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Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Caregivers Provide Critical Care to Veterans
By Nathan Schaeffer
Tuesday, November 30, 2010In 1950, Robert Lewis was still a teenager when fighting broke out on the Korean peninsula. Assigned to a military police unit with the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division, Lewis deployed to Korea with his division to help stop the invasion from the North.
From 1950 to 1952, Lewis helped guard the division headquarters, which constantly moved as the frontlines moved.
“The lines always changed,” said Lewis, who served in the Army from 1949-1954.
Today, Lewis is 78 and suffers from diabetes and other health problems that prevent him from living on his own. When his wife passed away in Jan. 2009, Lewis moved in with his grandson who lives in Talala, Okla.
Ronda Coleman, who is engaged to Lewis’ grandson, took on the role as his primary caregiver in Jan. 2009, which allows Lewis to live at home instead of in a nursing home.
“It’s definitely a full time job, because you’re taking on everything they need you to do for them,” said Coleman, who also has a full-time job. “You have to cook, clean, do their laundry, go to the grocery store, pay the bills, run errands, and set up and take him to appointments.”
A caregiver is often a family member or loved one who voluntarily takes on the daily care needs of a severely injured or chronically ill person. Their services often come with great sacrifice to their personal lives and with limited medical training or preparation.
Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center provides assistance to caregivers such as Coleman through in home visits by VA registered nurses, respite care, caregiver education and training programs, and family support services.
Sherri Foote, a RN who works for Home Based Primary Care at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa, visits Lewis every four to six weeks and works closely with Coleman.
“From what I’ve seen, Ronda’s life is centered on taking care of her Veteran,” said Foote. “She has to be here for him or provide someone to be here with him 24/7. She’s given up a lot of her personal life to take care of him.”
As the Veteran population ages and continues to increase, the role of caregivers as partners in supporting Veterans is even more prevalent. The Veteran population aged 65 and older is expected to increase from 37.4 percent to 44.8 percent by the year 2020.
VA is also treating a new era of younger, severely injured service members. Many Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will need lifetime care.
VA recognizes that the support of their caregivers is vital for these Veterans.
If you’re a caregiver and would like more information about VA programs for caregivers, please give us a call at 918-577-3421.