VA Caregiver Conference Wraps Up Today in Washington

The 2011 National Caregiver Support Conference, “Caring for Those Who Care for Our Veterans,” wraps up today in Washington, D.C. The conference is part of the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, which has expanded veterans benefits to include the loved ones who care for them. The Act also creates caregiver support services through a caregiver website, a monthly stipend for caregivers of post-9/11 Veterans and health insurance. Caregivers of Veterans need support

This year’s conference was kicked off by keynote speaker Dr. Robert Pretzel, Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary of Health. Dr. Pretzel praised family caregivers as an integral part of providing care and services to Veterans and “full partners with VA.” Staff members from Veterans Administration medical centers across the U.S. are in attendance to learn and share best practices in caring for both service members and the family members who care for them.

While the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 addresses Veterans who served in active duty on or after 9/11/2001, the conference addresses needs of caregivers serving Veterans of all eras. Efforts to aid caregivers also include caregiver training, offered via home study or in traditional classroom format, and the caregiver support website offers a zip code search allowing users to locate the nearest caregiver support coordinator (based at a VA medical center). Caregiver stories, links to relevant resources and ways to connect with the VA program and useful tools, such as medication logs, are also readily available from the program’s website.

Applications for monthly caregiver stipends are already underway; in fact, more than 550 stipends have already been approved at an average of $1,600 per month.

The VA Caregiver Conference is different from the National Caregiver Conference conducted annually by The Family Support Center, scheduled for October 27, 2011 in Iselin, New Jersey. The New York Times bestselling author Gail Sheehey is this year’s keynote speaker, widely recognized for her writing on caregiving and elder care.

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