According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), family members and friends who care for veterans spend, on average, more than 20 hours a week taking care of their loved one.
This may take a heavy toll on caregivers, but there is help and assistance for those in need of support.
Called VA Caregiver Support, this federal program ensures that veterans stay home longer by supporting their caregivers.
“Caregivers are the most important part of veterans care,” Caregiver Support Coordinator Ryan Mooney of the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, NY said.
Mooney said the cost of long-term care for veterans is immeasurable, running into the hundreds of thousands each year, but caregiving cuts down the expense of that care.
“Without caregivers, the veteran will be in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Living at home is better both for mental and physical wellbeing,” he said.
Support comes in many ways including providing home health aides, therapeutic workshops, and individual and group counseling at the VA medical center and at home.
Veterans who served in the military post-9/11/01 are also qualified for a stipend.
In order to qualify for the VA Caregiver Support program, the veteran must require assistance in two activities of daily living, like washing or cooking for themselves.
The VA’s Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program at the hospital is another intervention available to the caregiver and the veteran providing respite to caregivers three days a week.
The caregiver can then arrange to take care of personal matters during this time.
“They (caregivers) know they can go to their appointments while their loved ones are at ADHC,” Mooney said. “We can also give up to 30 days of respite care who need institutional care.”
Caregivers are also able to call the Caregiver Support line at 1-855-260-3274.
“Veterans by their nature are independent, but when it comes to healthcare this can be a detriment,” Mooney said.
“We rely on their caregivers to provide us with accurate information to help assess their individual medical needs,” he said.
Support for caregivers is needed more and more as the population ages, Mooney said.
“Caregivers can show signs of dementia if they are taking care of veterans with dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. They are doing multiple things as well as taking care of their loved one,” he said.
“It’s important to stay home for the holidays or sharing the games on TV with each other. One veteran is especially grateful that he can spend time at home watching his favorite team, the New York Yankees, on TV with his wife,” Mooney said. “It definitely has had a positive impact on his welfare.”
When people age, they need more people to care for them, according to Mooney, and as medical interventions increase the longevity of people, caregiving will become more important.
Mooney can be reached by phone at 518-626-6020.
Visit www.caregiver.va.gov for more information on VA Caregiver Support.