Caregivers in Military Families Have Heightened Needs, New Report by the Rosalynn Carter Institute and Blue Star Families Shows

Caregiver Community Experiences Greater Financial Stress, Mental Health Challenges, and Inadequate Sleep

WASHINGTON, DC (July 6, 2021) – The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers announced today a new report that highlights the challenges experienced by the military-connected caregiver population, in partnership with Blue Star Families (BSF), the nation’s largest non-profit dedicated to supporting military families and strengthening communities across the United States The new research sheds light on the burdens faced by caregivers in military families experience, including greater financial stress, mental health challenges, and inadequate sleep compared to their civilian counterparts.  

One top report finding shows that more than a quarter of caregivers did the work of caregiving without identifying themselves as a caregiver. Twenty-six percent of caregivers did not self-identify as a “caregiver,” despite reporting they were “Exceedingly burdened” by the typical tasks of caregiving. Many caregivers consider their work as part of their overall responsibilities as a spouse, parent, or child, and are often unable to access critical support and resources from — or be acknowledged by — official caregiver support programs as a result.  

“Our new slate of research confirms that military-connected caregivers face challenges often unimaginable to the greater population. We know all caregivers shoulder the burdens of caring for loved ones, but the military lifestyle can complicate providing that care,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families. “While our military servicemembers, veterans, and families receive thanks for their service every day, caregivers in these families often go unrecognized. This research sheds new light on the issues caregivers face and how we can support those to serve our country.” 

Findings from the new report include: 

  • More than one-quarter of caregivers in military families are “exceedingly burdened” by the typical tasks of caregiving but did not identify as a caregiver 
  • 44% of caregivers in military families are caring for more than one care recipient at the same time, often kids with special needs, typically-developing kids, and a parent or grandparent; 
  • Caregivers in military families often care for “invisible” conditions, such as emotional or mental health concerns, rather than or in addition to physical health concerns; 
  • A greater proportion of caregivers in military families experience mental health challenges and sleep issues than non-caregivers; 
  • Compared to caregivers in the general U.S. population, caregivers in this military subsample are younger and a greater proportion are female and married. 

“Over the past decade, our caregiving programs have provided much-needed relief to military families, but we have only reached the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, chief executive officer of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. “The 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey gives us much more insight into the caregiving taking place in military families. We can see that caregiving in military families goes far beyond caregivers of those injured due to their military service, including aging parents and grandparents, other family members, friends, and children with special needs. And this new information will help us identify new and better ways to support military families.” 

This report was based on further analysis of data from Blue Star Families’ 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey (MFLS), the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind. The 11th annual survey, fielded from September to October of 2020, captured the experiences of nearly 11,000 respondents worldwide, including those of 3,777 caregivers in military families and their non-caregiving military peers. This special report is the first of its kind, providing a deeper exploration into caregiving among military families.                       

About Blue Star Families 

Blue Star Families is the nation’s largest grass-roots military family support organization, with a mission to support military families to improve military readiness. Its distinctive approach builds stronger communities around military families through knowledge and programs that address the unique needs of those who serve. Blue Star Families’ nationally recognized surveys and analysis give military families an important voice that informs policymakers and its military family programs. It uses the power of its collective resources and cross-sector collaborations to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of members of military families to strengthen the troops, their families, and our nation as a whole. For more information, visit bluestarfam.org.   

About The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers 

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers promotes the health, strength, and resilience of caregivers throughout the United States. Established in 1987 by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Institute’s priority is the family caregiver: those individuals who care for a relative, friend, or loved one. In 2011, RCI launched Operation Family Caregiver, which coaches the families and friends of returning service members and veterans to manage difficult transitions. To learn more about RCI, visit www.rosalynncarter.org. For more information about Operation Family Caregiver, visit www.operationfamilycaregiver.org

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