EDF Leads Response to COVID-19 Impact on Military & Veteran Caregivers Following Alarming Survey Findings
Responses from nearly 1,000 military caregivers show decreases in caregiver effectiveness and medical supply shortages among challenges facing caregivers and their wounded warriors during pandemic
Washington, D.C. (April 2, 2020) – Elizabeth Dole Foundation is now shifting organizational resources in direct response to Foundation survey findings that uncovered new data about the most urgent needs of military and veteran caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey responses from nearly 1,000 military caregivers nationwide identify such pressing challenges as: combating isolation (i.e. family recreation and social support, keeping up a sense of community); mental health support; financial assistance; and delivery of groceries, medical supplies and other essentials.
“Our caregivers and wounded warriors are not only at risk for the virus, they are highly vulnerable to the disruptions in food and medical supplies, and the psychological toll of social distancing,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “Our Foundation is redirecting our staffing resources to focus on the most urgent caregiver interventions and support at this time. We’re also calling on corporations and organizations in every sector to take a hard look at the urgent needs of caregivers and contact us if you can help provide a solution.”
Key findings from the survey include:
- 77% of respondents indicate COVID-19 crisis has a negative impact on wounded warrior care recipients;
- 56% of respondents report lower caregiver effectiveness as a result of COVID-19;
- Caregivers have pressing needs during the COVID-19 crisis with nearly 50% of respondents indicating at least one immediate need;
- Among caregivers with children under 18 in the household, 85% have been affected by school closings, and these families report even greater levels of immediate need;
- 89% of survey respondents care for a spouse, with 65% of care recipients suffering from a combination of visible and invisible wounds;
- Top reported needs across the survey include:
- Delivery of medical supplies (i.e. gloves, masks, and alcohol wipes), groceries, and other essentials
- Mental health support for wounded warrior or other family member
- Financial assistance due to lack of income
- Family recreational and social support
- Keeping up a sense of community
Caregiver responses also paint a picture of increased stress and time demands on caregivers and the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on wounded warriors. One survey respondent shared, “With the increase of [my veteran’s] post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) symptoms, I’m having to focus mainly on him and trying to bring his anxiety and stress levels down. I’m not able to help with his independence training and work on things having to do with the rest of the family.”
Another respondent said, “I usually do online ordering or shopping overnight. Now I cannot find online ordering time slots and have to shop frequently due to a combination of shortages and limits in place makes it really hard when you are the sole shopper with six people under your roof.”
The Foundation will continue to conduct periodic surveys to monitor military caregivers during the pandemic. More resources are being devoted to managing the Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community, the largest online network of military caregivers. Foundation leaders are advising the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on its response to caregivers, and the Foundation teamed with the VA on a public service announcement about the VA’s resources. Training is also being developed for the Foundation’s Dole Caregiver Fellows that coaches them on how to be a virtual advocate for fellow military caregivers.
“In the midst of this pandemic, caregivers are on the front lines, containing the virus and caring for loved ones, regardless of the circumstances, all while trying to keep themselves healthy,” said Schwab. “It is more critical than ever that we keep these caregivers in mind and find innovative ways to support them during this complex and critical time.”
Download the survey two-pager here.
Access the full survey report here.
If you’re interested in connecting with a member of the Foundation’s leadership team or a military or veteran caregiver affected by the COVID-19 crisis, please contact Austin Courtney at [email protected]