It’s not easy to identify one of our nation’s 5.5 million military or veteran caregivers. We don’t wear uniforms bearing our rank or title. We can’t be classified by a specific age, ethnicity or gender. And we rarely seek attention. We often remain hidden within our communities, camouflaged behind our injured loved ones, dedicated to them and their needs.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow representing Florida, I am proud to advocate for this incredible community of caregivers, and for the veterans in our lives and those across the country.
My new normal as a veteran caregiver began when my husband, Ken, was wounded on May 28, 2007, while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. Ken suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when his vehicle hit a series of improvised explosive devises, leaving damage in the form of severe headaches, neck and back pain, and several other ailments that Ken suffers from to this day.
After undergoing major back surgery, Ken still requires medical treatment. His injuries will not only be with him the rest of his life but have impacted the dynamic of our entire family.
November is National Family Caregivers Month, centering on the theme of respite care. Critically important, respite care allows caregivers the opportunity to reduce stress and dedicate much-needed focus on their own well-being, while having the peace of mind that their loved ones are being taken care of as well.
For me, respite means remembering to take care of myself. For so long, my needs were put on the back burner that at times I could literally feel myself falling apart.
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation has allowed me to connect with other military and veteran caregivers, whom I encourage to take care of themselves, and who encourage me in return.
I now make it a point to have my hair and nails done every few weeks.
Respite care helps me find motivation not only take care of my husband but to successfully hold a job and enjoy personal growth as a successful business woman.
I encourage readers to learn more about respite care and our growing community of military and veteran caregivers, and for every American to step up and show their support for these hidden heroes.
Patti Katter is a Lakewood Ranch military and veteran caregiver. She was selected as an Elizabeth Dole Fellow, serving as a caregiver spokesperson and advocate for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Sen. Elizabeth Dole to provide better support to the loved ones caring for ill and injured service members.