By being a caregiver, I have also gained a deeper understanding of myself and what my purpose and passions are; that is being a voice for others and helping them.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
Never give up and keep pushing. Advocate for yourself and your loved-one the best you can because there is always someone listening and willing to help you, however you may need it.
What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?
As a Dole Caregiver, I am most excited to connect with other military and veteran caregivers. I want to continue to advocate for caregivers and their loved ones. I want to make sure that regardless of service era, veterans and their families have adequate resources in their area to navigate the changes and needs that come along with caring for a loved-one and being cared for.
What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?
Being a veteran caregiver means everything to me. It means carrying on the warrior spirit my father instilled in me to fight for him and for others, just as he did as a Marine. It means using my strength and my voice to make sure he has everything he needs and caring for him, just as he’s done for me my entire life.
Angelena Taylor was a 28-year-old graduate student in 2015 when her father Benjamin, a Vietnam veteran, had a stroke that caused irreparable damage. After a short recovery in a nursing care facility, Angelena’s life dramatically changed when she stepped up to become her father’s full-time caregiver at home.
At the beginning, Angelena felt that she was running on fumes. The day before her father’s discharge, she was told she would have to flush and clean the feeding tube in his stomach, use a Hoyer lift to move him in and out of the bed, and provide all his basic hygiene. She was provided virtually no training for these tasks and was terrified. This all happened as Angelena was continuing her studies to become a behavior monitoring therapist, which became increasingly difficult with her father frequently waking her at night. Professors didn’t understand the flexibility she needed, and the challenges triggered periods of depression.
Now, with a little more experience, Angelena balances getting herself ready for the workday as a special education teacher with helping her father with his morning routine, including moving him into his powerchair and prepping his meals. Before the pandemic, she relied on outside care during work hours, and was able to achieve some work-life balance during the time she was working from home.
Angelena has recently begun speaking about her caregiving journey as a pageant competitor and is using her platform to bring more attention to military and veteran caregivers as Ms. Midwest Captivating 2021. As a caregiver to a parent, she stresses the importance of prioritizing self-care and not taking ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to a loved one’s care.