February 29, 2024

Ohio military and veteran families struggle with caregiving costs

By Nadia Ramlagan

Ohioans who provide care for veterans spend on average more than $1,100 yearly of their personal income on out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving, which is 1.5 times higher than what family caregivers in other parts of the country spend, AARP data showed.

Most caregivers are looking after individuals who are age 50 or older, according to the nonprofit Family Caregiver Alliance.

Amy Goyer, national family and caregiving expert for AARP, said aging and disability resource centers across Ohio can help families navigate finances and get the help they need.

“There may be meals that can be delivered,” Goyer outlined. “It’s possible they may be eligible for some low-income heating an energy assistance program that can help with pay with your utility bills.”

Goyer also pointed to the Hidden Heroes Hope Fund for critical financial assistance for military and veteran caregivers, which provides grants specifically to caregivers to alleviate a significant crisis or improve quality of life. She added, the financial relief fills the gaps other programs may not cover, such as medical bills, transportation for appointments or loss of income.

Shawn Moore, caregiving expert for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, said having community and outside support networks is critical for caregivers’ own physical and mental health.

“Having other people that understand and who are going through this journey as well,” Moore emphasized. “Whether it be ‘I’m having a tough time with finances, I’m having a tough time with my mental health. I’m having a tough time supporting my kids through all this.'”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offers resources for caregivers of veterans enrolled in VA health care through the VA Caregiver Support Program, which provides caregivers with access to VA health care benefits, financial aid, mental health services and up to 30 days of respite care.

Only 34% of veterans nationwide have used benefits, according to census data.

Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.