TOLEDO, Ohio — More than 5.5 million people are acting as caregivers for elderly or disabled veterans in the United States, and many of them are doing so without pay.
In fact, AARP Caregiving Expert, Amy Goyer said this labor of love is leading to a serious financial burden on many of them.
"The financial strains of veteran caregiving are really immense and we find that in general, family caregivers spend about $7,400 a year out of their own income for the out-of-pocket cost of caregiving," Goyer said.
Veteran and military caregivers also tend to take on their roles for longer periods of time compared to the typical family caregiver, sometimes due to service-related injuries to young service members that follow them for the rest of their lives.
"These younger caregivers are dealing with things like traumatic brain injury, PTSD, things that tend to be lifelong conditions that are dealt with or need a lot of support," Goyer said.
According to AARP, nearly 68% care for someone with a long-term condition, and 67% help with medical and nursing tasks.
It's something Goyer is quite familiar with.
"It could be people of all ages, from the service member who is wounded over in Iraq or Afghanistan, to someone like my dad who I cared for, for more than a decade. He was a WWII veteran and Korean War and he had Alzheimer's," she said.
For caregivers, supporting that loved one grew more difficult during the pandemic, with many of them taking on more responsibilities and more of the financial burden and often overlooking their own self-care.
To help those people avoid caregiver burnout, Goyer suggests you lift some of the logistical burdens.
"Say, 'I'm going to bring over dinner every Tuesday night for you,' and ask them, 'Is there something I can do?' If they can't tell you, then you come up with something to really ease their burden a little bit," she said.
You can also reach out to AARP, which has a free workbook designed to help caregivers of veterans; you can find it by clicking here.
"It's got all these great checklists in it," Goyer said, "Things that can help you plan and also make sure you're maximizing any benefits your loved ones, and services, that they might get, deal with the legal aspects of the financial part of caregiving."
Goyer said that it's important to try and support those in need, as well as those hidden heroes making it easier for veterans to live independently.
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