Patriotic Article
Military

Taking Care Of Self, Take Care Of Others
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Widemond - March 24, 2015

FORT STEWART, Ga. – At any given moment, a soldier travels in three circles – the Unit Life Cycle, the Soldier Life Cycle, and the Family Life Cycle—as part of the Army's Composite Life Cycle Model. The CLCM offers a holistic look at hou a soldier's life may be affected by various transitions – promotions, re-enlistments, deployments, and family issues – many of which may happen at the same time.

In the 188th Infantry Brigade, a training brigade responsible for advising and assisting National Guard and Reserve soldiers across the United States with training, the ULC spins rapidly and unceasingly, while the other two cycles fluctuate with changing circumstances. This inconsistency can burden even the most seasoned soldiers with unnecessary stress. The Army seeks to provide as many tools as possible to ease the burden and help soldiers remain focused on the mission.

November 4, 2014 - An observer-coach/trainer for 188th Infantry Brigade provides buddy aid to a fallen teammate during a field exercise at Fort Benning, Ga. Regardless of what is going on around them, soldiers often have to take care of the mission at hand. Being a caregiver to aging parents may be one of the many tasks that a soldier has to handle, in addition to be a leader and a warrior. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Widemond)
November 4, 2014 - An observer-coach/trainer for 188th Infantry Brigade provides buddy aid to a fallen teammate during a field exercise at Fort Benning, Ga. Regardless of what is going on around them, soldiers often have to take care of the mission at hand. Being a caregiver to aging parents may be one of the many tasks that a soldier has to handle, in addition to be a leader and a warrior. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Widemond)

“In a service that does not always offer the most comfortable of situations, soldiers adjust and adapt. This is not always possible,” said Dr. Lois Ricci, American Association of Retired Persons volunteer. She provided the brigade with a class on the role of being a caregiver for aging parents.

“How would you react if you got a phone call and the person on the other end said, ‘Dad had a stroke',” Dr. Lois Ricci, an American Association of Retired Persons volunteer, asked the group. She provided the brigade with a class on the role of being a caregiver for aging parents.

According the United States Census Bureau, 1 in 5 Americans will be 60 years of age or older by 2015; by 2030, the senior population is expected to increase by 71 percent, to 2.1 million from 1.2 million in 2000.

“This seminar provided me with great insight on how to begin the conversation between my father and sister in providing for his well-being,” said Sgt. 1st Class Byron Horne, Army Guard Reserve S1 non-commissioned officer in charge, 188th Infantry Brigade. He has a father who is leaning on him to provide care and was not aware of all the resources that were available to help him in his journey.

“It's not a comfortable topic, but it something that has to be talked about,” said Karen Duncan, an intern with AmeriCorps, the stateside version of Peace Corps. She said that soldiers are taught to be resilient, but when it comes to caregiving, it is important for soldiers to know their capabilities and their capacities.

“It is okay to tell a person that you are not able to do something. Not everything goes according to plan; caregiving is anything but controlled.”

This may be a challenge for soldiers who are taught to lead and take charge to get the mission done.

“I learned that I cannot have the “take charge” mindset. I have to be cognizant of the other person, who is still capable of being independent. I have to step back and make sure the care plan is still their plan,” said Horne.

Family members also have the task of being caregivers, taking on the care of veterans who may have returned from deployment with serious injuries. A study on military caregivers conducted last year cited that there are 5.5 million military caregivers, and 20 percent of those are caring for someone who has served since Sep. 11, 2001.

“We have caregivers who are out there barely treading water because they feel isolated. It is important for them to step back and go to someone who may know the answers,” said Duncan. There are several resources online and on Fort Stewart to assist those who provide care. The Soldier and Family Assistance Care center near the Warrior Transition campus is a good place to start. Those who do not have an installation nearby can go online to the Veteran's Administration Caregiver or the National Military Family Association.

However, providing care is not always about the other person.

“You also have to take care of yourself. You must take care of yourself because even though your parents are aging, you are aging, too,” Ricci said.

“I also need to start thinking about my long term care, because I may be in the same situation my father is in,” Horne said.

The three cycles soldiers circumnavigate during the course of their career may be a challenge to remaining resilient; it is important to remember that there are resources available to keep them from treading water.

“There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It takes a strong person to know when to ask for help,” said Ricci.

By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Widemond
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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