Critter Corner: New VA Training Effort Launched for Providers and Caregivers of Veterans

Dear Ernie and Jannette,

I am a caregiver for my husband, an army veteran named Steve. He gets regular treatment for a mild traumatic brain injury and for persistent migraines. He has countless appointments through our local Veteran Affairs (VA) hospital. We work together to make sure he’s getting what he needs and can keep track of everything.

Unfortunately, I can’t attend all his appointments, and what’s said or decided there simply doesn’t always make it back to me. The result often is that his needs fall through the cracks, his appointments are missed or left unscheduled and care that he should be receiving simply doesn’t happen, since I don’t know everything that is discussed.

I heard that the VA has a new communication program for caregivers and providers. Do you know about it and if it can help someone in my situation?

Thanks!

Milla Terry-Karegiva

Dear Milla,

Thank you to you and your husband for your service to our country.

You are correct that the Department of Veterans Affairs has plans to field a new training program aimed at better communication for caregivers and health providers. It is aimed at making it easier for caregivers to have information on what their veterans need, regardless of whether they attend all appointments.

The new training, called the Campaign for Inclusive Care, was rolled out last month in partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which advocates for military caregivers, and USAA, which is funding the effort.

“We know that our providers are always used to speaking to patients, and we have to remember that patients can’t always paint the full picture, or won’t always paint the full picture,” said Lisa Pape, the deputy chief for patient care services at the VA.

These are some things that the VA hopes to address with their new training program:

  • The hope is to develop a model of care that better incorporates the caregiver into the treatment plan and care of the veteran.
  • There is a disconnect between what’s said to the patient and what gets communicated. Because providers don’t pause to ask who else might need to know what is happening at any given appointment, no steps are ever made to make sure the people who need the information are getting it.
  • By keeping caregivers more in the loop, the hope is that it will ultimately help veterans get better, more consistent care.
  • The new program also hopes to raise awareness and educate providers on how to integrate caregivers into their treatment team.
  • In the future, the hope is that the caregiver would be able to log into a records portal after each of their love one’s appointments and simply review notes. That capability isn’t available yet, but it could be a possibility later as the VA updates its patient records system. For now the focus is on changing the communication culture.

To start, the VA will be providing three sets of in-person trainings in the Ohio region, Texas and the Pacific Northwest. They’ll also be rolling out a 15 minute web-based education module for providers.

Roxana Delgada, a veteran research advisor, Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow and caregiver for her veteran husband, said “I truly believe there’s no success unless there’s a team and the team starts at home,” she said. “As veterans move forward and continue to have rehab for long term disability or long-term health care, the family member is the only constant variable there. If the healthcare system can embrace us as an important element of recovery and rehab, it’s just a win-win.”

For more details on the Campaign for Inclusive Care, visit https://www.elizabethdolefoundation.org/campaign-inclusive-care/.

Hope this new VA communications training program is helpful for caregivers of veterans, such as yourself!

Ernie and Jannette

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