Caring for Veterans during a pandemic

Posted on 06/08/20 by Evelin De La Rosa

Caring for someone can be a challenging task, especially if you are a military caregiver. Military caregivers consistently experience worse health outcomes, greater strains in family relationships, and more workplace problems. No caregiver handles this job the same and no two service members or veterans have an identical set of health challenges.


Regardless of the situation, having a good caregiving plan will make the process easier. Peter Jeffries the National Engagements Director of AARP Campaigns talks about military caregiving on the AARP Texas Prepare to Care podcast. He also talks about an AARP initiative for our military.

Jeffries knows the challenges of military caregiving because he experienced it first-hand.

“I’m a proud son of a Korean War U.S. Army Combat vet. About four or five years ago, my mother had a severe heart attack and my father had Lewy body disease. Ever since my mother was put to bed rest, my sister and I had to step in.”

Jeffries runs the AARP veterans, military, and their family’s (VMF) initiative nationwide. His best advice to becoming an official caregiver is to become their power of attorney. Going through this process helped him and his sister know exactly what they were getting themselves into.

“AARP has a number of free resources and has the content expertise that relates to caregiving to help any family member on their journey,” Jeffries said.

AARP provides numerous resources to veteran communities from caregiving, fraud watch, job opportunities, and earned benefits. “In 2018, we launched a nationwide initiative so that all of our state offices can partake in having a more deliberate, intentional, and strategic way of delivering our resources in the community or online by going to aarp.org/veterans,” said Jeffries.

AARP has collaborated with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to provide different free resources related to VMF. One resource that has helped many caregivers is the Veteran and Military Caregiving guide. This 40-page packet provides the key steps to become a caregiver as well as a checklist of the basic things you need to know.

Veterans

One of the resources AARP and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation recently produced right before the stay-at-home orders were issued was the Supporting Military, Veteran, and Caregivers in a Pandemic guide. A two-page fact sheet that goes through the five steps of how to better prepare your caregiving journey through these uncertain times.

Nine out of 10 caregivers do not necessarily know they are going to take that role until a family crisis hits. That is why maintaining personal safety and self-care is a crucial part of beginning the caregiving role. “As a former veteran caregiver myself, I can tell you first-hand that if you get sick or worn out, you cannot be of service as a family caregiver,” said Jeffries.

Unfortunately, military caregivers are subject to fraud even during these uncertain times. This could be people coming up to your door disguised as front line workers luring you into a false COVID-19 test. If you become a victim in this situation Jeffries says, “Always reach out to your local VA or your regional VA by phone or going online to VA.gov.”

Many military veterans are also seeking employment. AARP is proud to help fill the breach of VMF looking for employment.

“Right as the stay-at-home orders started to sweep the country, AARP rolled out a new resource called ‘Veterans Wanted’. A feature on our work and jobs website where employers look for those with veteran and military experience,” said Jeffries.

Other ways AARP has reached out to help during this time of crisis is by conducting a numerous amount of tele-town halls on a national and state level. All answering questions on VA financial benefits, VA health benefits, and the VA health system.

“We have served around 50-60 thousand people when you combine the handful of state-based tele-town halls during COVID-19 along with our national tele-town hall,” said Jeffries.

A couple of resources that were mentioned during the tele-town halls was the General VA hotline that you can reach at (855) 948-2311 regarding all veterans’ affairs. If you have specific questions for the VA relating to COVID-19, calling (844) 698-2311 is available 24 hours, seven days of the week and the VA’s Benefits Registration hotline is 1(800) 827-1000.

“You are not on this journey alone. There are friends, family, and those in your neighborhood that are willing to help you during your caregiving journey. All it takes is a simple call or text,” said Jeffries.

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You can find CDC’s latest coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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