Jeannette’s husband returned from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, signs and symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and advanced bone and disc degeneration. His symptoms got worse over time, but Jeannette knew things were forever changed from the very beginning when he was easily angered, confused, and often called her to ask where he was. She knew that their marriage roles had changed – she was now the rock, the decision maker, and 100% in charge of their lives.
Jeannette cared for her husband at home but found difficulty in balancing her work life and home life, and she ended up leaving her beloved job. Once she quit, she felt that others didn’t understand why she couldn’t manage both work and caregiving, and she felt discriminated against because she chose her husband over her career. Later, when she tried to find part-time employment, she found it very difficult to find organizations willing to provide the support and flexibility she needed. She felt that once potential employers learned about her husband, her caregiving role, and that she left her last job due to her care responsibilities, they just weren’t interested in giving her a chance to prove herself.
Jeannette participated in the VA’s Caregiver Support Program, and while she did receive some basic care training, the program didn’t prepare her emotionally for the challenges of caring for someone who struggled with anger, memory issues, and someone who had a hard time comprehending the world around him. Sadly, Jeannette’s husband can no longer live at home. His care needs have exceeded what she can provide. She would like to find a mid-level care home for him to keep his service dog, but the VA only offers State Homes, where his dog won’t be allowed to live, and in which Jeannette fears she will no longer be considered a caregiver even though she will still be deeply involved in his care. Jeannette says that, “being a caregiver is the loneliest job you will ever have, but it is also the most grateful job you will ever have.”