Peer and Caregiver Support

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History

Lead by Helping the Heroes our peer and caregiver support programs are designed to assist service members and family caregivers from all conflicts as well as our first responders to draw inspiration from the men and women who faced and overcame the same struggles they face; improves their lives and acheive their highest goals.

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Since its beginning, Helping the Heroes peer and caregiver support continues to expand. In the future we hope to expand to job training and placement; counseling; and other special activities as covered in our ongoing project sections.

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Project Development & Structure.

The core purpose of Helping the Heroes peer and caregiver support is the connections forged by the veterans themselves. Through the program friendships flourish over the years. Some of our most popular activities involve the program’s robust outreach events to include sports, the arts, and other outings.

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Veterans attending these events all stated the experiences caused them to reconsider what their limits were and further engage in other activities in all aspects of their lives. 

The program recognized the it must address the needs of the “whole veteran” and that includes family and caregivers. Veterans and their families socialize with each other at receptions, dinners, and day trips. All have an important role in helping our wounded veterans feel more connected to their communities, their families, their work and recreational activities, in ways that bring new meaning to their lives. Veterans forge an incredibly powerful bond around their common values and shared experiences — more so if their deployment war experiences were distressing. Transitioning from the military to civilian life often leaves them vulnerable and feeling disconnected which can lead to social isolation. These visually impaired veterans especially face new challenges — including loss of status, sense of diminished physical independence, and loss of family and friends — feelings of loneliness, burdensomeness, and thwarted belongingness can reoccur.

The Helping the Heroes peer and caregiver support program has repeatedly demonstrated a positive impact that improves the veterans’, first responder’s, family’s, and caregivers’ positive outlook after suffering injuries. This is a key strategy to combating suicidal risk among veterans and first responders.  

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Caregiver Program Needs

Post-9/11 Military Caregivers Differ from Other Caregivers

The 2014 Rand Corporation Study on Caregivers estimates that there are 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States. Of these, 19.6 percent (1.1 million) are caring for someone who served in the military after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Rand also estimates that there are 1,900,498 OIF or OEF, (SE = 198,754) veterans or service members in the U.S. household population currently relying on caregiving support; 2 of these, 294,640 (OIF OEF-SE = 87,002) veterans or service members both rely on caregiving support and are also caregivers to other adults themselves. In total 15% of military care recipients are also providing caregiving support for another individual.

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Comparing military caregivers with their civilian counterparts found that military caregivers helping veterans from earlier war eras tend to resemble civilian caregivers in many ways; by contrast, post-9/11 military caregivers differ systematically from the other two groups. In sum, post-9/11 caregivers are more likely to be:

  • Younger (more than 40 percent are between ages 18 and 30)
  • Caring for a younger individual with a mental health or substance use condition
  • Also often also veteran of military service
  • Employed prior to veteran injury
  • Not connected to a support network geographic isolation.

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Post-9/11 Caregivers Use a Different Mix of Services

Research shows 53% of post-9/11 military caregivers have no caregiving network— an individual or group that regularly provides help with caregiving—to support them. To address this serious shortfall, the OPS Committee is developing additional caregiver support in conjunction with other programs like Peace of Mind. These will directly support both these caregivers and other generations of blinded veteran’s caregivers.

Empower Caregivers

Efforts are needed to help empower military caregivers as well. Our objective is to expand programs to include ways to build caregiver skills and confidences in caregiving, mitigate the potential stress and strain of caregiving, and raise public awareness of the caregivers’ value and improve communication among caregivers of blinded or visually impaired veterans.

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Training caregivers can help them play their roles more effectively and enhance the well-being of the wounded, ill, or injured veterans they are caring for so plans are to invite in experts in caregiver education, counseling, and support staff as necessary for special sessions directed at needs. We will build support programs for the caregivers to include all generations at  events to support this outreach effort. Our caregiver sessions target all  generations of caregivers that would benefit from the opportunity to share, learn, and find their own network to communicate with about the challenges of caring for wounded veterans and injured first responders..

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Keep Checking this space for Peer and Caregiver Events

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Program Success

The success of program is best demonstrated by participants who continue to stay engaged and volunteer every year, at their own expense, to participate in a program that, in many cases, played a key role in improving their lives. 

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In times of stress, connected individuals have greater motivation and ability to cope adaptively in the face of adversity. Recent research on resilience in older veterans found that nearly 70 percent of them who endured a higher number of traumas in their lifetimes are psychologically resilient in later life, and that social connectedness was a factor in promoting resiliency. 

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