MVCN Magazine by and for CaregiversFall 2015
It Takes a Network
By Shannon Tuimalealiifano
With all of the attention the RAND study brought to the plight of caregivers in our nation, the onslaught of new programs and services has been dizzying. One of my favorite aspects of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) is that we are not trying to be every answer for everyone, just a reservoir for answers to be found through collaborations amongst others. It is a place for military spouses, parents, adult children, siblings, extended family, friends, pre-9/11, post-9/11, any branch, any service status, any type of discharge and everything in between. The MVCN invites everyone to come and share: stories, resources, insights on different treatment facilities, and possible recourse for situations where people feel stonewalled or dismissed.
As we continue to spread the word about MVCN, caregivers are responding to the idea of a Network designed and run by fellow caregivers. The Peer Mentor Program is a prime example of how the best support is not “doing for us,” but giving us the capability to make needed changes “with us and for ourselves.” As one caregiver in the MVCN Peer Mentor Program recently said: “I am so excited that MVCN is run by caregivers – there is just so much that you don’t have to explain when someone has been in your shoes. Just like my husband instantly connects with other combat veterans, it is so much easier for me to talk to other caregivers.”
I am grateful for the programs that are now available that make professional mental health services available in a therapy and life skills coaching environment. I also cannot thank the MVCN partner organizations enough for the camps and retreats they offer to help families reconnect, or to learn about adaptive recreational options. Still, as the Peer Mentor Program Coordinator, what excites me the most is the variety of supporters coming together to make it possible for caregivers to support one another.
When the Elizabeth Dole Foundation issued the rally cry for the sake of the 5.5 million military caregivers in our nation, an outpouring of support came from every source imaginable. From the White House, to government agencies, to faith-based organizations, to Hollywood, for-profit & non-profit agencies, higher learning institutions, even individuals – America has come together as a nation to support its military caregivers by empowering, not enabling, them.