Insights from Veteran Caregivers
By Military and Veteran Caregivers: Megan Powell, Dee Blascyk, Carrie Fisher, and Krista Petterson
While many consider the holiday season “the most wonderful time of the year,” we can all agree that it can also be the most STRESSFUL time of the year. From cooking meals, shopping for gifts, keeping the house clean, entertaining family and friends, traveling, carrying on traditions, social obligations, and creating special memories for your loved ones, the heavy demands of the season can be potential stressors for wounded warriors and their caregivers.
As caregivers for veterans with invisible injuries, sometimes it can be difficult for friends and family to understand the stress and anxiety we’re experiencing behind the scenes. Triggers are everywhere and sometimes in the smallest things for our wounded warriors. But there are some you can do as you celebrate with us to make it easier for us. As you gather with loved ones this holiday, here are a few things to consider…
Disorganization can be frustrating
While we want to open presents with the family, the fast-paced, overstimulating environment and mess of wrapping paper, ribbon, and boxes tossed all over the place can be overwhelming to someone with invisible wounds.
Large gatherings can be triggering
In social settings with large groups of people, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed. Add lots of excitement and noise, and the environment can become incredibly triggering for someone with TBI or PTSD. My family and I can sense when our veteran is starting to get overstimulated and may leave the room with him or ask folks politely to quiet down.
Leave a quiet space
Sometimes celebrations are too noisy or chaotic no matter how many adjustments are made. Having a quiet space available for anyone who may be having a tough time is a great way to help.
One table with lots of people may not be the best set up for a caregiving family. Some people may even have a particular seating arrangement that makes them more comfortable. For example, some veterans don’t wish to sit with their back to the door out of habit and precaution.
Getting someone with invisible wounds to join an outing takes a lot of coordination from the caregiver. Sometimes our best laid plans and preparation still aren’t enough. Bad days happen, so if we cancel, don’t all join, or show up exhausted, please show grace and understand we’re doing the best we can.
Bridge the gap
Even if we can’t make it to an event, you can still include us. FaceTime, Zoom, or other platforms are always an option. The distance between family can be hard on the veteran and their family, especially during the holiday rush. You can help ease the burden by simply understanding we can’t, or shouldn’t, always attend in-person events.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
There are some gifts or social gatherings that aren’t for someone with invisible wounds. If you’re thinking about giving a gift and aren’t sure it’s right, you can always ask the caregiver if it’s something that will actually be used.
Our service animals are family too. If you can offer accommodations to include these four-legged members of our family, we greatly appreciate it.
We love to welcome friends and family into our home
However, unanticipated knocks on the door from unexpected visitors don’t work well for us. If you can let us know you’re coming, we’ll gladly have the door open for you.
Thank you for taking the time to read and understand the stressors that veterans and our families, and many others across the nation. We hope this insight is helpful as you plan for gatherings with the service members and veterans in your life this holiday season.