Central Texas has a new program designed to help the person most often neglected in a family following a war injury — the caregiver.
Operation Family Caregiver, a program of Killeen-based Bring Everyone In The Zone, offers one-on-one coaching for caregivers of family members who have served in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These warriors must have a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or a physical injury.
“Studies show that people with (those) injuries who are able to stay at home have a better quality of life,” said Maureen Jouett, executive director of the nonprofit that brought the program to the area. Yet, often times, the caregivers juggle too many responsibilities, running a household and caring for children while caring for the wounded soldier or veteran.
“They tend to neglect themselves,” Jouett said.
This can lead to caregivers becoming overwhelmed, angry and depressed. The rise in stress levels can lead to physical ailments in spouses, said coach Casey Craig.
The four- to six-month coaching program includes up to five visits with the caregivers in their homes or any space they feel comfortable, in addition to checking in via phone and video calls.
Coaches teach caregivers problem-solving skills, while lending a friendly, helpful ear. Resiliency is emphasized, and coaches can provide information on community resources to the caregivers as needed.
“The program is tailored to the caregiver’s specific needs,” Craig said.
She has personally experienced the negative emotions that often arise when a spouse is injured. Craig is a caregiver for her husband, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, which led to his medical retirement four months ago.
“It’s important to be positive when dealing with these injuries,” she said. “Caregivers must learn not to take things personally.”
Coaches don’t work with the children of the families, but can offer advice to caregivers and refer them to counseling if needed.
“The findings are replicable,” said Jouett of the evidence-based program, which has previously been used to assist caregivers of stroke and Alzheimer’s patients.
Jouett and Craig hope positive outcomes will lead to an expansion of the program nationwide.
Central Texas was the third site in the United States chosen to pilot the program, Jouett said.
Four coaches are available in the Fort Hood area and five caregivers signed up for the free coaching sessions.
Funding for Operation Family Caregiver comes from a Johnson and Johnson grant given by the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, based in Americus, Ga. Bring Everyone In the Zone hopes to eventually obtain a grant to provide respite to families.
Participation is completely confidential, with data collected anonymously.
Craig finds working with the families rewarding, knowing firsthand how difficult maintaining a relationship with a wounded warrior can be.
“It is an honor to encourage and support these (spouses) who have decided to stay amidst these challenges and honor their marriage vows,” she said.