It has been such a tumultuous two weeks at VCG, which is no surprise given a full moon and a long holiday weekend/week of family, group gatherings and meal, and travels. Amid the generally accepted positive that holidays may bring, also comes the specter of additional stress and self-analysis. It has been an especially busy and breakthrough time for caregivers and vets.
What you don't see online at VeteranCaregiver are the behind-the-scenes direct Caregiving with advocacy, education, and coordination to navigate the system. These are the innumerable phone calls, the text messages, the emails, and the discussions with many in order to provide solace, support, resource coordination, or actions for veterans and caregivers alike. The caring is very close to 24/7, and the needs growing. And, as a small sampling of what occurs in the background of VCG, the end of this week was marked by several positive outcomes for two veterans with NO caregivers; those who need to advocate for themselves. This is a measurable group; can you imagine the load this group carries – often alone?
The first is a Reserve soldier with a serious TBI who had not received attention for his TBI for four months due to the prioritization of more acute physical injuries. His concerns were great since he could no longer read or write and his intellect and strong vocabulary were working against him in the system. With half a dozen phone calls, and inquiries, this vet who'd "fallen between the cracks" was now aided by the organizations he didn't know of or how to ask for help. He needed an advocate, and an existing caregiver called to ask for help on his behalf. It was readily provided. Remember, just because organizations exist to help, doesn't mean that there is proactive outreach to do so. Personal contact and Advocacy made the difference.
With permission, below is a personal blog by a soldier who uses the VCG site as her Caregiver, and her site Friends as her safety net. She is courageous, extremely private, and extraordinarily generous with her thoughts on the need for dynamic support from people who care. In her own words, here is an excerpt of her thoughts on the challenges each day and the daily choices to fight to live:
some of the injuries veterans face today are different than wars past. traumatic brain injury is complicated, may have nary a symptom one day and the next day the same person can not function safely alone. PTSD is being revisited to this country in a way that hasn't been felt since Vietnam. loss of limbs and motor function is seen daily from soldiers coming home. somehow we imagine in the civilian world that 'they' are being looked after.
surely we learned something from the 60's. surely our soldiers now have it different. yes, there has been some change but the truth is there is yet another population that nobody imagines to think of because the rationalization is that the government is looking after vets and their care. i can assure you from personal experience that simply is not the case. even that world is give and take, appointments and paperwork, communication and organization. if you don't possess the faculties or a home address to receive and review, the decisions will be made without examinations to determine the current health of the veteran and the paperwork simply stops right alongside the 'care'.
they assume the last address on file is where you may be reached and if they don't get you there, they don't look. there is a reservoir of patience necessary to deal with this worn out and worn down, overloaded system. the people who take care with vets and soldiers have to constantly be on guard to file all the right paperwork, keep track of medicines, appointments, reviews, emergencies, and review records to be sure everything gets from point A to B and on down the line to the many places that may be needed for care. computerizing these systems have actually made it more difficult in my opinion rather than less. if you don't know WHO to talk to it's a rough road.
our world is intricately connected by what we do and what we choose not to do. every person matters. caring matters. love matters. holding hands matters. doing something today matters. if it were you all alone, crying in the night, holding onto the old photo of what used to be, knowing it will never be the same again, what would you do? how long do you think right now reading this that you could hold up in that pressure no matter your love for the person being cared for? the difference any of us make is up to us. the life you save may someday be your own.
"Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana
~aho mitakuye oyasin~
we are all one
This week, please consider those seen and unseen on VeteranCaregiver and in the various medical centers and communities who do not know where to go for help, or don't have an advocate to assist them. We ALL matter in the continuum of care. Please proactively reach out; extraordinary lives depend upon it!
Wishing only good ahead for each of you,