All year round, Kentucky families provide care for veterans at cost of $11k a year out of pocket

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Veterans Day is behind us, but all year round, Kentuckians provide care for the veterans they love. According to data from AARP, they spend on average more than $11,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving.

Families caring for veterans. (Photo provided/AARP)

In a region with a high number of military families, said Gary Adkins, AARP Kentucky volunteer state president, the stresses of veteran caregiving affect entire communities.

“It’s a terrible situation,” he said. “Kentuckians caring for veterans shouldn’t have to worry about finances on top of their caregiving responsibilities. But many do.”

Research shows 43% of veteran and military caregivers experienced at least one financial setback, such as having to take on more debt or dip into personal savings. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Caregiver Support Program offers financial-aid, mental-health and respite-care services, but only 34% of Kentucky’s more than 233,000 veterans have used these benefits at their local VA center, according to census data.

Nationwide, millions of veteran and military caregivers provide the equivalent of $14 billion in unpaid labor. Adkins said veterans and their families deserve better.

“Our veterans have fought for our families, for our country, and a world where our kids can grow up and inherit a future,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of times, our veterans are left hanging.”

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation has developed an online guide for veterans and their caregivers to help prioritize mental and emotional health. Tips include talking and processing feelings with a friend, counselor or therapist, engaging in positive activities, setting boundaries, and recognizing warning signs such as changes in alcohol consumption or persistent feelings of hopelessness.

AARP also has a Family Caregiving hotline, open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, at 877-333-5885, and online through the AARP Facebook Family Caregivers Discussion Group.

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