My husband and I are ten-years post-injury. Ten years ago, he returned from Afghanistan injured. When he returned, and I learned of his injuries, the trajectory of my life changed, and my life turned upside down in an instant. From the time his treatments started, I hoped that things would get better and we would progressively move forward toward his recovery. That did not happen. Each year was challenging, with events uncertain. There were times when one year was more difficult than the previous one, but I have learned to take each day as it comes. Fast forward ten years later, I am grateful to say that we are moving ahead. I am still learning to support my husband as his caregiver, and his needs change daily, but I am adjusting to the changes.

Military Caregiver Map

In 2018, I traveled to Washington D.C. to a conference for military caregivers called “Hidden Heroes Among Us: Enhancing Support for the Military and Veteran Caregiver Journey” and to contribute to a project co-sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (EDF), U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, Phillips, and The Wounded Warrior Project. This collaborative project aimed to design a map that would document the journey of a military caregiver. This Military Caregiver Journey Map illustrates and diagrams the stages that a military caregiver experiences during their journey of assisting in the recovery of their care recipient. As a caregiver to a combat veteran, I have undergone many challenges that have affected my body, mind, finances, and social life, experiences illustrated clearly in this map. 

You can find the entire Caregiver Journey Map here. Can you relate to any of the stages? 

So, what is the purpose of this blog post, and why am I writing now?

Because I recognize that, as a military caregiver, the stage I was in ten years ago is different from the stage I am in today.

Ten years ago, as a military caregiver, I was faced with uncertainty of the future and the need to learn how to navigate two systems for my husband — the need to know how to care for him and understand how to manage his injuries from home with a community of care providers. I felt scared, isolated, and like I didn’t know how to deal with any of it. And now, ten years later, my feelings are different and much in line with the stages on the map. And now, ten years later, my feelings are different and much in line with the stages on the map. I want to encourage all caregivers to look at the map and find themselves in it, but then know that there is a path toward positive change and stages that you, along with all caregivers, will go through.

Adjusting As A Caregiver

So, does caregiving get easier? No, it usually does not get easier, but your approach toward it and your responses to it can make an enormous difference. I can say that it is only by the Grace of God that my husband and I are still here and OK. I learned to adapt to being a caregiver, so the hard days are no longer new to me. After being on this journey for ten years, I’ve been through enough difficult days to embrace the good days with the mantra, “take each day as it comes.”

I would say to a caregiver to keep moving, even on the days when it doesn’t look like there is hope, and although there will be difficult days, to never give up. One day, you will wake up and find that the days just get easier because you have been able to make significant adjustments within your life. The challenges might not be easier, but you are now much more able to manage them and succeed at accomplishing much of what you would like to and need to. You will feel that you have much more control over all aspects of your life and will feel much more comfortable taking on whatever life brings you!

The Challenge

Where am I in this caregiving journey? Where do I see myself on the Military Caregiver Map? I’m somewhere in the “Finding A Rhythm” stage, and I am still exploring and moving through each day. I feel blessed to have an opportunity to advocate for others military caregivers and believe that serving others like me has helped me in the process of understanding this caregiver life. I can say that my husband and I truly are moving forward in a new and positive direction.
Where are you on the Caregiver Journey Map? I encourage you to share the Caregiver Journey with others in your caregiving community. I am confident that it will help bring you solace, encouragement, and inspiration.

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