VA Maryland Health Care System Offers Tips for Caregivers

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Being a caregiver for someone you love can be rewarding, but also extremely stressful. At the VA Maryland Health Care System, the Caregiver Support Program promotes the health and wellbeing of family members who care for veterans patients.

VA knows that taking care of the Veteran you love can be an incredibly demanding job and you don't have to go it alone. VA can help.

Caregivers have a difficult job. Seventy-four percent report that their role as a caregiver has created marital strain,” said Sharon Kelly, coordinator for the VA Maryland Health Care System Caregiver Support Program.

Being a caregiver for someone you love can be rewarding, but also extremely stressful. At the VA Maryland Health Care System, the Caregiver Support Program promotes the health and wellbeing of family members who care for veterans patients. “Caregivers have a difficult job. Seventy-four percent report that their role as a caregiver has created marital strain,” said Sharon Kelly, coordinator for the VA Maryland Health Care System Caregiver Support Program. “Other stressors include having less time with children, sleep deprivation, and high levels of anxiety and stress.” While the VA Maryland Health Care System offers resources to those caring for our nation’s veterans, caregivers everywhere need respite care—the chance to take a breather and re-energize. “People think of respite care as a luxury, but considering caregivers’ increased risk for health issues from chronic stress, respite is one of the keys to prevent caregiver burnout,” Kelly says, adding that “respite is the most frequently requested support services for family caregivers.”

VA Maryland Health Care System caregiver support expert gives tips to avoid caregiver burnout and for caregiver self-care:

  •     Learn about the condition or illness – learn as much as you can about the veteran’s condition, how it affects physical and mental health, and how it could change over time.
  •     Ask for help – feel good about the hard work that you do, but remember that you can’t do it all. You will need help from others.
  •     Learn about community sources for support and help. Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors, and to others within worship communities and at your workplace for help with caregiver tasks or respite care.
  •     Take breaks – find some time each day when you can safely step away from your work.
  •     Find time to exercise, eat well and to sleep enough to minimize stress.
  •     Take care of your health – to give the best care to your loved one, you need to stay in good health. Visit your doctor every year for a checkup and get the flu shot.
  •     Stay positive – be realistic about what you can and cannot do. It will help you keep a positive attitude.
  •     Talk to your doctor if feeling depressed or anxious. Signs that you may need help include crying more, sleeping more or less than usual, changes in appetite, and lack of interest in regular activities.

Caregivers who are caring for Veterans can call the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Caregiver Support line at 1-855-260-3274 (toll free), Mon.- Fri. 8 a.m. -11p.m., and on Sat. from 10:30 a.m.-.6 p.m.

Editor’s Note: To interview Sharon Kelly about the caregiver support, please call or e-mail Rosalia Scalia at 410.605.7464 or rosalia.scalia(at)va(dot)gov.

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The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to Veterans at two medical centers, one community living & rehabilitation center and six outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 55,000 Veterans from various generations receive care from the VAMHCS annually. Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, the VAMHCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in Veterans’ health care, research and education. It costs nothing for Veterans to enroll for health care with the VA Maryland Health Care System and it could be one of the more important things a Veteran can do. For information about VA health care eligibility and enrollment or how to apply for a VA medical care hardship to avoid future copayments for VA health care, interested Veterans are urged to call the Enrollment Center for the VA Maryland Health Care System, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324 or visit http://www.maryland.va.gov.

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Rosalia Scalia
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