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Caring for the Caregiver this Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is on the horizon and for most of us, it¹s a blessed three-day
weekend where we can sleep in, char something on the BBQ and relax with our
friends.

But for the one in four people in this country who are caregivers, people
parenting their parents or dealing with a sick, injured or disabled loved
one, Memorial Day may not be any break at all.

For the wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who have returned home,
more than 320,000 of them with some form of a brain injury, one day is
mostly like the next, which bleeds into the next. There are very few
opportunities for a break.

Memorial Day is supposed to be a day to pay tribute to the troops, to step
back and honor those who have served their country. But for most of us,
it¹s a three-day weekend.

Somehow in America, we have moved from the Greatest Generation in WWII to
the dishonored generation in Vietnam --- ask a Vietnam vet sometime how he
was welcomed home from the war. "They threw rocks at me in the parade," I
vividly recall one vet telling me. And now in the wars of Iraq and
Afghanistan, we don¹t quite know what to do with this generation of
veterans.

In the present wars, we seem to be there on the surface as a country, but
not for the long haul. We shake their hands or smile when we spot a solider
in uniform at an airport. And then we go back to our lives, to our
schedules, to our jobs and to our homes. And all the while, as we move ever
forward, enjoy a moment of repose for ourselves, scattered throughout the
country is the caregiver. She is changing the adult diapers on her
bedridden marine son, bucking up her amputee husband. He is welcoming home a
daughter who may scream out from nightmares in her sleep. This Memorial Day
weekend those caregivers won¹t get a break.

I will always remember the look of the marine¹s wife in Texas who had to be
put into a safe house after her childhood sweetheart had tried to strangle
her for the third time in her sleep. I¹ve thought many times since then
about the courage it must have taken for her to leave with the kids, the
energy she had spent caring for his emotional wounds and then trying to make
it ³all right² for her children. Who is caring for her?

Most of the attention is focused on the patient in any given medical crisis
or difficult situation. We often forget to think about the families and the
people caring for them.

The caregiver is often referred to as the unsung hero. But they are also
the hidden clients in any medical situation. They are the incidental
victims, slowly ground down by the fatigue of caring for a loved one, often
at the expense of his or her own health. And if you think that caregiving
doesn¹t apply to you, chances are it does. It was Roselyn Carter who said
that there are four kinds of people in the world, those who are caregivers,
those who have been caregivers, those who will be and those who will need
one.

I¹d like to propose that we all pause and honor those who have so bravely
served their country this Memorial Day, both in the present wars and in
those that have come before. Maybe you¹re not a military person or you
don¹t agree with the war. I certainly understand that.

But let¹s take the politics out of it for a second. Supporting our veterans
is simply not a political issue. It doesn¹t matter whether you are for or
against this war. What we all have to do is separate the war from the
warrior. Our veterans and service members are the only ones who have been
asked to sacrifice after Sept 11th. We need to support those who have
raised their hands to go overseas and have come home different, injured,
wounded. And we need to support those who are caring for them.

So how do you help? Well‹you can sign up to twitter this Memorial Day. And
while you are grilling or at a sports event or sitting at a beach this
coming holiday weekend, twittering to your friends, you can help a veteran
and their family. Think of it like a nationwide car wash for a good cause.

I¹ll be tweeting my little head off about my chicken apple sausage or the
kids fighting over the remote control or the fact that no one is helping me
walk the dog. I can¹t imagine anyone cares a clipped hangnail about my new
underwear purchase at Target - but if it goes to a good cause, hey, just
watch me tweet my stuff.

Would you give a dollar to someone who risked their life for you? Now you
can. The Bob Woodruff Foundation, (Remind.org) is harnessing the power of Twitter over Memorial Day so that every time you tweet about the ballgame or your plans for the BBQ, a dollar goes to a wounded veteran who has served
their country. The goal is to raise a dollar for each of the 1.65 million
service members who have cycled through Iraq and Afghanistan. The money
goes to local support services and resources to assist their recovery from
the physical and psychological wounds of war.

Thanks to my new friends at twitter, it couldn¹t be easier this coming
Memorial Day. All you have to do is log onto tweettoremind.org/