Being a veteran caregiver means being there for the man who was always there for me.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
Never take no for an answer without verifying it first. Sometimes the answer is no; however, sometimes it is yes.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
It’s interesting, because the one thing that has changed is I have become softer. I’m very direct, and have almost no emotions (not bad, I’m just more of an action person). But when I see my Dad, I see he’s changed and it makes me take a second look when I’m working with others.
What is a quote that inspires you or keeps you motivated?
“I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.” — Abraham Lincoln
Lisa Ducharme comes from a family with more than 200 years of military service. For her part, Lisa served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years and is the Executive Director of the New England Veterans Chamber of Commerce and also works as the Veteran & Military Services Coordinator at Westfield State University, in addition to being a caregiver to her father Ron, a Vietnam veteran.
Ron retired as a Chief Master Sergeant from the U.S. Air Force in 1984 and did not notice any problems until later in life when he was diagnosed with diabetes.
Lisa reached out to the VA Outreach Coordinator in late 2016 because her father needed to travel to obtain hearing aids and was incurring more and more expenses. The coordinator suggested her father sign up for the VA, but he was rejected. Lisa thought this didn’t make sense—her father, a boots-on-the-ground veteran, couldn’t get assistance while she never deployed and could receive support. With help from the coordinator, she reapplied for her father, and followed the application process until Ron received approval. In 2018, when individuals told him at the Belchertown Veterans of Foreign Wars that his diabetes might be related to his tour in Vietnam, Lisa reached out to a friend at Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for help with submitting the disability package. Shortly after, Ron’s disability rating was approved. In addition to advocating for her father, Lisa goes to the doctor with him because of his fading memory, helps him stay connected with the VA through My Healthevet, and continues to look for resources that are available to him.
In addition to her many roles, Lisa is a partner with Veterans Outreach Into Community Engagement (VOICE), a partnership of over 40 organizations in Western Massachusetts, and has worked with veteran businesses for the past five years to inform them of the resources and information available to veterans and caregivers. Lisa is looking forward to sharing that awareness with caregivers, many of whom are not aware that these resources exist.