Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Celebrating National Family Caregivers Month
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center recognizes family caregivers as part of National Family Caregivers Month.
As the theme of this year’s Family Caregivers Month, “Now More Than Ever”, suggests, the number of family caregivers is growing and their support is valued more than ever.
“Caregivers of Veterans are a special group of people because many Veterans, both young and old, have complex needs and face daunting challenges in long-term health issues,” said Melanie Copeland, Caregiver Support Coordinator at the VA Medical Center.
The VA Caregiver Support Program provides support to eligible caregivers of Veterans of all eras. Individuals may qualify for the program if the Veteran they provide care for is unable to perform an activity of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming or has difficulty with mobility, or needs supervision and assistance as a result of other injury, such as a spinal cord injury.
Copeland notes that caregivers can expose themselves to risk because they often forget or minimize their own health care needs.
“Caregivers in general are notorious for taking care of others before themselves,” said Copeland. “The better we take care of ourselves, the better we can take care of others.”
Copeland added that caregivers are the ones that are usually working hard behind the scenes, hence the need to recognize and acknowledge their contribution.
Sylvia Mitchell has been a caregiver for her husband, Kevin, for a year and a half and says that every day is a challenge.
“It takes a lot of time and patience to care for someone,” said Mitchell. “You have to remember to take some time for yourself and relax because otherwise you can’t give 100 percent to the person who needs your care.”
Mitchell said being able to talk with other caregivers and the support team at the VA has been a tremendous help to her personally.
“I talk to some of the other caregivers and attend some of the conferences and meetings. It helps to be involved and surrounded by others who are going through the same thing as you every day.”
Mitchell said the caregivers program has been an inspiration and hopes it will continue. She said that it lets people know that there is someone thinking about them and the Veterans they care for.
Caregivers approved through VA’s program may qualify for skilled nursing, home health aide, Home Based Primary Care, medical equipment and other VA health services. Anyone interested in becoming a caregiver can go online at www.caregiver.va.gov to see if they are eligible or call the VA National Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274.