According to a RAND military caregivers study, about 30 percent of post-9/11 caregivers spend 40 or more hours per week providing care. Steve Schwab, Executive Director of The Elizabeth Dole Foundation shares the importance of recognizing and supporting these hidden heroes all across the country. This discussion continues in part 2 of Hidden Heroes.
Interview recorded Oct 11, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Robert Traynham: Five and a half million Americans care for injured or ill service members and veterans. These hidden heroes provide $14 billion worth of uncompensated care each year. Hello everyone, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers, I’m Robert Traynham. With me is Steve Schwab, he’s the Executive Director of The Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Steve, welcome to the program.
Steve Schwab: Thanks so much for having me.
Robert Traynham: What are hidden heroes?
Steve Schwab: Hidden heroes are the mothers, fathers, spouses and other loved ones who are selflessly caring for wounded warriors at home. We call them [00:00:30] hidden heroes because we don’t talk about them a lot. They’re in the background. When you see the picture of the veteran, of the wounded warrior, they’re in the shadows. They’re suffering. There is a war happening right now that’s the longest in the history of this country.
We’ve forgotten that there are people on the home front who are challenged to provide care on a day-in, day-out basis, some 24 hours a day, and they’re giving up their livelihoods. They’re financially distraught. [00:01:00] They’re without resources and support. That’s why we call them hidden heroes.
Robert Traynham: Steve, as I understand it, you commissioned a study, evidence based, with the RAND Corporation to do a deeper dive on these hidden heroes.
Steve Schwab: Yeah.
Robert Traynham: What else have you learned?
Steve Schwab: We learned a lot. The study really put this issue on the map. It said that there were five and a half million folks, across post-9/11 and pre-9/11 populations, but it looked at those caregivers compared to their civilian caregivers. What it found was much [00:01:30] higher levels of depression and anxiety, physical ailments like heart issues and immune issues.
A lot of these caregivers are without medical insurance. Their veteran may be covered by the VA, but if they’re not directly covered through their veteran, they’re without insurance themselves.
Many of them are neglecting their own health and well-being to support their loved one. The study said that it’s a crisis, it’s a national crisis, in fact.
We’re really trying to wake America up. Trying to get law makers [00:02:00] to pay attention to this population, and to increase services and support for them.
Robert Traynham: I assume, Steve, that part of the conundrum is, is that a lot of people who are hidden heroes, first of all they don’t even see themselves as heroes. They may be hidden because they don’t self-identify. How do you raise the awareness, and lower the stigma?
Steve Schwab: Thank you for saying that. We launched a national campaign, chaired by Tom Hanks, called Hidden Heroes last September. The campaign’s singular mission is to get caregivers and these hidden heroes all across the country to raise their hands.
Like you said, [00:02:30] they’re incredibly reluctant to self-identify. These are proud members of military families. They believe it’s their civic and patriotic duty to provide that care for their loved one, and so they forget about themselves.
In the course of doing so, many of them become ineffective caregivers for their loved one because of their own ailments. The study that we commissioned said that the number one way to rehabilitate veterans is a strong, well-supported caregiver, so the science says we have to support [00:03:00] caregivers, and make them strong and sturdy for their loved ones.