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Honoring veterans and their caregivers

By Christopher Gleason, RN, APRN, FNP-C

As we honor and celebrate those who have dedicated their time and efforts to serve in the U.S. military this Veterans Day, I also think of the nation’s 5.5 million family caregivers who provide critical support to our national heroes. Tending to the wounded, ill, and injured warriors with home-based care, these dedicated individuals enable our service members and veterans to remain healthy at home.

During my time working in home health, I’ve witnessed firsthand the loneliness and needs faced by patients living alone in their homes – as well as the value of home care, which allows patients to maintain their independence and continue living in the comfort of their homes. In addition to delivering top-notch healthcare, home care providers also offer the invaluable gift of companionship, which is sometimes overlooked.

In my role as a nurse practitioner at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, I’m proud of the home-based primary care we offer to our veterans. This approach brings healthcare directly to our veterans, meeting them where they are, and not only ensures they receive the medical attention they need, but also helps them preserve their independence and continue living a life they can be proud of.

As we celebrate U.S. veterans today, we also recognize their families and honor the unique challenges and sacrifices they face to provide caregiving support. In landmark research commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, military caregivers and their families were identified to face two key challenges. The first, being that these family members don’t feel comfortable asking for support, since they don’t see or identify themselves as caregivers. Secondly, very few services and helpful resources currently exist to specifically serve military caregivers.

With a dearth of necessary resources in place, it’s paramount to find solutions to uplift family caregivers. Three years ago, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs joined together to create a new program, Respite Relief for Military and Veteran Caregivers, to offer family caregivers of veterans access to no-cost, short-term relief with the help of in-home care professionals deployed by Sharecare’s tech-enabled home care service, CareLinx.

The impactful and positive stories of the families served by Sharecare’s program show just how beneficial this support can be. As a member of Sharecare’s clinical advisory board for its home health service and network of caregivers, I’m grateful for the continued opportunity to work alongside my colleagues to equip nurse-caregivers with the tools, resources, and community support, necessary to sustain this work.

Echoing the recent proclamation from The White House recognizing November as National Family Caregiver’s Month, as we honor veterans today, “let us [also] celebrate and honor our caregivers and renew our efforts to protect their dignity, health, and security. Because when we care for our caregivers, we honor our American ideals and move closer to a future where no one in this Nation is left behind.”