Tips for Caregivers

To all the caregivers of wounded warriors and disabled Veterans, I would like to share some important information with you. Four months ago my husband, a disabled Veteran, fell and needed surgery to repair his knee. After the surgery, he was not able to sleep in our bed or to walk. He had the same surgery on the left knee fourteen years ago, which also needs to be repaired. The VA will not do surgery on that knee because of his young age, and they stated that he would need it again in the future. He also had three strokes (TIAs) that left him somewhat weak on his left side. This overworked the right leg, which made him unstable, and he would fall. I knew he needed a hospital bed and a power chair to make life easier, but I did not know where to start. If your loved one (the Veteran) has had surgery and recovery time is one month or longer, there is assistance. Veterans with weak extremities or who are unstable can also seek pertinent assistance. To help caregivers eliminate stress, please follow these steps:

  • Do not contact the primary care doctor yourself because he or she will tell you to call the medical advice line. The number is (202) 745-8245.
  • Tell the medical advice line assistant what you need and why. For example, my husband just had surgery, and he is not comfortable in our bed. I am his caregiver, and it is very difficult for me to help lift him out of bed because of my back. The surgeon said that my husband’s recovery time will be at least one year. So I want the doctor to put in a consult for an electric bed, a wheelchair, and a chair setting (motorized wheelchair or scooter). The medical team will decide what is best for them.
  • The Veteran will receive an appointment within one month. Accept the appointment, but do not wait until that date to start the process. Speak with the chief of prosthetics and explain your situation directly. He will check the computer to see if the doctor has sent the request for the consult.
  • If the consult request is there, let him know how the bed will relieve the stress on your back. Express the urgency of the chair setting appointment. For example, my husband weighs 260 pounds, and I am not able to push him. Request an expedited date by explaining the difficulties and hardships of your situation. Remember, persistence is key to gaining access to these special requests.
  • When the chair setting appointment has been done, they will give you a date of completion. Remember, this date is an estimated date. All chairs are individually made and designed according to individual needs, and it could take at least three months for completion.
  • After your chair setting appointment, be sure to ask the medical team what the name of your chair is. You will need this information for the doctor to write a consult for a lift. Call the medical advice line. Tell the assistant that you need the doctor to write a consult for the lift. Give them the name of the motorized wheelchair or scooter. Also, have the doctor write a consult for a chair cover, an umbrella that attaches to the chair, and a carrier for the crutches or cane. It will take approximately one month to receive them.