Recent wars create an army of caregivers

April 2, 2014 

It’s appropriate that a study of the “hidden heroes” of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the caregivers who help wounded and disabled veterans, was sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.

The former senator from North Carolina is married to the ex-Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, seriously wounded in World War II and a long-time champion of veterans and the need to stand by them after their service.

And that’s never been more true than now, with so many American service people having returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with life-changing injuries. To help care for them, young spouses become full-time caregivers, or other family members join in.

But the stress can be extreme. And the Dole Foundation study, done by the RAND Corp., finds that America needs to recognize this caregiver, and look for ways to help them.

These “hidden heroes” often have to raise kids, and to work, in addition to taking care of their loved ones. The stress breaks some, who suffer depression or addiction in order to cope. Others are ultimately driven away from the very person they’re trying to help.

The military, and Congress, have to recognize the special needs of caregivers in this situation, and provide for them.

For veterans and their families – and this dates back through all wars – the suffering and the coping and the adjustment don’t end when the weapons are laid down. For many, another battle is just beginning.

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