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

Grace Garoutte-Mohammed

Being a caregiver has taught me so much: patience, compassion, the importance of being your own advocate, and finding the joy in everyday life.

At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?

I realized I was a caregiver about six months into our marriage. I was talking to one of my best friends about some of the issues I was struggling with at the time, and how exhausted I was from trying to balance so much. As the conversation turned to my daily and weekly responsibilities, she gently pointed out that I do so much more for my husband than a wife is expected to do. My role as caregiver began to sink in as I realized the reasons I do so much for my husband go beyond simply because I love him. I do these things because I learned what could happen if I don’t: he could get hurt, he could get sick, he may forget to take his medications, he may not remember how to do something correctly on his own, or an important task may not get done at all. The realities of what could happen if I was not helping my husband helped me realize I am not just his wife, I am also his caregiver.

What are the most significant lessons you have learned from being a caregiver?

Being a caregiver has taught me so much: patience, compassion, the importance of being your own advocate, and finding the joy in everyday life. I think the biggest lesson I have learned is to be thankful for my husband, injuries and all. He easily could have died and even though our life is hard sometimes because of his injuries, I still have him. Our life looks different and challenging to many people, but because of what my husband has been through, we can appreciate and make the most of his second chance at life.

What advice would you offer to other military and veteran caregivers?

Self-care is so important! Find things to do that help you feel refreshed or else you will burn out. Support doesn’t have to come from other caregivers. While it is wonderful to get advice from those who know what you’re dealing with, friends who are not caregivers can also be a great support. Don’t isolate yourself and think you’re in this alone.

My Story

Grace is a caregiver for her husband, Adrian, a Navy Master-at-Arms who was hurt in Iraq in 2004. He suffered a spinal cord injury, partial hearing loss, visual impairments, a traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). By the time they met and started dating in 2014, his life was centered around a very small comfort zone that he rarely left. As their relationship grew, so did Adrian’s world. Not long after their engagement, Adrian decided to try adaptive sports because Grace could go with him as his caregiver. Adaptive sports have become a major part of their lives and have changed Adrian’s life in so many incredible ways. While being a caregiver isn’t always easy, Grace is so grateful to be part of his journey.

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Grace hopes to bring more awareness to the general public about issues caregivers face. She also hopes to shed light on how issues like TBI and PTSD affect the entire family. With her background in mental health, she hopes to help bring more awareness to how marriages and families can survive combat injuries.