I feel I constantly am mourning the man that I married... the worst part is when he exhibits some of that behavior of the past and your brain jumps to thinking, ‘maybe he is getting better,’ but then I'm mourning again.
At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?
It had never occurred to me until one day a social worker at the VA spoke with me about the caregiver program. That is when it clicked.
What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?
It means an unexpected life. Dealing with my spouse whose needs can be very diverse on any given day, I need to be prepared for anything.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
My social life has suffered due to my husband’s needs. I can’t have too many visitors due to his inability to socialize and cope with noise. I had to give up just about everything we did together.
Before becoming a full-time caregiver for her husband Dave, a Marine and Army veteran, Elisa was living her dream. She was working as a professor and owned a small retail store that served her local community. Everything was going fine outside the home, but at home, things were turning into complete chaos.
Dave’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) started to cause dysfunctional behavior, severe anxiety, and an inability to be social. Managing his treatment became difficult because he does not believe anything is wrong with him. He struggles with trust and is very suspicious of everyone.
Elisa also cares for her Air Force veteran son with PTSD and aging Navy veteran father-in-law. The three of them are compulsive about their routines, especially meals, so Elisa spends a lot of time planning and preparing meals every day. She also manages their medications and is often exhausted by running interference when triggering situations occur.
Along Elisa’s caregiving journey she has found art and poetry to provide respite. She has also been involved in the VA Caregiver Support Program and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Elisa looks forward to spreading awareness of helpful resources and solutions to other caregivers across the country. She hopes to have the opportunity to advocate for VA resources in multiple languages.