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

Rachel Clark

Don’t give up and most importantly, you are not alone!

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

My life has changed significantly since becoming a caregiver. Not only have there been changes in my life, but I have also had to manage changes that have occurred in my kid’s lives. Sometimes getting Charlie the care that he needs means more than just taking off work to drive him to the hospital. Sometimes it means being with him for weeks or months at a time while he is at an inpatient program. Taking care of a wounded veteran means that you don’t get to go to girl’s night because you are needed at home. Being a caregiver means falling in love all over again because the man you married has changed.

What are the most significant lessons you have learned from being a caregiver?

The most significant lessons that I have learned as a caregiver are that I have more patience than I could have ever imagined. I have more love and understanding than I ever thought possible, and I appreciate the bad times because they make the good times so much sweeter.

What is the most difficult thing about your daily routine?

The most difficult thing about the daily routine is maintaining normalcy. We have four children and so nothing is ever the same. Charlie needs a stable routine and that can be hard to maintain. When the children oversleep, miss the bus, forget their lunches, and wear mismatching shoes; it is hard to remember to give Charlie his morning pills.

My Story

It was shortly after Rachel's husband Charlie, a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, came back from his third deployment that Rachel and her kids noticed how his invisible wounds began to take over his life, and theirs. Charlie showed signs of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): memory issues, rage, suicidal thoughts, and sleep issues. With assistance from their local caregiving community, they are making progress. As a family, they are working on the skills necessary to manage and understand Charlie’s invisible wounds.

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Rachel hopes to educate others on the mental health issues faced by caregivers. She wants to promote the message, “you are not alone.” Often, caregivers feel overwhelmed and experience feelings of anxiety and depression. However, because they are so focused on caring for their wounded veteran, they feel selfish if they seek out self-help.