- - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jennifer Jeffery wants something she used to have and hopes to have again — a familiar and normal life.

Before her husband Mark’s injuries, the Jeffreys owned a computer company and Jennifer worked in the medical profession as a research assistant and office manager. She loved to sew and do crafts, but her days have little time for that now.

Mark returned from deployment in Iraq with traumatic brain injury, PTSD and a knee injury. He has no short-term memory and is easily confused and disoriented. From sun-up to sun-down, Jennifer is with him to help him cope with the daily maze of his life, administer his medications and make his meals. Mark can’t drive or cook for himself — twice he set the house on fire by accident.

Jennifer takes him shopping with her if the stores aren’t too busy — crowds stress him out — and several times a week Jennifer drives him to VA appointments. While Mark does what he can to help around the house, even his really good days are challenging because Jennifer is then lulled into a false sense of normalcy and not prepared for the incidents that occur.

Weekly visits from their daughter give Jennifer a chance to meet with friends and get caught up on housework. She wishes she had more of that kind of time, and that other people could understand the situation and possibly lend a hand. There are no time outs in caregiving — it is a 24/7 responsibility.

Jennifer’s goal as an Elizabeth Dole Fellow is to bring awareness to the needs of military caregivers. She knows many caregivers feel overwhelmed and believes they may suffer from secondary PTSD and depression.

She’d also like to see health providers recognize that caregivers are an important voice in the medical care of their loved one. And she hopes that she and her husband will be able to make their changed lives feel normal again.

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