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Supporting Caregivers As They Support
Our Veterans

By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 6)

Armed Forces continue to be prepared for lengthy overseas deployments, often serving multiple or extended tours of duty. This has created unparalleled stress and trauma; not only on those who serve, but also on their families during these deployments and upon their returns. Families make tremendous sacrifices so that these men and women in uniform can provide military service and advance the cause of freedom throughout the world. Families are also a vital support system to these service members and their roles cannot be underestimated.
When service members go to war, the nuclear and extended families also “go to war” and are impacted by the outcomes. Unfortunately, combat can result in severe injuries, disabilities and casualties. Many veterans have now returned home to thousands of families who face daunting challenges and may be unprepared to care for them. Lives are altered and rearranged at all levels to care for the physical injuries and emotional needs of loved ones. Many of these family members, including children, experience a change in their roles and have become “caregivers.”
Fortunately, in this day and age, caring for our military members also includes tending to the well-being of their families and caregivers. A multitude of programs and resources are now available or are being developed to assist our Armed Forces members as they return to duty or civilian life and to assist their family members as they face new roles and expand their capacity to provide care.

Family Transitions and Support:

Upon a veteran’s return from the battlefield, the entire family will go through a period of transition that includes restoring trust and wholeness in the family circle. This is the most important time frame to seek support and gain knowledge about the changes and difficulties that may be present.
In recent years, the VA (Veterans Administration) identified a six-phase “Cycle of Reintegration.” The phases also directly involve and impact caregivers and family members as the veteran reunites with them.

Phase One: “The Honeymoon”: elation and joy, relief and celebration

Phase Two: “Disillusionment”: role changes, life at home doesn’t feel the same, pace of life is different, new stresses may emerge

Phase Three: “Alienation”: no one “gets it,” “I want to go back,” risk of drug/alcohol abuse, frustration, boredom, feels distanced from the military routine and comrades

Phase Four: “Engagement”: intervention by the family, motivation to change, counseling / support groups, return to work, seek new routines and connections


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