Updated: Nov 11, 2020
This month, we celebrate National Family Caregiver Month and Veteran's Day. As a proud veteran's wife, I honor and salute my gift from God, my husband. In 2012 President Barak Obama, declared “Family members, friends, and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.” As a family caregiver, you have the responsibility to care for your loved one or someone you do not know. Many caregivers have the obligation of taking care of the elderly, disabled, or sick every day. I have the privilege of taking care of my husband, not just because I am his spouse, but because I am a caregiver for my veteran. Of course, my caregiver's story is not like most, but family caregivers are critical to a positive health outcome. Remember to thank a caregiver because the toll caregiving takes often goes unnoticed.
Our journey began on a blind date fourteen years ago. We were both divorced and single parents with two children. Our connection was instant. We talked, laughed, and enjoyed each other's company for what would seem like hours each time we met. It wasn't long before my husband would ask for my hand in marriage. I said yes. We both had goals and visions that we agreed upon, and we both envisioned a firm foundation for our family. My husband was pretty healthy for the most part. Besides, he had a successful military career, retired, and began working phase two of his career path. For us to reach our family goals and help others, we had to make some tough decisions.
My smile upon my face doesn't mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I have and the duty God has called me too. In 2012, my husband returned to work in Afghanistan. May 2013, at 2:05 am, I received one of the worse calls of my life. The physician needed to amputate my husband's right leg to save his life. Being that he was in the middle of a war zone with limited protection at the amputation time, his other functionalities were beginning to shut down. My husband was medevac to Landstuhl, Germany hospital with life-threatening implications from the amputation of his right leg and acute renal failure. The doctors were preparing to do another operation and needed to consent to save his life. Everything was happening so fast. I was trying to ask questions and formulate in my mind what was happening. I had to rely upon strangers telling me information about my husband's condition, all the while trying to remain in full control of myself. Finally, once the doctors had him stabilized to fly back to the United States, he would need to undergo extensive, intensive care and several more surgeries. I thank God for my human guardian angels. I was instructed that instead of flying to Germany, I needed to meet my husband at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The next three to six months were tough; our lives changed drastically. I was now thrust into my new role as my husband's caregiver.
It has been stressful at times, long hours, loneliness and exhaustion, sleeplessness nights, weight gain/loss, anxiety, and depression. Understanding these ramifications brought a much greater life full of laughter, joy, love, patience, peace, and longsuffering. I thank God for keeping us. I give thanks to God, for he is so good, and his love endures forever. We take refuge in God and not in man. We could never repay God for what he has done for us. But we show our gratitude to God by praising him for restoring our lives.
Along the way, I learned many things, and in hopes of bringing awareness, I salute and honor our veterans and their caregivers. I am sharing some helpful tips for breaking breakers and understanding your role as a caregiver. This is so important, know your loved one's insurance information. Keep a notebook with all important papers, like doctor visits, power of attorney, banking information, etc. Maintain and replenish any emergency funds. In the day-to-day stress of caregiving, dipping into savings is easy, but you may regret it when you are on the other side of caregiving and looking to rebuild your own life. Set realistic goals. Set aside some time for you to rest, eat healthy, exercise, and decompress. Know your limits. Understand your role and recognize the potential for burnout. I cannot stress enough this tip, educate yourself about the illness. Keep an updated medication list in your wallet. The more you know, the more effective you can be. Remember to know your role and understand that you can stay alert to recognize the signs of impending burnout. Take a large task and make a small task. Discover ways to balance your life. Finally, know that it's okay to cry, and you are not alone. You are faithful and strong. You are a caregiver.