Social workers play a monumental role in how VA supports Veterans’ caregivers. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, VA caregiver teams have helped mitigate any lapse in care by leveraging telehealth and home visits to conduct essential check-ins with caregivers and Veterans to identify evolving needs.
For Carol Waney, a Veteran’s caregiver who resides in Niagara Falls, NY, Caregiver Support Program social workers provided her a window of opportunity to learn about caregiver resources. “I can’t say enough about how great the program is, especially the social workers,” she said. “The social workers connected me to services before I could even think about what we need. And they’re always there if I need to talk.”
March is Social Work Month.
If caregivers need a listening ear, they can turn to CSP social workers through the Caregivers Support Line (CSL) – VA Caregiver Support. The CSL is a toll-free phone line available to help caregivers navigate available resources, understand eligibility for CSP services, and even provide emotional support counseling if desired.
Danielle Farrell is a licensed master social worker who provides counseling support. Farrell previously supported the Veteran’s Crisis Line. She says the best part of her role can help caregivers in their time of need: “Sometimes caregivers need something as simple as having someone to talk to,” she said. “I feel fortunate that I am in a position where I can help callers get connected with the resources to support their loved ones while also addressing their own self-care needs.”
Work around the clock
Social workers also serve as CSP program managers who shape how CSP provides caregiver services in each VA medical center. Most recently, these social workers have worked around the clock to prepare CSP to expand the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, a CSP service available to caregivers of eligible Veterans.
With over 22,000 Veterans enrolled in PCAFC, social workers help both caregivers and Veterans identify their evolving needs to customize a plan of action.
CSP social workers work in VA medical centers. The social workers can connect caregivers to valuable services. They have leveraged their expertise to enhance resources throughout the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS), which is available to all caregivers of Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system.
Social workers ensure success
Thanks to social workers, CSP is standardizing its resources across VA. This will ensure all caregivers have access to the same level of education, support, and community partner resources.
“A tremendous amount of CSP’s success is owed to our social workers. We know they’ll play a critical role in CSP as we push the program to greater heights and allow us to provide resources in a manner that truly caters to the real caregiver experience,” said CSP Executive Director Collen Richardson, Ph.D.
Caregiver Support Program Resources
Annie Caregiver Text Support is VA’s text messaging service that promotes self-care for caregivers. Caregivers need a phone capable of text messaging to enroll.
Building Better Caregivers TM (BBC) is a 6-week online workshop for caregivers of Veterans of all eras. BBC helps caregivers in two key ways. First, it provides training in how to provide better care. Second, it helps caregivers learn how to manage their own emotions, stress and physical health.
Caregiver Education Calls are monthly telephone calls for caregivers with a theme of “Care for the Caregiver.” The topics change monthly, and presentations materials can be found on the CSP website.