This Veteran's Day, the National Alliance for Caregiving with underwriting from United Health Foundation, released the nation's first in-depth study of the caregivers of our country's 23 million veterans.

What we found was startling – these caregivers of veterans – our "homefront heroes" are sacrificing even more than our national caregiver statistics show. Here are the highlights from the report:

  • Of the 10.5 million caregivers of a veteran, 96 percent are women compared to 65 percent of all caregivers. Overwhelmingly, caring for a veteran is a woman's role.
  • Caregivers of veterans are twice as likely as caregivers overall to say their situation is stressful (68 percent v. 31 percent)
  • Caregivers of veterans face a higher burden of care – 65 percent helped with more activities of daily living such as bathing, feeding, dressing, etc. compared to overall caregivers (31 percent) and 60 percent care for someone with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Caregivers of veterans spend more time caring than other caregivers – 43 percent v. 13 percent spent more than 40 hours a week and 40 percent v.14 percent spent more than 10 years caregiving
  • Forty-seven percent of caregivers of veterans reported stopping work or retiring early compared to only nine percent for overall caregivers
  • Almost six out of 10 of these caregivers of veterans who are "Sandwich Generation" found that their children were suffering from emotional and school problems

Not all these veterans' disabilities are service-related and include chronic illness and other health issues associated with aging. But, the most critical cases were the caregivers of someone with a combat-related injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), paraplegia, etc.

The family caregivers of our veterans bear special burdens – they wait while their loved one is deployed or on a tour of duty and then when their loved one does come home, they are there to help heal the physical and emotional wounds.

But amazingly with the "perils and pain" that can sometimes characterize caring for a veteran also comes the pride – 94 percent of these veterans' caregivers said they serve with pride and it's their way to give back to their loved one and the country.

For help with finding services for the caregivers of veterans, there is a wonderful Web site which has over 11,000 resources. It is called the National Resource Directory and is maintained by the Departments of Defense, Labor and Veterans Affairs.

This November, as we celebrate Veteran's Day and commemorate National Family Caregiving Month, let's do more than applaud our troops at sporting events. Let's remember the family caregivers who are there for their veteran and let's volunteer to help them – take a meal, watch their kids, give the caregiver a break – whatever you can. They serve with honor and duty and our duty is to now serve them.

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