Reach out to other caregivers. No one will understand what you are going through better than someone who has been there.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
I was an independent, career woman when I married my husband and became a wife, caregiver, and stepmother. After five years of marriage, it became abundantly clear that Chris needed my care and help. I was his wife for “better or worse”. I couldn’t let him down. In 2016, I chose to leave my career and care for my husband full-time. The choice was easy when it became clear his well being was dependent on my full-time care.
At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?
I realized I was a caregiver while watching PsychArmor Institute video, “15 Things Military Caregivers Want You To Know,” listening to other caregivers narrate my thoughts and feelings moved me to tears. It was nice to know that I was not alone with my feelings.
What does being a military caregiver mean to you?
Love. Honor. Respect. Patience. Show love through my ability to care without condition. Honor those who fought for our freedoms. Respect them for their service. Patience for the loved one while you all journey on your path to your new norm.
Consuelo Bulawan- Jessop of North Providence, Rhode Island was enjoying her life as a successful career-focused woman when she reconnected with her first love Chris who had just retired from the Army after serving three tours in Iraq. The couple married in 2011 and made plans for a beautiful life together. Within the first few years of their marriage, the many layers of Chris’ combat experience began to surface and the charismatic man Consuelo once knew him to be was struggling with night terrors, unexplained vomiting, debilitating headaches, and depression.
As Chris’ symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and tinnitus worsened, it became clear to Consuelo that his needs had to supersede everything else in their lives. In 2016, she retired from her career as a hairstylist and became his full-time caregiver. On a day-to-day basis, Consuelo manages Chris’ medications and medical appointments, in addition to household chores, cooking, driving, and grooming. She is Chris’ alarm clock and reminder of all things, and is responsible for ensuring that he arrives at his appointments on time.
In her role as a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Consuelo looks forward to working on the local and state levels to honor hidden heroes and shine a light on who military and veteran caregivers are and the importance of the steadfast love and care they provide our nation’s wounded warriors. She believes wholeheartedly that in order for caregivers to provide high quality care to their veterans, they must practice self-care and take time to focus on their own mental, physical, and spiritual health and wellness. Because of this, she is eager to work with her state and local officials, and the VA, to expand respite and wellness programs for caregivers like her who often experience “caregiver burnout.”