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Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program at Work

Caregivers Enable Wounded Veterans to Heal at Home

 

“Caregivers are thrust into this role with no notice and little or no training,” Jennifer said. “Maintaining employment was a huge challenge for me. For many years, I was financially devastated by this responsibility.”

 

Since 2001, more than 52,000 members of America’s Armed Forces have suffered physical injuries while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. An estimated 400,000 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Approximately 320,000 have experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). But beyond these numbers, there are individuals like Eric Edmundson and James Smith, who fought for our country and returned home with severe, life-altering injuries.

Both veterans are registered with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and enrolled in its Independence Program. That program works with each warrior, their caregiver, and their community to ensure each wounded veteran can live as independently as possible. Independence Program is designed for warriors with moderate to severe brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other neurological conditions. Warriors in this program have their families – whether biological or battle buddies – to be thankful for.

“Caregivers are really the backbone that helps us survive,” James said. His sister, Jennifer Mackinday, assists him every day. She does everything including meal preparation, medication management, personal grooming, and running errands.

“Caregivers are thrust into this role with no notice and little or no training,” Jennifer said. “Maintaining employment was a huge challenge for me. For many years, I was financially devastated by this responsibility.”

Until just a few years ago, there was minimal guidance and assistance for caregivers. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) saw the need and took action. WWP brought injured veterans and their caregivers to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and show the importance of families helping wounded service members. Congress responded, passing the Caregivers and Veterans Health Services Omnibus Act of 2010. That bill has doled out nearly $2 billion in benefits and services for caregivers including monthly stipends, health care coverage, and expanded training on caring for wounded veterans.

WWP’s Independence Program helps, too. Part of that assistance includes lending support inside the home, providing resources, working with a life-skills coach, and collaborating with the caregiver. WWP also helps outside the home by getting the warrior out of the house and connected with other warriors and resources in his or her community. The program helps each warrior get involved with meaningful, personalized activities centering on health and wellness, volunteer work, and education. Even with this support, caregivers give up a lot for their loved ones.

“I am constantly faced with the amount of sacrifice necessary to care for my son,” Edgar Edmundson said. His son, Eric, suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq and now relies on his parents, wife, and sister for daily care. “Eric’s mother and I have been fortunate to be able to help him and his family move forward for the past 11 years. But we are deeply concerned, should something happen to us, we do not want his family derailed.”

“It’s my number one worry,” Jennifer said. “I’m 13 years older than James – what happens if one day I can’t care for him? Who picks up that torch?”

Even with the concerns, James’ and Eric’s caregivers work every day to ensure their loved one is more than just a statistic.

“These warriors deserve a good life and options that best meet their needs and that of their families,” Edgar said. “Institutionalization is not the answer anymore. More community-based support options are needed. We have to do more.”

Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations

Email: rlouis@woundedwarriorproject.org

Phone: 904.627.0432

 

About Wounded Warrior Project
We Connect, Serve, and Empower
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP connects wounded warriors and their families to valuable resources and one another, serves them through a variety of free programs and services, and empowers them to live life on their own terms. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.

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