Durham VA Health Care System
Recognizing Unsung Heroes Caring for Veterans
A Caregiver can be a spouse, significant other, adult child, parent, family member, or a friend. Many Veterans require assistance from a Caregiver. This may be due to age, injury, or a debilitating disease. If you are providing Caregiver services for a Veteran, the VA offers a special program that can help alleviate many of the burdens and challenges associated with this noble, yet difficult task.
The VA Caregiver Support Program provides special support for Veteran Caregivers who qualify, and is available across all VA locations. The core team at the Durham VA includes three Caregiver Support Coordinators, consisting of two social workers and a nurse: Jency Brogden, MSW, LCSW; Christy Knight, MSW, LCSW; and Jasmine Moore, RN, MSN.
The mission statement of the Caregiver program is, “To promote the health and well-being of family Caregivers who care for our nation’s Veterans, through education, resources, support, and services.” The Caregiver Support Coordinators uphold this mission by ensuring Caregivers are well informed of resources available through the VA to meet Veterans’ care needs, and by continually providing training and educational materials relevant for Caregivers. Knight says that “The Caregiver Support program is here to recognize the sacrifices Caregivers make day in and day out. The Caregiver is instrumental in helping our Veterans meet their medical needs and have a better quality of life.”
Further emphasizing the VA Caregiver Support mantra, which is “You’re there to support the Veteran. We’re here to support you.” Caregivers are formally recognized each November during Caregiver Month. A series of events are planned which provides an opportunity for Caregivers to come together, socialize, and be recognized for what they do in helping the VA in its mission to support the Veterans. As one Caregiver said, “I was touched by the VA recognizing my efforts and I loved the certificate they gave me. I only wish it was wallet-sized so I could show it off to my friends and family!”
The program recognizes two main types of Caregivers:
• Primary Family Caregivers are individuals who provide care services for Veterans who suffered or aggravated a serious physical or psychological injury during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, or New Dawn. Caregivers of these Veterans can qualify for a monthly stipend, access to Mental Health services, respite care for a minimum of 30 days per year, and additional health care coverage. Family Caregivers may also qualify for a special program provided by the Fisher House Foundation called the “Hero Miles Program.” This special respite based program provides assistance with airline travel for Veterans and their Caregiver. In addition to these benefits, if eligible, they may receive travel, lodging, and per diem when transporting the Veteran to VA appointments. Specific eligibility requirements and some restrictions on travel may apply.
• General Caregivers are individuals who provide care services to enrolled Veterans of all eras who need assistance with one or more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or need supervision or protection based on symptoms or residuals of neurological or other impairment, injury or illness. The Caregiver Support Coordinator provides services and interventions to the General Caregiver based on the Caregiver's needs and requests. These services and interventions may be referring to a Caregiver support group, online and in-person caregiving educational sessions, instruction and education on the use of telehealth and other available technologies, teaching techniques, strategies and skills for caring for a Veteran’s specific care needs and providing the Caregiver support and/or supportive counseling. The Caregiver Support Coordinator also acts as a consultant providing linkage to local community resources that may assist the Caregiver, referral to mental health services for the Caregiver if symptoms are related to caregiving duties and connection with the treatment team for specific treatment of a disability for which the Veteran is receiving treatment through VA.
The Durham VA currently has 120 Caregivers enrolled in its General program, and another 121 in its Primary Family program.
As Rosalynn Carter, wife of President Jimmy Carter, former First Lady of the United States, and founder of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, once said, “There are only four kinds of people in this world – those who have been Caregivers, those who currently are Caregivers, those who will be Caregivers, and those who will need Caregivers.”
Your local Caregiver Support Coordinators serve as a source of information about the program. They can coordinate training, connect you to resources within the VA and your local community, and provide you with support. For more information, program details, and eligibility requirements, please visit the VA Caregiver Support website at http://www.caregiver.va.gov.