Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Hidden Heroes
Caregiver Journey Map Campaign for Inclusive Care

Emery Popoloski

If you want to reduce Veterans' homelessness and suicide, support and educate their caregivers fighting those battles on the homefront.

What was one of the first major challenges you faced as a military caregiver? How did you address that challenge?

One of the first major challenges I faced was moving our household back home to Massachusetts and establishing a routine. It was hard in the beginning to coordinate Charlie’s medical needs and appointments, childcare and working. The first six months or so after moving home, I’d have my little moments crying in the shower (so no one would see), worrying about what the next hour or even day would bring (I still have those moments, just not as frequently). I ended up changing my work to a more flexible position, and we made the decision to continue living with Charlie’s mother for the first few years. The extra family support was invaluable to our success, especially during really hard times like when Charlie was unable to drive due to seizures.

How has being a military caregiver changed you?

Being a military caregiver has made me more aware of how our society views disabled individuals (not just military), and ignited a passion in myself to try and break down the barriers faced by those who have disabilities and their families. I have had set-backs in my career and education due to caregiving, but am working to try and overcome those obstacles now. I’ve also been forced to address some of my own health concerns and make sure that I am seeking help for when I experience caregiver burn-out.

What do you think is the biggest misconception civilians have about your situation?

The biggest misconception many have is in my opinion, more of a lack of understanding, or not knowing how to address the situation. For privacy reason I don’t go in-depth with many people about my husband’s medical conditions or what he has experienced. What they see “on the outside” does not necessarily reflect the truths of our life. I am very thankful for our family and friends who don’t judge, even if they don’t fully understand.

My Story

I am a military caregiver for my husband, Charlie, a combat disabled Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran. After two deployments, we thought Charlie had returned home “untouched” by war. In the years following, he developed seizures and was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brian Injury (TBI) and other medical diagnosis soon followed. After leaving the military in 2012, we have worked hard to establish a new life post-military and post-injury.   

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow Alumna, I work to advocate not only for myself and my family, but for all military caregivers. I joined the Elizabeth Dole Foundation staff as the Hidden Heroes Caregiver Community Program Coordinator, and I now work as the Foundation’s Fellows Program Coordinator. I am currently pursuing my Masters of Public Administration & Policy at American University.

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