As many as a million Americans, almost all of them women, are caring at home for relatives maimed physically or emotionally during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new study Thursday.
Some work as many as 80 hours a week, providing around-the-clock care for spouses, adult children or other relatives, and they “often toil in relative obscurity,” reports the study, published by the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank with historic links to the U.S. military.
According to the Air Force Times, the study says that there is a caregiver behind each of the 50,000 troops injured in more than a decade of war, the quarter of a million with head injuries and the estimated 725,000 with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or undiagnosed traumatic brain injury.
But the study says almost nothing is known about what some have dubbed the “hidden heroes,” caring for physically or mentally disabled vets.
“What struck me was the relatively little information that had been accrued and documented on the size of this population and [its] characteristics,” lead researcher Terri Tanielian told AF Times. “Given the amount of attention we’ve paid to our wounded warriors, I was struck that we hadn’t gotten further along in trying to understand who their caregivers were.”
The study, “Military Caregivers: Cornerstones of Support for Our Nation’s Wounded, Ill and Injured Veterans,” reviewed existing reports and interviewed caregivers and advocacy groups.
It says most of those caring for wounded troops are women. A survey three years ago by the National Alliance for Caregiving said 96 percent were women.