better caregiver.

The other thing I do for respite is volunteering. And one of the things I enjoy working with is Camp Twin Lakes in Georgia. I volunteer one week every summer to spend with the kids. I just finished a weekend camp for kids with prosthetics and wheelchairs. And so those times off I’m focused on caring for, really, children and it’s a good respite for me. And then I come back, and I’m rebooted and ready to help Natalie.

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Posted on BrainLine November 10, 2021. Reviewed November 10, 2021.

About the author: Brian and Natalie Vines

Shortly after Brian and Natalie Vines met in the military in 1998, their unit deployed to Kuwait. Fueled by assignments on nearby bases, common interests, and shared military experiences, their friendship grew into a romantic relationship that eventually led them to the alter. Brian and Natalie loved their careers in the U.S. Army — Brian served for 28 years and Natalie for 21. After several sustaining several TBIs and living with PTSD, Natalie retired from the Army. And in 2012, Brian, who lives with PTSD as well, decided to retire to take care of his wife. Since then, both Brian and Natalie also found significant growth and healing through their participation in the Wounded Warrior Project® Independence Program. Brian volunteers as a peer mentor helping his fellow veterans on WWP Project Odyssey® events.

A photo from left to right of Natalie Vines, her German Shepherd service dog, and Brian Vines, all smiling facing the camera