Caregivers of Veterans Under More Stress Than Other Caregivers

A study released by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and funded by United Health Foundation, finds that family caregivers of veterans face a higher burden of care, both in intensity and duration, often supporting a spouse or partner over a longer period of time than typical family caregivers. These caregivers also are predominantly women (96 percent) compared to the national average (65 percent), and many make sacrifices to their own health and jobs to care for their loved ones.

The Caregivers of Veterans – Serving on the Homefront study is the first in-depth look at family caregivers of veterans and provides unique insights into the effects of caregiving for a veteran on the caregiversäó» own health, work and home life. The study also provides a look at caregiving across the age spectrum representing caregivers of veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

äóìThe family caregivers who serve our countryäó»s veterans are making huge sacrifices in terms of their own health, careers and home life,äó said Reed Tuckson, M.D., United Health Foundation board member and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group. äóìThe data indicate that these äóÖhomefront heroesäó» are proud to serve in the role of caregiver for their loved ones. Yet it is incumbent upon all of us to help them find support and solutions to preserve their own health and well being, as well as that of the veteran. It is important that relatives, friends, and neighbors seek out opportunities to provide respite and other supportive services to these caregivers.äó

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs projects that there are more than 23 million U.S. veterans. A previous NAC study on caregiving nationwide found that more than 10 million people are caring for a veteran, and nearly seven million of them are veterans themselves.

The Caregivers of Veterans – Serving on the Homefront study found that 96 percent of caregivers of veterans are women and also found that 30 percent of these caregivers are part of the äóìSandwich Generationäó äóñ balancing caring for their veteran and caring for children under the age of 18.
Compared to caregivers nationally, caregivers of veterans are twice as likely to be in their caregiving role for 10 years or longer (30 percent vs. 15 percent). They also are twice as likely to be in a high-burden caregiving role and to consider their situation highly stressful.

When looking for support or advice, caregivers most often depend on word-of-mouth (70 percent), which 63 percent find helpful. In addition, 65 percent of caregivers of veterans who have a care manager say their care managers have been helpful locating, arranging and coordinating care and resources for the veteran. Forty-three percent feel the care manager has been helpful finding support for the caregiver her/himself.

Online forums, groups or blogs are rated as helpful (74 percent) by the 48 percent of caregivers of veterans who turn to them. Caregivers taking care of younger veterans are more likely to turn to these online resources by a wide margin, followed by the Department of Defense military system and Military OneSource, whereas those caring for an older veteran are more likely to turn to local government or community organizations.

The full findings of the Caregivers of Veterans – Serving on the Homefront study can be found here.

Interesting to me was the fact that women are literally the caregivers in almost all situations and are caring for people longer than other caregivers. Bottom line is that caregivers need help. If you are fortunate to not be in a caregiving situation, reach out to others who are.