Honoring Month of the Military Caregiver

For Month of the Military Caregiver this May, we want to highlight the unique aspects and challenges of what it means to be a military caregiver.

According to AARP, the nation’s 6.5 million veteran and military caregivers spend nearly 50 percent more on caregiving than family caregivers as a whole. But the higher cost of caregiving for veterans is just one of the differences between military caregivers and other caregivers.

Physical, Financial, and Emotional Challenges

Veterans often face unique medical and mental health conditions such as severe injuries, brain injuries, long-term disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, and unique combat-related injuries. Their medical care can often be complex and available only in certain areas or from specific providers.

Caregivers are spread throughout the generational spectrum. While some children of elderly veterans are caring for their parents in much the same way other children do, a military caregiver may also be the veteran’s spouse or parent. Some military spouses may find themselves providing care for both very young children and an injured spouse at the same time. Others may be caring for their injured veteran child and an elderly parent at the same time.

Many of these challenges are often invisible or overlooked.

Providing Support to Military Caregivers

Because some military families move frequently, many caregivers find themselves in a challenging position without much support. The culture of the military may also discourage both veterans and their caregivers from sharing their struggles or asking for help.

Organizations like The Elizabeth Dole Foundation work to provide resources, support, and advocacy for military caregivers, but employers have a role to play as well.

Military and Caregiving ERGs

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups. Their aim is to provide employees who share a characteristic (religion, gender, ethnicity, life stage, or interest) a safe space with others where they can discuss their needs, get support, and work on professional development. Many organizations have ERGs for working parents or caregivers.

Organizations with employees who are members of the military or military spouses should consider asking employees if a group would be of interest.

Ideas for Military and Caregiving ERGs

Because ERGs are employee-led and run, their activities vary across companies and groups. Organizations should support ERGs with funding, resources, tools, and enough free time within the work day for the ERG to meet regularly. Allocating a budget for the group lets them decide what type of events and outreach they can plan.

Common Goals for Military ERGs

Some of the most common goals for Military ERGs are:

  • To provide support and identify resources for employees who have served in the armed forces, are married or related to a service member or former service member.
  • To identify challenges and opportunities faced by this group.
  • To identify and provide training opportunities for members that benefit both the employee and the organization.
  • To assist members with career mapping and opportunities to bring their skills to the workplace.
  • To advise and provide recommendations to management when there are issues relevant to veterans and their supporters.

Providing care for any loved one can be challenging, especially if the caregiver is also employed outside of the home. Because of the unique circumstances, these challenges are amplified for military caregivers. Employers can help their employees with these challenges by providing appropriate resources, benefits, empathy, and understanding.

Find out more ways to support your employee caregivers by learning about the benefits that can help

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