Why should taxpayers dollars go directly to a spouse for doing what she/he likely agreed to when committing to that person “through sickness and in health”?
Well, just like when people tell my husband he is a hero for doing what he did in Afghanistan, he says he was just doing his job. Spouses are doing the same.
But does that mean he doesn’t deserve to be compensated for a job that put his life at risk doing things our government (with the support of most Canadians) asked him to? Of course he does, and so do the spouses. They are often putting their lives on hold to do what the government has not been able to do effectively.
Please hear me out. Caring for and supporting a person with PTSD can be a full time responsibility, one that has life and death consequences. Although it may not actually take full-time hours that a ‘normal’ job, it is a full time energy sucking and emotionally draining job that no one would ever choose nor are there any real training or support for, and it is NOT the fault of the member. I can wholeheartedly say that for most injured vets that I have met that are suffering from PTSD, many would not be alive if it weren’t for the caring people in their lives. People that did not give up, give in, burn out, or have to get away to save themselves and/or their children. Some caregivers are spouses, others are parents, others just really amazing friends and family.
*Notice that this does not include any military programs, supports or services (although I hope they have been helpful for some, it has not been my experience). Caregivers become counsellors, housekeepers, financial advisors, etc.
But it must also be mentioned that part of this caregivers ‘job’ is the never ending amount of forms to complete, appointments to attend, letters/memos to read/write (and attempt to understand). Not to forget all the doubling up of paperwork as nearly all of it gets lost the first time around. This is enough to drive any mentally healthy person over the edge in frustration, but yet it is expected of our mental ill soldiers (which is why it eventually ends up as part of the caregiving role).
I feel the need to add that although many people understand the symptoms of PTSD to include depression, anger, anxiety, nightmares, sleeplessness and of course those are a huge part for most people with PTSD. But there are many other equally problematic symptoms like severe short or long term memory loss, the inability to concentrate for any length of time, and the inability to problem solving when stressed. These can be debilitating when you are expected to navigate a very complex, ever changing network of government programs and services with which you have little to no experience or support. It would be like asking a person in a wheelchair to go up a flight of stairs and then wonder why it is taking them so long or they are complaining about it. The government asks members with PTSD to complete 20+ pages of documents written in ‘legal-ease’, then re-do it in 6 months as it somehow got lost in transit, and then blame them for missing a question or not providing yet another copy to another office.
So yes, caregivers keep many of our injured Vets alive and many vets are now thriving again despite their injuries and despite the crippling roadblocks that are placed in their way by the very programs that are supposed to help them (which cost millions of $ to manage!).
So in a world where we value effort made with financial compensation, then yes, caregivers deserve this recognition (unfortunately I suspect it will take a lot of paperwork before any caregiver sees any money!)
Until we can fix the system, I am grateful that there are baby steps like this to give us hope that future caregivers.