As people stay home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the sting of separation from friends and family is being felt across the country. The need for online connection and community is greater than ever – especially for those isolated before this pandemic. Veterans and caregivers of veterans are even more cut off from outside support due to COVID-19 and have a greater need for connection.
Melissa Comeau, director, the American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network and veteran caregiver, shares why the need is so great. “I learned early on in my caregiver journey that access to support for my family would be limited by injuries, transportation, childcare, respite, finances and more. What I needed the most was a sense of community and a place of shared understanding. I needed to find alternatives and break barriers. Fast forward ten years and we are facing a new barrier in the form of a pandemic. I find myself needing my community even more.”
ONLINE SUPPORT PROGRAMS
To answer that call for support, the American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN) created online programs for caregivers to engage, share and learn from instructors and one another. It provides our nation’s military and veteran caregivers of all eras with peer support to reduce isolation and increase connection, engagement, knowledge, skills and hope. Through these programs, caregivers have the freedom to connect online in a secure, confidential, peer-moderated environment.
Comeau explains in-depth the strength of this network, “An all caregiver team leads the development of this network. We chose leading edge technologies to deliver quality peer support right into the homes of caregivers across the globe. Building this network with the best video conferencing software, we have been able to reach caregivers wherever they may be. We have a secure, custom caregiver online community that operates as the hub of all our programs and services.
“Caregivers connect for virtual peer support groups via video conferencing and weekly wellbeing activities. We have our ‘caregiver chats’ where caregivers can participate in a text-only format which is helpful if you are at the hospital or sitting with your veteran. We also have our peer mentor matching platform which connects caregivers to trained peer mentors that have a similar lived experience.”
The MVCN is proving that online communities make a difference in the lives of veteran caregivers. Recently, the RAND Corporation studied the MVCN’s virtual communities and found a decrease in social isolation through online engagement. The study concluded that social isolation decreased within three months for new military caregivers who joined an online peer support community.
Learn more about the Red Cross MVCN here.
COMMUNITY CUTS ISOLATION
During these uncertain times, finding strength in community is essential. The MVCN is actively reaching out to veteran caregivers and proving that no one is unreachable. Comeau shares, “As the country practices social distancing we are ramping up our efforts and creating more opportunities to connect with each other. We are demonstrating our leadership with heart centric technology approaches. We all need a safe place to share concerns and get reliable information. We need to locate and leverage resources in our communities. We need each other. Let’s not define this period of separation by isolation but by consideration for our fellow man.”
YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR TROOPS
In the face of natural disasters, just like COVID-19, the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces continues to support our military, veterans, and their families domestically and overseas. Find out how you can volunteer your time to support our military at home and across the globe by visiting online at redcross.org/saf or downloading our Hero Care app in English or Spanish.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org/southflorida or visit us on Facebook and Twitter at @SFLRedCross.