Don’t get caught up in what can happen in the future but live in the present and do what you can now.
What are you most excited to do as a Dole Caregiver Fellow?
I am most excited about sharing the importance of being a caregiver and making sure other caregivers understand the importance of taking care of themselves. Caregiving is hard but I can handle the hard days because I’m taking care of my own mental and physical well-being on a regular basis.
At what moment did you realize you were a military caregiver?
I realized I was a military caregiver when I started accompanying my husband to doctor’s appointments in a different capacity. My husband has a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that significantly impacts his ability to comprehend and retain information especially when it is coming at him at a high rate of speed as it often does in a doctor’s appointment. It is important for me to attend appointments with him now as his caregiver so I can ensure he is getting the kind of care he deserves and that he understands and can be an active participant rather than leaving feeling frustrated and confused. I am there to advocate for him in a way the doctor knows his needs and he is receiving the best possible care.
What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?
Being a military or veteran caregiver is giving freedom back to those that have given so much to our nation and helping them to live as normal a life as possible. Our veterans have given of themselves in ways many people can never fathom, and it is our duty to support them. Military or veteran caregivers provide support, encouragement, and assist in daily tasks that most people find simple. Caregivers are heroes to their care recipients.
Already a caregiver to her son, Garrett, who was born prematurely, Tiffany found herself at the end of 2016 having to balance her son’s care with becoming a caregiver for her husband, Ryan. Her husband, an Air Force veteran wounded during an enemy attack in Iraq, was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Needing to care for someone who had been vibrant and healthy for so many years took her by surprise. Early on, she noticed a few small things, but Ryan was able to mask them well. Eventually, Tiffany realized Ryan’s suicidal thoughts would not leave him and Ryan began an intensive in-patient therapy program.
Tiffany assists Ryan with the effects of his TBI, which make even simple things difficult to manage. She advocates for her husband to ensure he receives the best care possible and attends all his medical visits knowing he can’t always remember what the doctor tells him. As a part of his medical care team, she strives to be as much of an active participant as Ryan wants her to be. Tiffany makes sure he can feel independent and empowered while also understanding the medical information. One of the most challenging days for Tiffany as a caregiver was seeing Ryan struggle with comprehension firsthand while filling out the paperwork for a new doctor’s visit. As they were working through the forms, she saw how difficult it was for him to read the information, think about it, and then complete the responses.
Tiffany has come to understand that caring for Ryan is more than assisting with his medical care. She supports him in his job training service dogs and coordinates their schedules so he can go on long-distance runs, which help him emotionally. She doesn’t feel like she is a caregiver every day, but knows that even the smallest tasks she does for him go a long way.
In addition to being a caregiver, Tiffany runs her own non profit, The Modern Belle’s Closet, which allows girls to borrow donated dresses for homecoming and prom.