In recently perusing the VA website, I discovered a virtual treasure trove of helpful tips and information of all kinds. You can find the homepage here. I have experience in working through the VA miasma of paperwork (20 years' worth with my mother, a WWII Navy Lieutenant, and now, just beginning with my husband, a Vietnam Vet). These resources are excellent, both in terms of general use and for navigating the VA resources. I have written several blog posts and a webpage to assist veterans and their caregivers in getting to the help available with the least amount of stress, strain and annoyance. These new VA tips are truly a departure from the usual obfuscation. In the past I have found it very frustrating to even locate any VA assistance my mother qualified for, much less learn how to establish it. Please see the Veterans page on this site, by clicking here. The VA information relates to Care for the Caregivers, Care for the Veterans, Tips by Diagnosis, Connect with Others, Tips & Tools, Publications &Resources. I have provide direct links to these pages.
I truly salute those who are caring for our veterans and hope these connections can help you to find the help you and your veteran need, deserve and have available to you. I am very heartened to see that there are ever more options, help for caregivers, assistance of all kinds. If you need additional help in accessing the resources available, I highly recommend contacting the county VA liaison person in your area. They know how to get through the red tape and deliver the information and help immediately (or at least sooner than you can probably figure it our yourself). God bless our veterans and those who are caring for them!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Hello all you fabulous caregivers! I have been taking a bit of a break from writing the blog for a variety of reasons. But, I didn't even post this year on World Alzheimer's Day (September 21st), for the first time since I created the blog 5 years ago. Why, you ask? Because I just couldn't make myself put forth the staggeringly scary statistics about how often someone is diagnosed or about the impacts to a caregiver's life when AD is diagnosed -- again. It felt so overwhelmingly negative that I simply couldn't do it.
Now, don't get me wrong. There's a lot of positive research happening, some of which I've been writing about since 2012, but it is now receiving mainstream media attention. For example, both music and meditation have been getting lots of attention, with the Veterans Administration now offering mindfulness meditation to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. There are more documentaries, more information flowing, more assistance to caregivers -- all that is truly a wonderful change. But, I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness when I wrote about the one thing that daughters caring for AD parents consider perhaps the most distressing of all when they see their loved one deteriorate before their eyes: will I also have this disease? It's a natural and unavoidable question when we see first hand the ravages of the disease.
Until now, the widely promoted information is that Alzheimer's has no cure, and there's nothing much we can even do to slow it down. Grim, right? However, I know there are things we can do to prevent it (check out the rest of this website for that info) and finally, here is some validation that it can also be reversed. Yes, I said reversed.
I discovered a series that is airing online right now, for free. It's called Awakening from Alzheimer's and offers video interviews with a dozen experts in various medical and research fields on all kinds of topics related to prevention and reversal of AD through often simple things that most of us can easily do to improve our health, cognition, and well being. In fact, this series has a huge arsenal of tools and some starling new information to empower us to do exactly that. The subtitle, "Where Alzheimer's meets hope" expresses it perfectly. Hope. We all need hope. This information will serve both you and your loved one with AD. Nothing to lose, as it's free, and everything to gain. Check it out. The series is on Day 4 now, so jump on getting registered.
I wish I'd had even a small bit of this information during my time as caregiver. But, I'm sure happy to have discovered it now. Even though it's too late to help my mother, I believe it can help millions. Please share it. Hope and empowerment are precious.
Though I have direct experience with caring for a veteran, my mother, who served as a Navy Lieutenant and nurse in WWII, did not suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as so many thousands of combat veterans do. I do personally know friends who have struggled silently with the demons of flashbacks, terrible nightmares, night sweats, depression, relationship difficulties and other disruptions of life, even decades after their combat duty. According to a recent report in TIME magazine, 22 veterans take their own life each day, unable to cope with depression, PTSD, joblessness, inability to fit back into their own families. This is a simply horrifying, mind-numbing statistic. The unimaginable disruption and emotional devastation rippling out through families and communities all over the U.S. is a quiet river of death, and it dishonors these brave men and women who answered the call to serve our country. We must find a way to help them, given that the over-burdened and inept VA system is not meeting this dire need.
I have shared many ideas for caring for veterans here on this site: Caring for a Veteran, including resources and links to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and their program Operation Family Caregiver, which has now grown to national scope. I had the privilege of attending a summit at the RCI in 2012 and was most impressed with the training and support they offer to family caregivers of returning veterans. I encourage anyone in this position to seek out their program, available via telephone/Skype to reach those who need it.
