Despite there being an estimated 5.5 million military and veteran caregivers in America, we often feel alone in the challenges we face. As a Dole Caregiver Fellow representing Maine, I am proud to advocate for this incredible community of caregivers, and for the veterans in our lives and those across the country.

My new normal as a veteran caregiver began when Butch, my husband, was injured in December 2004 after serving in the Army National Guard in Mosul, Iraq. I felt overwhelmed and frightened, but knew I had to do everything in my power to secure Butch’s comfort and well-being.

While some of Butch’s injuries are physical, the most challenging are his traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. After his injury, Butch could no longer support our family in the ways we’d all grown used to.

This November marks National Family Caregivers Month, centering on the theme of respite care. With the needs of our loved ones taking top priority, caregivers don’t always recognize that we, too, require care.

To me, respite care means taking time for myself to recharge, relax and reconnect with family and friends. Being able to connect with other caregivers reminds me that we are not alone and we can rely on each other for emotional support.

I encourage readers to learn more about the Elizabeth Dole Foundation (elizabethdolefoundation.org), which provides resources for our growing community of military and veteran caregivers, and for every American who wishes to step up and show their support for these hidden heroes.

Ora Freeman

Gorham


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