AMERICUS, GEORGIA – At a time when many Americans are feeling isolated and disconnected, the Rosalynn Carter Institute is proud to partner with Caregivers on the Homefront, RallyPoint, and the American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) to expand outreach to caregivers. Through these three exciting partnerships, RCI will provide virtual programming and tools to empower caregivers who support service members and veterans across the United States and around the world.
Serving military families is a priority for RCI, which launched its signature military program, Operation Family Caregiver (OFC), nearly 7 years ago. OFC provides free and confidential coaching to help the families of returning service members and veterans develop new skills that make the difficult decisions they face feel more manageable and achievable. The program is tailored to the unique needs of military families. It helps caregivers find strength through their journey, so they feel fully capable of living their best lives, regardless of what life throws at them.
“When the brave men and women of our military are called to serve, they do not serve alone. Caregivers help service members and veterans to deal with the physical, mental, and emotional wounds associated with military service,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, Executive Director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. “I am so grateful to our partners at Caregivers on the Homefront, RallyPoint, and the MVCN for their leadership to empower caregivers across the United States.”
Caregivers on the Homefront provides in-person and, now increasingly, online support groups, educational workshops, and mental health and wellness restorative weekends for caregivers of veterans and active servicemembers. In response to COVID-19, Caregivers on the Homefront has also sent out care packages to caregivers, including masks, hand sanitizer, and self-care items, and is preparing to offer mental health counseling – in-person and virtually – starting by June 1.
“Like so many military spouses, I’m proud to support and provide care to my husband, a 23-year Army veteran who served his country with distinction. But as rewarding as caregiving can be, it can also be challenging and lonely,” said Shawn Moore, founder and executive director of Caregivers on the Homefront. “I started Caregivers on the Homefront to provide the kind of resources, support, and connection that I thought was missing as a new caregiver, and it’s amazing to see our network continue to grow stronger through partnerships like this one.”
At the same time Shawn launched Caregivers on the Homefront, she completed Operation Family Caregiver herself, working with an OFC coach who helped her put things in perspective and move forward. Among OFC’s greatest assets are the resources that coaches provide to caregivers. RallyPoint and the MVCN are also excellent resources for the military community, providing social outlets through their digital networking platforms.
RallyPoint is an online community open to military servicemembers, veterans, family members, supporters, and caregivers, providing a peer-to-peer support network 24 hours a day. Members can ask and answer questions, share information and resources, and talk about the challenges and opportunities their community faces. During COVID-19, RallyPoint is now a hub for information sharing related to the pandemic.
Operation Family Caregiver, a veteran-focused program at RCI, has its own presence on the RallyPoint platform, where program participants can connect, and everyone can learn more about OFC. OFC participants have a direct online sign-up option for RallyPoint.
“RallyPoint is a virtual meeting place for veterans, active servicemembers, military families and friends, and a growing number of caregivers,” said Dave Gowel, a U.S. Army veteran and CEO of RallyPoint. “Our mission is to help all members of the military community lead more successful and fulfilling lives, and that is made possible, in part, through building a strong, resilient community of support. In RallyPoint, caregivers – including those joining us from RCI – will find that community.”
The MVCN also offers peer-based support for military and veteran caregivers of all eras through an online community. An initiative of the American Red Cross, MVCN was developed to reduce social isolation amongst caregivers, a challenge many caregivers face, even more so now during the COVID-19 public health crisis. To help users connect virtually, the MVCN provides Zoom Caregiver Connection groups and virtual Red Cross Caregiver Workshops, as well as weekly peer support groups and weekly self-care sessions.
“Since the start of this pandemic, the MVCN has seen an increase in participation across all of our online offerings, which speaks to the tremendous need being felt in our community,” said Melissa Comeau, the MVCN Director. “Now, perhaps more than ever, our military and veteran caregivers need a safe place to connect, share their experiences, and access resources and supports. The MVCN is that home base for our caregivers, and we’re excited to partner with Operation Family Caregiver at RCI to ensure that even more caregivers can access these services.”