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

Lyra Helms

I don’t view any hardships I’ve experienced as a caregiver to being attributed to the special needs of my veteran, but rather a unique aspect of our life together.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?

One piece of advice I would offer to other caregivers is to seek support through available resources. Be vocal about your needs and struggles. There are others dealing with similar challenges who can provide a source of support and assistance.

How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?

Since becoming a caregiver, I have adapted our daily life to increase my veteran’s livelihood. Sacrifices are present in all successful relationships. I don’t view any hardships I’ve experienced as a caregiver to being attributed to the special needs of my veteran, but rather a unique aspect of our life together.

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

I realized I was a military caregiver when I began assisting my veteran in advocating for quality health care.

My Story

Lyra Helms’ job as an occupational therapist gave her critical insights into the condition of her fiancé, Adam, even before she became his permanent caregiver. Adam served in the Army from 2008-2013 and deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan where he suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Lyra and Adam met at a New Year's Eve party after Adam had left the Army, and early in their relationship her professional training cued her to notice deficits in his executive functioning and memory that had gone undiagnosed for years.   

Adam’s mother had been his full-time caregiver until he and Lyra moved from New Mexico to South Carolina. When arriving for appointments at their new VA for the first time, Lyra noticed that “caregiver” was not a term recognized by the health care team. She felt that they scoffed at the thought of a grown man with no physical disabilities or developmental delays needing to have a caregiver present during medical appointments. The experience only strengthened her confidence as a caregiver, and she spent hours networking and researching federal rules, regulations and VA directives to better understand the system of care available to Adam. 

In her daily role as Adam’s caregiver, Lyra helps him maintain a routine and coordinates all his health care. This includes managing medication, reminding him of daily tasks he needs to do, setting a budget, and making appointments. She also recently became certified in crisis communication and de-escalation, which gives her techniques to calm Adam when he begins to feel stress and anxiety. In addition to her job and caregiver duties, Lyra is the Facebook administrator for an Honor the Troops page, where she posts resources and articles for other veterans and caregivers.

One of the best days Lyra has experienced as a caregiver was when she and Adam joined the Warrior Surf Program in Charleston. She was proud to watch Adam catch waves and succeed at something on his own, understanding how important it is to help him preserve some independence and find fun activities they can enjoy together.