Nobody asks you if you want your life to be turned upside down.
What was your first major challenge as a caregiver?
It took me a long time to think of myself as a military caregiver. When Chuck had his stroke, he had not yet filed a claim to have his diabetes and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) connected to his service in Vietnam. Everything I did seemed like an uphill battle. I found myself having to navigate obstacles in order to ensure that Chuck received the care and rehabilitative services he desperately needed. As a lawyer, I understand I was in a better position than most, because I knew how to fight and research.
How has being a military caregiver changed you?
I am so strong. I have really come to understand the meaning of commitment, especially in my marriage. We experience a deeper type of intimacy because my husband depends on me for almost everything.
What changes did you have to make to your life to adjust to the challenges?
I availed myself of intermittent family medical leave in order to maintain my employment. Today, I work 25 to 30 hours per week, which allows me to attend to Chuck’s needs as well as my own. I have to purposefully set aside time to make my own health appointments, including twice-monthly visits with a counselor who helps me put my life in perspective.
Jennie cares for her husband, Chuck, a Vietnam veteran who suffered a stroke secondary to diabetes related to Agent Orange exposure. The stroke didn’t affect Chuck’s personality or intelligence, but it did leave his right side paralyzed and unable to communicate using language. Jennies attends to his activities of daily living, manages his health care needs, and keeps their household function.
As a Dole Fellow, Jennie uses her skills as an advocate to help military and veteran caregivers successfully navigate the legal challenges they face.