Care for the Caregivers

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2014

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Associate Executive Director of Veterans Benefits Sherman Gillums Jr. is working to help others understand the difficulties of military caregivers.

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Gillums said caregivers need care themselves during remarks he made at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Caregiver Networking Reception, July 28.

“Caregiving takes a toll on one’s health and emotional wellness. The caregiver may feel trapped and isolated without resources or support,” Gillums said. “In addition, being a caregiver has an impact on work. Military caregivers experience higher rates of absenteeism and have little or no free time outside of competing work and caregiver demands. Caregivers also face flexibility stigma. These are the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle repercussions for needing time off, such as career stagnation and resentment on the part of fellow employees for what they perceive as special treatment.”

The event was the first of several future collaborations between PVA and the Hiring Our Heroes Foundation to highlight the challenges of military caregivers, provide professional contacts and access to service organizations, and to bring caregivers together with employers looking to hire them and wounded service members.

Gillums added that employers must embrace caregivers, help others understand what they’re doing and rid stigmas.

“Providing caregiver-friendly benefits, services and support programs, such as flex time, compressed work schedules and telework options can relieve some of the burden caregivers feel,” he said. “They also reduce costs for employers who spend less on brick-and-mortar capacity. Employee participation — job sharing, donated paid time off, support groups —not only can accommodate special circumstances, but reflects a culture where employees are valued.”

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