Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Little Things Matter

You don’t ask for much for yourself, and you do so much for everyone else.  
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter when you’re a Caregiver. 

It’s the person in the grocery store line that urges you to go first because you have your hands full with a small child or two and a visibly uncomfortable veteran spouse.

It’s when someone you know writes you an “I’m thinking about you, how are you?” email, card, or posting.

It’s when a small child pats your daughter’s artificial leg and asks if she can still play soccer?

It’s a hug from a friend when no words need to be spoken, and you really needed that hug.
It’s when you’re in a crowd, things start feeling dicey for your family, and without a blink, a kind stranger guides you out to an open space.

It’s a callback, a referral, a resolution to a long-standing challenge, or an appointment that fits your schedule without juggling.

It’s when your son shows a glimmer of his old self; a remembered quirk, a breakthrough comment.

It’s a jug of wildflowers left outside your door with a note saying, “Sorry I missed you”.

It’s when someone offers you a flexible job because you clearly have it together and they love your work/life ethics.

It’s when you sit down and weep for what you’ve lost, and at the same time, you realize that you’re wiser/stronger/better than you were before.

It’s when your pet curls up beside you, simply because they sense that you need it.

And, when those small things occur, and you’ve noticed them?  You have become someone extra-extraordinary with a grateful heart.

Blessings and care,

Linda Kreter and the VeteranCaregiver Team

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Seeking Help - Part 1 Reprise

Greetings, friends,

For many of you, the following information will be basic and instinctive to you. We originally posted this in December, and scores of calls and emails are asking the same questions about how to navigate the medical or legislative system, and we thought the following guidance might be helpful.

What do I do when I need caregiver help?

If you are already in the National Caregiver Program, contact your Caregiver Support Coordinator (CSC) at your local VA medical center.  If s/he is not in, ask for the alternate, and leave a voicemail.  It’s a good idea to also follow-up with an email, and their email can usually be found through an Internet search.  You can ask for the email address, and if it’s not forthcoming, ask who else can help you.

If you’re not in the Caregiver Program, you can still use the Caregiver Support Line and request help and guidance.  If your issue is outside the responsibilities of the CSC, then ask who you should be directed to for problem resolution.  It will likely be someone else in the Social Work Office. 

Caregiver Support Line 1-855-260-3274

What do I do when I need help with my Veteran’s medical care?

If you have already spoken with your primary care physician, or in the case of mental health, the psychologist, we suggest contacting various VA advocates.  If your veteran is an OIF/OEF/OND veteran, there is a specific OIF/OEF Coordinator, whose name may be found with an Internet search, a VA website search, or by calling your local VA medical center.  They are often able to cut through issues very simply for you.

If the issue relates to a disagreement over care or other conflict, you would contact the VA Patient Advocate at your local VA.  This person may be found on the VA website, through an Internet search or by calling.  If there is a formal report or complaint to make, ask for the proper forms and be sure to follow all the steps directed so that you will find resolution.  You may need to be quite persistent, and you will need to judge the seriousness of your issue.

What do I do if I need help understanding VA process (paperwork, fee base, etc.)?

The Internet is an excellent source of information, but it may be a huge undertaking to find out the nugget of information needed.  Obtain one of the VA Handbooks on Benefits (you can download it or obtain a hard copy at your local VA) to find out who to talk with for specific needs.  

Why use a VSO?

We also highly recommend contacting one of the chartered Veterans Service Organizations (VSO’s) such as AmVets, Vietnam Vets of America, DAV, the Legion and others.  You can find a list on the website.  It is highly recommended that you use an organization to help you since VA benefits and processes change with the legislation and it can be a daunting task keeping up with the changes.

The importance of peers is...

Ask your fellow caregivers.  Your peers often have great experiences to share, so post here, write to your friends, and seek out others locally who can provide you practical information.  Seek out others while at the VA and absorb all you can; what you learn will either help you, or others in the future.

This is a starting point...

Linda Kreter & the VeteranCaregiver Team