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In The News

Caregiver Support

 
The Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing a telephone support program to help the spouses of returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, after a pilot support program showed a significant reduction in stress for spouses. Returning to civilian life after living in constant combat readiness can be a shocking transition, and it is the immediate family, the spouses and children, who bear that br...unt of the transition with those who served.

The spouse telephone support program, which is part of the VA's Caregiver Support Program, builds spouses' ability to cope with the challenges that reintegration to civilian society can bring, helps them serve as a pillar of support for returning veterans, and eases the transition for families after deployments. Spouses in the pilot program reported decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, with an increase in social support.

Spouses participated in 12 telephone support groups over six months. The focus is on problem solving and communications, relationships, mental health and resilience. A trained, nationwide team of VA medical center staff members, including many caregiver support coordinators, will lead the support groups.

Typical issues spouses and veterans face after deployment include communication difficulties, the need to renegotiate family roles and responsibilities and the added stress of combat related injury. Spouses of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious and frustrated.

The program is based on research by the Memphis VA Medical Center and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Researchers developed and studied interventions for family members of veterans and military personnel. Their work with spouses of post deployed and deployed military personnel is funded through the Defense Health Program, managed by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command.

Providing support to family caregivers is the right thing for the VA to do. A simple series of phone calls can do so much good. Certainly those who fought for our nation and the spouses who allowed them to make the sacrifice deserve this support. The more support we can provide to the family, the better the outcome will be for our veterans.

The VA has a Web page, www.caregiver.va.gov, with general information on spouse telephone support and other caregiver support programs available through the VA and the community. For additional information contact your state and local veterans representatives. In our area contact Robin Greer at 817-573-4282 or Lee Downs at 940-325-2998.