It’s a privilege to be able to be here as my husband's caregiver. This way I am hands on with him learning, advocating and being present for him with his medical team everyday.
What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?
I’m most excited to bring awareness to our youth secondary caregivers through education. I also want to support those transitioning from military into civilian life, and make it a little bit easier.
At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?
A year after injury when my husband’s nurse case manager asked “Has he always had issues with memory?” No. And to be honest I had hoped no one else was noticing. From that point forward, I knew.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
Planning for the future has changed. Now I have to make arrangements ahead of time to prepare for pain management, breaks for rest, and places to accommodate these needs. My sacrifice is I can’t be as spontaneous as I used to be.
In addition to becoming a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Sherri Piper is giving back to the community that helped her in her time of need through her work as an executive assistant for the TBI Warrior Foundation. It was assistance from support organizations and military caregivers that helped her advocate for her husband Jay’s earned benefits from his time in service. These organizations continue to help with other challenges they have faced such as the transition from military to civilian life, veteran medical care, and financial and emotional needs.
In October 2013, Jay, an Airborne soldier, landed on a concrete runway during a combat training jump. Jay sustained bilateral broken heels; bilateral knee and bilateral shoulder damage; hip, back, and neck injuries, and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and several silent strokes. In addition to his physical wounds, Jay was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though he had many injuries, Sherri still had to advocate for her husband to receive needed medical treatment. The medical board process for Jay to receive the surgeries he required took more than three years.
Jay has endured multiple back-to-back surgeries and will continue to need more in the future. Sherri provides daily care, helping him dress himself and walk even short distances, managing his medication, and driving him to multiple physical therapy and doctors’ visits each week.
In addition to being a caregiver, Sherri raised four sons, all of whom have been secondary caregivers. Her oldest is a combat veteran who served five years in the U.S. Air Force and now lives and works in Alaska. Her second oldest has a passion for computer science and lives in Wisconsin. Her third son currently serves in the U.S. Air Force, and her fourth son lives at home and helps with Jay’s care.