Caring For Those Left Behind
Lisa Marie Sauvan
Professor Sandra Gallegos
Chamberlain College of Nursing
NR 101 Section 28773
Caring For Those Left Behind
The United States of America is a nation that has been fighting two wars on two fronts for thirteen years. With an all-volunteer force, our nation’s military is made up of brave men and women from all walks of life, brought together for one common goal; the safety of our nation. However, with this desire for safety also comes sacrifice, and not in the way that most people think of when they think of our military members. I am referring to those who are left behind when a service member packs a bag and heads for a foreign land. The spouses, children, parents, and other dependents of these men and women. A life like no other
Being a dependent of a service member is a task that the majority of the American population will never take on. The stressors that these family members go though can be both physical and psychological, due to factors including deployment cycles, long and unpredictable duty hours, relocations, and living in a foreign country (Padden & Posey, 2013). Frequent moves that military families go through can lead to a loss of a support network. The process of having to start over every few years and find a new job, make new friends while leaving old ones and leaving everything familiar behind can take a huge toll on a person. In addition, family separations, even short ones, can leave a military spouse to report feelings of loneliness. If there is a child at home, this spouse is now effectively a single parent. Deployments to war zones can bring a whole new dimension of stressors to the family left behind, as their loved one now faces the risk of serious injury or death (Padden & Posey, 2013). How are medical professionals, who may or may not have first-hand experience with this unique lifestyle, to adjust the care that is given this portion of the population? Care Enough to Ask
While most spouses and family members of service members receive on-base medical services, there are those that are seen in civilian facilities. Families of members of reserve units more often than not live too far from a military facility, so they will seek care in the local community. As healthcare providers, it is important to ask about military affiliation and where in the deployment cycle (past, current or future) a family may be. In addition, it is important to ask questions about the service member themselves. Asking these questions can give a provider insight into stress levels, sleep quality and self-care. If symptoms of anxiety or depression are present, further screening can be recommended. This line of questioning lets the patient know that you care enough to ask. From here, additional support can be offered when needed.
Assessing the mental status of the patient can be crucial to providing proper care. “In a study of National Guard spouses, 34% met the criteria for one or more mental health problems including depression, suicide ideation, and hazardous alcohol use.” (Padden & Posey, 2013). This means that more than one out of 4 spouses of the 1.1 million military spouses have had what could be considered a mental health emergency.
Another area of concern is the coping mechanisms the spouse is currently using to deal with the stress and separation. Everything from financial situation, level of communication, level of familial dysfunction and age of the spouse can give indication of the level of coping skills said spouse possesses. Taking a full history and asking questions pertaining to these areas of concern can assist a provider in making proper recommendations.
Once all necessary information has been collected, the provider can then assist the spouse with support groups, coping skills, and stress management. Recommendations can be made with regards to self-care. Getting enough sleep can be an all important factor in self-care, as a lack of sleep can...
References: Padden, D., Posey, S. (2013, March). Caring for military spouses in primary care. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 25(3), 141-146
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