I have also written specifically about PTSD and help available through programs such as Adam Burke's project, VeteransFarm.org, for which he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2012. This model combines training for handicapped vets in growing organic blueberries, developing business skills and offering assistance in starting and operating a blueberry farm from several non-government veterans organizations. This is a very worthy undertaking, and it's obviously a win-win situation in that veterans are then prepared for a new career which happens to provide its own gardening therapy, and a place to live, as well as land, equipment and support to create a food crop that is much in demand.
I recently came across a news article which sparks hope for a new audio therapy device called a bio-acoustic utilization device (BAUD), which uses something called binaural beats through headphones during a therapy session. Here is a link to a blog post on the Armed Forces Benefits Association website for further information about BAUD and PTSD therapy possibilities. And, this is the article, published on August 29, 2015 in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, which originally got my attention: Veterans with PTSD Praise Audio Therapy Results. The article mentions George Lindenfeld, a neuro-psychologist formerly treating veterans in Asheville, NC, now relocated to Sarasota, FL, and his work with PTSD using the BAUD in therapy. The results are pretty astounding and it seems this technology offers a viable approach to treating PTSD. More research is no doubt needed, but this is a promising new therapy.
In closing, I ask you to share the information in this post with those families, caregivers, and friends of veterans who are suffering from PTSD and having a tough time putting their lives back together after serving in the military. They deserve our help and support, and you never know when you might be quite literally casting a life line to someone in crisis. Even one veteran suicide a day is too many! Please take action and share this today.
The RCI is a service unit of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, and combines advocacy, education, research and service in supporting caregivers by promoting caregiver health, skills, and resilience. The focus is on helping caregivers cope with chronic illnesses and disability across the lifespan. This includes such a wide range (everything from autism to cancer, Alzheimer's to traumatic brain injury) that to get a full representation, I suggest you take a look at their caregiver resources page: www.rosalynncarter.org/ which features over 100 links to information and assistance sites. The programs of outreach include the Georgia Care-Net Coalition, which represents 12 regions around the state and serves as a voice for caregivers, the REACH program for Alzheimer's caregivers providing training and support in partnership with other organizations in 17 states, and Operation Family Caregiver, which provides free, confidential support, counseling and training for military family caregivers in-home, or via telephone or Skype. If you or someone you know could benefit from this program, call for information at (229) 931-2034.
The Summit featured keynote speaker Elizabeth Dole, who spoke eloquently on behalf of the million (yes, million!) military caregivers who are valiantly trying to cope with the approximately 725,000 veterans who are returning from the battlefield with both visible and invisible injuries and disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The urgent need is overwhelming the services the Veteran's Administration is able to provide, leaving so many families in dire straights. Elizabeth Dole has created a foundation to assist these many military family caregivers in coping with the crisis: Elizabeth Dole Foundation website
With Elizabeth Dole's inspiring and passionate words still reverberating in our hearts, there was a brilliant presentation by Gregory Fricchione, MD, Associate Chief of Psychiatry and Director Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Fricchione's presentation was simply amazing in its depth, scope and brilliance as he related very technical evidence of how the very evolution of the human brain over 120 million years influences those suffering PTSD and TBI. He communicated this complex information in such an accessible way and with humor and compassion that I found it truly engaging. I couldn't miss the comparisons of battlefield stress disorders with some of the same symptoms exhibited in the chronically stressed caregiver. Dr. Fricchione put it in context that was understandable and also hopeful. His funniest points were about the greater adaptability of slime mold (as compared to the human brain) and also, his opinion that the canine species was infinitely superior in unconditional love. (I think I agree with him about dogs! He even showed a video clip of his dog meditating - definitely a higher species!) I was vastly reassured that such brilliant researchers are bringing light to the issues we are facing. If you'd like more about this, his slide show may be found through a link on RCI's homepage for more Summit info. Without his charming quick wit and personality, it just isn't the same!
I was so impressed with the excellence of the programs and the caring compassionate hearts of the people involved. I met people from all over the world who are each working in their own way to support caregivers. There was such an atmosphere of hope, collaboration and cooperation and the convergence of politics, education, public support, private corporate sponsorship, recognition of excellence, community outreach and caring hearts -- I have never seen the like before. How could one not be inspired and uplifted?
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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