MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Isolation and depression are common problems during the pandemic, especially for injured service members, veterans and their caregivers. An American Red Cross program is helping families get the resources they need.

Melissa Allen’s husband, Patrick, served two tours in Iraq. After the first, she noticed something was different. Following the second tour, she said everything changed. Now she’s her husband’s primary caregiver.

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“The nightmares, the night terrors, the paranoia, the anxiety, the depression, the traumatic brain injury, the memory. I realized I have got to step up into this role and understand what it means that I need to do,” she said.

She joined the American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network and found resources and support she didn’t know were available.

Melissa Comeau is the director of the program. She said it is “providing mentors for caregivers who are new to the journey, and peer support groups for those to share the journey, and really providing that safe space for caregivers to talk about the challenges and the successes of caregiving.”

Comeau said during the pandemic, these families have experienced increasing isolation. The network has now doubled in size.

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“We went from running three peer support groups a week to running sometimes seven. We have caregiver text only chats to get peer support with a text only format, you can sit right next to your care recipient,” she said.

The network also offers virtual tools for self-care to encourage caregivers to take care of themselves.

“I honestly would have been lost in the pandemic because they were able to connect me with a peer, connect me to resources, to help navigate a situation that nobody has been in before,” said Allen.

Allen encourages other caregivers to reach out for help.

“This is a way that you don’t have to go at it alone,” she said.

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Allen said the program makes her feel like somebody is always by her side.

CBSMiami.com Team