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Sharon Foster, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2008 –
When injured servicemembers return home after spending time in a hospital or rehabilitation center, family members often take on the role of caregiver. While this new role can be rewarding for some, to others it can be a daunting task.
The Given Limb Foundation, founded in 2007 to improve the lives of amputees, particularly those affected by war, is in the early stages of developing a caregiver education program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
The program initially will include educating families on traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, wound care and the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.
A distance-learning component will be developed for the program as well, officials said, to allow families unable to travel to Walter Reed to have access to valuable materials. In addition, foundation officials hope to add an "e-mail the expert" component to maintain contact with families and answer questions.
“Through interviews with Walter Reed staff, servicemembers, servicemember families and nonmilitary health care providers, we found that connecting to and supporting caregivers is a serious issue of concern,” Martha McDade, president of Given Limb Foundation, said. “We feel family members would benefit from a program educating them about the nature of the injuries and how they can best support their servicemembers post-discharge.”
Many servicemembers are patients for six months or more, with the average stay at Walter Reed lasting just over a year, McDade noted. “Once servicemembers leave, the family members are the chief caregivers, the key providers of day-to-day emotional and physical support,” she said.
McDade said she believes the caregiver education program will extend the continuum of care and maintain contact following the critical months following discharge for all servicemembers, not just amputees.
“With this proper training, family members can be an effective front line in identifying and promoting assistance for the problems that may emerge while taking care of their loved one,” she said.
Since many of the caregiver education program elements are still in development, McDade said, the Given Limb Foundation is always seeking suggestions. Anyone interested in helping on this project can visit the organization’s Web site.
The Given Limb Foundation is included on the America Supports You Web site. America Supports You is a Defense Department program that communicates citizen support to servicemembers and their families.