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

Hannah Nieskens

You can make excuses or you can achieve goals, but you can’t do both.

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

I realized I was a military caregiver when I gave up employment in order to support my husband’s recovery. Since that time, I have rebuilt my career, but my priorities have changed. The health and well-being of my family will always come first.

What is the most difficult thing about your daily routine?

There are times when I am trying to do too much and juggling too many things. Everything I do, I want to do well. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remind myself that I can’t do it all or that it is ok to put less effort into one thing than another. I have to remind myself to prioritize my needs and the needs of others.

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

Adjust your expectations but don’t give up on your aspirations. As a caregiver of a wounded veteran you can still have goals and ambitions. I am employed as a high school principal and have earned three graduate degrees. I thrive on challenge and believe resilience, hard work, and perseverance have helped me to build a life I love.

My Story

In 2005, Hannah's husband Kelly went to Iraq as a healthy 23-year-old soldier and returned with multiple serious injuries, which will require constant care for the rest of his life. His most visible wound is scarring from gunshot wounds. However, his most serious injuries are actually invisible, including post traumatic stress and lesions on his brain from experiencing multiple improvised explosive device (IED) blasts. She feels fortunate that her husband has survived his injuries and grateful for every day she has with him. Even though Hannah altered her life to take care of her husband, she didn’t sacrifice the quality of her life. Hannah and Kelly have a thriving marriage and three wonderful children. She is employed as a school principal and has three graduate degrees. She is passionate about veteran and caregiver advocacy.

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Hannah would like to increase public awareness about the role and contributions of military caregivers, impact national policies and programs, which address military caregiver needs and act as resource and source of support to other military caregivers.