Remember, you need care too. Make it a point to take time for yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup.
What does being a military caregiver mean to you?
Being Chris’ caregiver means being his voice when he can’t, extending a hand, and pulling him back to earth when he’s lost. It means feeling burnt out and alone, but knowing the man you love resurfaces some days and that’s what all the appointments, medicines, and advocating are for.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
My life has changed tremendously. I had to make peace with the changes in my husband and knowing his limitations. My largest sacrifice has been to have any time alone..having two small children and a spouse unable to adequately parent/watch them without me present has been challenging and heartbreaking.
At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?
When Chris returned from his deployment in 2013. A large piece of him had not come back from Afghanistan and it was the moment he told me we’d be better off without him. I knew his time in the army was ending but my service was just beginning.
Kimberly Brown of Granby, Connecticut is a caregiver for her husband, Chris, an Army veteran of the post-9/11 combat era. Chris sustained injuries during his deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), hip impingement, skin issues from burn pit exposure, and back problems. Kimberly realized her husband was struggling with suicide ideation the day he told her he had the urge to drive his car head on into a tractor trailer. From that moment forward, Kimberly realized how much her husband needed her to step into the caregiving role and advocate on his behalf.
As a caregiver, Kimberly manages every element of Chris’ care, in addition to raising their two young children. Kimberly needs to help Chris remember basic things such as taking his keys, phone, and wallet to work. She also manages his appointments and daily medications, as well as all the home tasks that are too painful for Chris to take on given the burns and scarring he suffered from the burn pits.
Kimberly became interested in running her own military family connection group through the organization, Resilience Grows Here. This community-based program helps foster veterans’ mental health and well-being throughout their lives. Kimberly hosts a coffee hour twice a month to connect military and veteran families to one another.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Kimberly hopes to connect military families to one another, and help them advocate for more resources in their local areas. She also hopes to educate communities about PTSD and how they can help service members coming back from deployment.