ANNAPOLIS, Md. — May is Month of the Military Caregiver, to honor more than five million veteran and military family caregivers across the nation, and this year recognizes those folks who were especially taxed during the pandemic.
With almost 400,000 veterans in Maryland, the state’s military caregivers took on more responsibilities throughout the COVID-19 crisis, caring for chronically ill, disabled, or elderly veterans.
Amy Goyer, a caregiver consultant for AARP, said the increased caring magnified the isolation, stress, and depression that family members helping out often face.
“The services and support that their loved ones may have been getting may not be available because of the pandemic,” Goyer explained. “Then there’s more responsibility for the family caregiver. So without those usual support systems, the caregiver may also not be getting caregiver support. So it’s a lot of strain and stress.”
She stressed looking for support is not selfish, but a practical part of maintaining good caregiving. She recommended those who need help go online to AARP’s Facebook family caregivers discussion group, which she moderates for more than 6,000 members.
Family caregivers spend about $7,400 a year out of their own pockets for a range of necessities, according to Goyer. She noted the Veterans Administration offers financial assistance, but does not cover all needed expenses, and job losses and lack of services during the pandemic put even more strain on caregivers’ bank accounts.
“AARP created a free financial workbook to kind of help people work through these financial challenges and make sure they are maximizing the income and benefits and services for veterans,” Goyer pointed out.
Maryland’s older veterans, who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, make up 45% of the state’s veteran population, according to the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.