The nation needs to better acknowledge and support the efforts of the "hidden heroes" from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: the estimated 1.1 million civilian, volunteer caregivers tending to the needs of wounded and disabled veterans, according to recommendations contained in a RAND Corp. study released Monday.
While family members and others have long cared for veterans, the veterans from two recent wars are more likely to have mental health and substance problems, making the task of providing care even more difficult, according to the study, which was funded by the
A common task for caregivers is helping the veteran "in coping with stressful situations or other emotional and behavorial challenges," the study found. Other tasks include housework, meals, transportation and overall "health management and maintenance."
"Caring for a loved one is a demanding and difficult task," the researchers concluded, "often doubly so for caregivers who are juggling care duties with family life and work. The result is often that caregivers pay a price for their devotion."
The price often involves workplace problems caused by absenteeism, strain on other family relationships and health problems. Many caregivers suffer depression, the report said.
Former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, whose husband, former U.S.
More than 40% of caregivers are between 18 and 30 years old, often spouses in young marriages that may not survive the stress. A quarter of caregivers are aging parents, a fact that suggests that soon there may be a "need to find alternative care for the veteran."
Both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the
Still, much more needs to be done to help caregivers shoulder the burden of a spouse or family member with PTSD or another condition, the study concludes.
“We found that 53% of post-