Author: Sherleana Fuentes, Chapter Director, Germany
Blue Star Families has several programs to serve our military families, including my favorite, Caregivers Empowering Caregivers. I have been volunteering with Blue Star Families for over three years and I am proud to say I have reached over 1,000 military families with these wonderful programs. I have been able to provide opportunities for military children as such story time, baking classes, and scavenger hunts; I have directed families to Museums in the summer where military families can enter for free or at a reduced admission price; and I have brought Caregivers Empowering Caregivers to spouses who desired to learn more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Caregiver Empowering Caregivers (CEC) is my favorite program for many reasons. CEC assists spouses by giving support and providing knowledge from each other in similar situations. The group doesn’t require personal information regarding service member’s rank and/ or active status. In my case, I was a spouse who didn’t qualify for assistance through the military because my husband wasn’t a PTS/ PTSD/ TBI patient. He had wounds that were not visible to all, but very noticeable at home.
Linda and Pamela from our CEC program traveled to Fort Leonard Wood for a workshop on PTSD/ TBI and what it means to be a caregiver to a service member who was wounded during wartime. I learned so much during this seminar. The techniques and processes helped me ask my spouse the correct questions for him to realize he needed help. I was no longer the annoying wife, requesting him to seek help. Now I was able to educate him on the signs and let him make his own decision. This worked a miracle in my household. He finally realized he did have symptoms and went in for a check-up.
After this experience, I wanted to share everything I learned with other spouses. Some of the ladies from the workshop and I started having caregivers’ social events as an outlet from our daily lives. We felt the need to start our own group to support each other. So we created a group you could join even if you weren’t a recognized caregiver through the military, and find that support you had been searching for. We had active duty and retired spouses attend and assist with the process of being a caregiver. It was wonderful sharing our experiences and hearing that we aren’t alone, that other caregivers are going through the same or similar situations as us. I started hosting pampering sessions, coffee time, and Paint & Sip classes. At the next event, the ladies would bring their friends to attend, which helped grow our group from 3 ladies to about 20 ladies. Spouses loved an hour or two to themselves and attending these events allowed them this chance.
Check out this YouTube video of a Paint & Sip class I did at Fort Leonard Wood and join Blue Star Families to get hooked into your own Caregiver support network! Interested? Learn more about Blue Star Families’ Caregiver Resources here.