The Armed Forces Community ; A Carers Experience
Carers from the Armed Forces Community
We recognise that differing communities have differing needs and we must ensure that we work with the communities themselves to tackle them. Working with our partners the Veterans Hub (Wyke Regis), the Defence Medical Welfare Service and the NHS Dorset CCG we applied to NHS England in 2021 for a small grant to find out more about the experiences of carers from the Armed Forces community.
We gathered feedback from 202 carers/cared for people, which has highlighted considerable need. We have found out that carers from this community tend to start caring at an earlier age than the general population of carers which means that they are juggling paid employment with their caring role and that there are specific issues around people seeking support and coping with mental health needs. We are now planning how we can tackle this need with our partners, the carers, and the wider Armed Forces community.
In March 2023, Prama members sat down with Linda W and Linda D to discuss their experiences of caring for the partners who live with PTSD.
Linda W (left)
Linda met her husband 30 years ago, after he had just left the Army.
"Within six weeks of married life, P was re called to the Army, his regiment the Royal Artillery wanted him back and off he went with them to Bosnia for six months. I think of our first seven years of marriage I saw Pablo for just three years, he was away from the UK a lot including serving in Afghanistan".
"P eventually broke down whilst on guard duty six years ago, he was then medically discharged. His friends in the Army were surprised because he was always happy and smiling, but that was part of the problem, P wasn’t coping, and he was hiding it because he couldn’t find a way to ask for help. I knew how bad all these experiences were for him, after watching a film about Afghanistan".
Understanding that her husband’s mental health was not what it should have been, Linda found that there we various factors that could trigger P, including loud sounds, being amongst people, feeling trapped in.
As for me I am just tired, it is hard work caring for P, you must be hyper vigilant especially when we go out.
What would help me is to be with other people and to have a laugh, I don’t just want to talk about being a carer and be known as that, I want to have friends and just be me."
Linda D (right)
Linda met her husband, G, 29 years ago. "He was still in the Army. G had served in the first Gulf War. Even though we hit it off immediately, I felt G needed help. I wondered whether both having difficult childhoods brought us together."
"It has been difficult for us because of his PTSD. I know that it is not him and I am not kidding myself, it is the PTSD which affects him; what he has seen and done in the Army. The more I understood about what G had gone through the more I understood why he behaved in the way he does".
Linda expressed how helpful therapy has been for her husband, by talking about his experiences with someone who specialises in supporting people with PTSD.
"In 2022 I attended a presentation about carers from the armed forces community. For a long time, I never saw myself as a carer only as a wife and never thought that there could be support for me. During the presentation which covered a lot of feedback from other carers, I said to another wife sat next to me “that is my life up there, they could be describing me,” it made such a difference just knowing that you are not alone, that others were going through the same experiences." I want to join a support group for carers, I want to share my story and help others. We – carers must be able to help each other.
Linda and G recently got a PTSD dog to support G day-to-day, this has benefitted G with his confidence of leaving the house by himself and is now able to go to the shops without Linda by his side.
Many local carers are not aware of the existing support, which is available, and many support services are not aware of the needs of the carers. We will raise awareness of and support carers to access support which is available from statutory, private, and voluntary organisations including military charities/community groups.
We will work with carers and armed forces partners to influence local services to develop their practice and understanding, so that they are more responsive to carers from the Armed Forces community.
And we will continue learning, by engaging with new carers in different areas, it is crucial that we keep listening and responding to the needs of carers.
For more information about PramaLIFE Support for Carers, click here
For enquiries, please contact Chris, PramaLIFE Programmes Director - firstname.lastname@example.org
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