The goal of RAND's military health policy research is to help the U.S. Department of Defense and Veterans Health Administration meet the challenges of providing the best care possible to this diverse population, while containing costs.
Right now there are 5.5 million wives, husbands, siblings, parents, children and friends devoted to the care of those injured fighting America's wars. Theirs is an all-consuming, emotionally draining task, one that has been driven for too long by loyalty and love, but little support.
A world without military caregivers would be a harsher one for all, particularly for those who have served. Caregivers' sacrifices improve the lives of wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, more of whom would suffer without them.
Caregiving can take a lot of time and impose a heavy burden on caregiver health and well-being. But finding and utilizing support resources can help. Support services for military caregivers may provide respite care, financial stipends, health care and mental health care services, and more.
This summary distills a longer report, Hidden Heroes: America's Military Caregivers. It describes the magnitude of military caregiving in the United States, identifies gaps in support services, and offers recommendations.
Health care providers can support military caregivers in many ways: acknowledge them as part of the health care team, routinely assess caregiving needs and the presence of caregiver support, integrate them into health providers' culture, and adopt appropriate caregiver documentation requirements to facilitate their engagement.