I find strength every day because I care about him.
What advice do you wish you had when you first became a caregiver?
I wish someone would have told me that I wasn’t the only one experiencing difficulties. For so long, I felt that things were only happening to me. If I had reached out sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of stress. There are many people who are willing to help, you just have to ask.
What changes did you have to make to your life when you became a caregiver?
I practically had to become a nurse. I learned how to take his blood pressure and how to respond to his seizure disorder. Sometimes he stops breathing. Being responsible for so much of his medical care is really challenging.
Have you been able to rely on your local community for support?
We have struggled to find support within our community. We live off the reservation in the city but I am working with others to build a caregiver support group on reservations. Native Americans often feel excluded, but we should be aware of the veteran benefits to which we are entitled.
Tobian Kills in Water cares for her husband, Craig, who served two deployments to Iraq. Before he was supposed to be deployed to Afghanistan, he started showing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which led to his medical retirement. He was later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is his full-time caregiver.
As a Dole Fellow, she is involved in building caregiver support among Native American communities.