Being a veteran caregiver means I have a sacred duty to ensure my daughter has a dignified life despite her disability.
What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?
Advocate for our wounded warriors and their support teams and help our community recognize the ongoing battle they face. Keep the mission alive that caregivers need persistent and long-lasting support. Raise awareness that some veterans do not have the family advocates they need and use our experience to sensitize the Veteran Support infrastructure to listen more closely to whispers of distress.
What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?
It means my wife and I have a sacred duty to ensure our daughter has a dignified life despite her disability. We are empowered to advocate for her and secure every resource and right that she is entitled to as an American Citizen Soldier. It means showing our family and community what you deserve because “you are” not because of what you can “do”. It means not being embarrassed by disability and keeping our daughter engaged in the world as much as feasible.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
Find and connect with other caregivers who have similar circumstances regarding the type of injuries, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as family relationship, such as spouse or child. Other caregivers who have more experience can give you some visibility into your future and newer caregivers can cause you to process your experience and gain insight from your successes and challenges. Let down your guard and be prepared to share in confidence with fellow caregivers, it’s healthy for both of you. Learn from others. Recognize the differences and the similarities in each situation and find reasons to be grateful.
Patriotism runs deep in the White family. Jim White and his wife Karee are both veterans, and six of their nine children have entered the military. Jim and Karee, an alumna of the Dole Caregiver Fellow program, are caregivers to their Army veteran daughter Kimberly, who sustained tragic injuries while serving. They realized early on that the challenges of their large family and the extent of their daughter’s injuries were too much for either of them to take on alone, so Jim relinquished his role as vice president of health care marketing at a telecommunications company and re-established himself as a self-employed consultant so he could devote more attention to his family’s needs.
In May 2014, Kimberly was stationed in Italy, having just returned from Afghanistan where she served with the 173rd Airborne Combat Brigade Team as a Medical Services Corps Officer. On her way home from a military function, Kimberly was in a tragic automobile accident and suffered a devastating type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which placed her in a coma for many months. Six years later, she continues to require around the clock care as she is unable to speak and is confined to her bed or a wheelchair.
Jim assists with Kimberly’s health care and serves as her VA fiduciary, but primarily takes control of home life and makes sure their family of 11 gets what they need to be successful; he understands and addresses how important that is with all the care and attention that must be devoted to Kimberly. Jim prioritizes maintaining normalcy and being creative in finding ways for the whole family to be together.
With professional experience in the military and healthcare space and years of caregiving experience, Jim believes he can offer other family caregivers the guidance they might need to find resources and advocate for programs so families are able to have long, sustainable, and dignified lives with their veterans. Jim is already involved in work centered around the VA’s Veteran Directed Care Program, ensuring that the care of veterans at home is possible with the best equipment and support. As the only family registered in North Carolina, he hopes to expand it to be more accessible to other veterans.