24 hours of relief: Caretaker describes how respite care can save military families from crisis

ST, JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – 24 hours of respite relief is available to military caregivers in Florida thanks to a new million-dollar donation to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Respite care is short-term relief provided by the help of in-home care professionals

The foundation is leveraging its partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs to reach as many military families as possible.

ARE YOU A MILITARY CAREGIVER?: Claim your 24 hours of no-cost respite care here.

Respite care advocate Jennifer Smith Mackinday knows the rewards and challenges that come with caregiving for a veteran. She cares for her brother who spent years in the military serving as an army specialist.

“My brother served our country and sacrificed for our country and I find it truly an honor to be able to take care of him, but it’s a lot of work,” she said.

Retired Army Specialist James Smith was severely injured during combat in Mosul, Iraq in 2005. An IED attack caused his traumatic brain injury and triggered post-traumatic stress disorder. Since his injuries in 2005, Smith Mackinday took on the responsibilities of becoming his full-time caregiver.

In 2012, after more than 7 years of being Smith’s sole caregiver, Smith Mackinday, experienced a crisis of her own.

“I was going through really severe depression and actually had thoughts of suicide,” she said

It was during this crisis moment she learned about respite care through help from the Wounded Warrior Project. Smith Mackinday found out she was suffering from caregiver burnout and that its a common problem for millions of military caregivers across the country. She said she also struggled with feelings of guilt for needing help and had issues trusting another person to help her brother.

Smith Mackinday was able to overcome those feelings and only did-so through therapy, yoga, and eventually, respite care.

“Once we started getting help taking care of my brother, I realized I wasn’t in this alone. He wasn’t in this alone, and we were going to be okay.”

She now uses her voice to encourage other caregivers to accept the help.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation amplifies voices like Smith Mackinday’s. Their new respite relief program was funded by a million-dollar donation from the home healthcare organization, CareLinx. It made 40,000 hours of free respite relief available to people in Florida, California, and Texas.

“This is what happens when public and private sectors come together. This is so important and such an amazing resource we are happy to offer,” she said. Vice President of Programs and Partnerships Rashi Venkataraman Romanoff

Romanoff said the Elizabeth Dole Foundation is looking for more donations to be able to expand locations where they can provide relief.

To make a donation or explore a partnership with the foundation email respiterelief@elizabethdolefoundation.org.

RESOURCE FOR GEORGIANS: Use the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center

For neighbors and friends of caregivers, Smith-Mackinday said there’s other ways to help.

“Just pulling up the recycling bin to the curb or offering to pick up items from the grocery store can be a huge help. Another thing is to remain socially distant if you see the caregiver or veteran on a walk through the neighborhood. Just provide that sense of community support around them,” she said.

Read more about caregiving for a veteran during coronavirus here.


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