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VA Long Beach Healthcare System

 

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Nicky Tsan, social worker at VA Long Beach

Nicky Tsan, social worker at resource table for National Caregiver month event, "Celebrating our Family Caregivers," at VA Long Beach.

Friday, November 5, 2010

When we become sick or injured, there is nothing better than having someone you love or trust close by to take care of you. Often times, it's a family member that becomes the "Caregiver." Being a Caregiver means many things; providing a bowl of Chicken Soup, making sure a box of tissues is close by, or just being next to a loved one that isn't feeling so well. But defined by the "Family Caregiver Alliance”, it's anyone who provides daily assistance to someone else who is, in some degree, incapacitated. Incapacitation can mean anything that keeps you from being independent because you are sick or injured. 

Challenges for Caregivers depend on the level of incapacitation. For instance, a spouse who has suffered a stroke, a father-in-law with cancer, a mother with dementia, or a son with traumatic brain injury (TBI) may need 24hr care, while the common cold, seasonal flu or broken arm may only need a few hrs a week. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute (2008), an estimated 34 to 52 million Americans provide unpaid assistance and support to an elderly person or adult with a disability. In 2007 that care was valued at an estimated $375 billion.
 
For the more severe injuries or sicknesses, a large number of studies over the past three decades have consistently identified potential harmful effects for both givers and recipients of "family care." Family care giving may lead to self-care neglect, depression and social isolation. To help our Veteran families in need, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act was signed into law in May of this year. This bill directs the Department of Veteran Affairs to develop a national program to support family caregivers that care for our nations Veterans. The support will include: Training and education, counseling and mental health services, respite care, and information on the supportive services available to caregivers through other public, private, and non-profit agencies. While VA Long Beach has been ahead of the legislation with programs from before 2009, we will be continually working to help support "Our Heroes' Heroes."

VA Long Beach is proud to offer "Powerful Tools for Caregivers." The following is an excerpt from the writings of Lawanna Johnson, a 55 year old disabled female Veteran who provides care for both her elderly parents. 
 
"It's been a year since the workshop and the biggest change for me is learning how to cope with my stress by taking time out for myself during each day to do something I love doing.  Also by enlisting the aid of family members, my duties are shared and not as overwhelming as before. The Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshop has been a tremendous help for me in caring for my parents and especially in taking care of myself."

For more information on this or any Caregiver Program, please Contact Mimi Chen at 562-826-5735.      

Or for support in your community visit: http://www.caregiver.org