Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Truman VA Recognizes Caregiver Month
November is national Family Caregiver Month and VA is conducting a nationwide campaign to promote caregiver services in advance of an implementation plan that will bring new benefits to select caregivers.
At Truman VA, there are several programs in which VA staff supports a family member or loved one that voluntarily takes on the daily care needs of an injured or ill Veteran. One of those is the Transplant Support Persons Group, which began as a peer self-directed group and became more formalized about a year ago.
As one group member stated,”We met together when Suzanne (Opperman, RN) met with the Veterans. During this time, we shared our own stories about what was happening to ‘our Veteran’ during the transplant waiting process or after a transplant surgery event. It was not as educational about us as caregivers, our role with ‘our Veteran' or what services the VA can provide to ‘our Veteran’.” Opperman serves as the Hepatology Advance Practice Nurse and Transplant Coordinator at Truman VA.
This group became more formalized from the caregiver perspective when Opperman questioned how Truman VA could better engage the support persons as they are a vital part before, during and after a transplant process. As a requirement, each potential recipient must have an assigned support person. This support person must be able to accompany the Veteran to the site of transplant surgery.
Veronica Ramnarine, LCSW, chief of social work, offered her caregiver support background and practice to the support group. The caregiver support component was introduced and the Transplant Support Persons Group became more formalized with caregiver education. This included information about topics such as advance directives; VA resources for respite care, homemaker services and community resources; caregiver self-care needs and the opportunity for the support persons to continue their peer discussions with each other. This is a monthly one hour meeting.
As one person leaving the November meeting said, “ You have provided me the opportunity to reflect on being a caregiver. I became more aware of my own identity through the influence of knowledge you have brought into this group. I almost lost my own personal identity, but now I feel better about supporting my husband through his transplant process and my role in this process.”
VA is committed to supporting caregivers of Veterans from all eras. They are partners in Veteran health care, meeting the needs of the most severely injured and chronically ill Veterans on a daily basis.