What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?
It means my aunt gets to live a longer quality life at home.
What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?
I am looking forward to helping my aunt and others who are also on her path.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
Rev. Burdette Lowe learned how to speak up for herself from her Aunt Camilla “Cam” Lowe. Now as her caregiver, Rev. Burdette uses that voice to speak up for her 90-year-old aunt.
As a Black woman, Cam was a trailblazer in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. After basic training, Cam became a communications specialist and was stationed in England. Scoring exceptionally high on competency and intelligence tests, she was assigned to break enemy codes. Following her honorable discharge in 1959, Cam continued her service as a civilian employee of the Department of the Army.
In 2018, Cam was found on the floor several times in a week while living in San Francisco with another family member. Cam’s older brother Burton, a Korean War Navy veteran, decided it was best to bring his sister to Atlanta to live with Burdette, so she could assist with her care. As Burdette earned her trust, Cam opened up to her about a trauma event she experienced in the military while stationed in England and had held in silence for over 60 years. The assault still haunts her today, causing frequent nightmares and complicating who she trusts with her care.
Rev. Burdette now has 24/7 caregiving responsibilities. In addition to helping Cam through her night terrors, she assists with her mobility and all her activities of daily living. Burdette is also a strong advocate for Cam, managing her healthcare with the VA and restoring her to a proper diet, which has allowed Cam to go from about 12 to 14 prescriptions to an 81 mg aspirin and eye drops, and using food as medicine. Burdette also keeps her aunt’s spirits up, laughing and singing throughout the day.
It has been a struggle for Burdette to balance caring for her aunt, finding a new place to live in 2023 after Cam could no longer get upstairs to their apartment, and continuing to teach one class as an adjunct professor at Spelman College. However, Rev. Burdette continues to have faith, and she hopes to use her fellowship to advocate for other aging female veterans and their caregivers in the VA system.