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NEWS | Jan. 20, 2022

Caregivers Discuss Stress Management Strategies at Army Caregiver Virtual Forum

By D.P. Taylor Army

 Being an Army Caregiver is one of the most important jobs in the military, but it's not an easy job. Providing proper support to Caregivers is critical, which is why the Army conducted a recent Army Caregiver Virtual Forum for about 25 attendees.

Reginald Coffey, Chief, Recovery Care Division, Army Recovery Care Coordination Directorate, said during the event on Jan. 13 that the purpose of the forum was to not only inform and educate, but also to provide an opportunity for Caregivers to network with each other.

"What we have discovered over a decade or so is that, regardless of where you are and regardless of what service you belong to, Caregiver needs are all the same," Coffey said in introductory remarks during the forum. "You all have the same challenges and concerns as you facilitate your loved one recovering from either an injury, illness or wound in service to our nation."

Coffey said family is the "backbone of our formation," and acknowledged the important role that those family members take on for injured service members.

"Without you, the road to healing, rehabilitation, recovery and transitioning back to their units or to the next phase of life would be … that much more [difficult],” Coffey said.

Leadership spent the forum educating and discussing topics such as compassion fatigue and managing stress as a Caregiver. Branden Green, performance center manager at the R2 Performance Center at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, said that there are three components of compassion fatigue that Caregivers need to recognize: a lack of motivation, a feeling that what they are doing isn't effective, and mental exhaustion.

Kennisha Murphy, a performance expert at the R2 Performance Center, then discussed in depth what Caregivers can do to manage these feelings and deal with stress. She discussed common stressors and challenges Caregivers faced and talked through them with the Caregivers.

One strategy she recommended is to practice awareness, because sometimes Caregivers don't realize how stress is affecting them.

"Alert yourself that those experiences are happening," Murphy said. "Building that awareness can help you alleviate those issues a lot faster."

Sometimes, it takes someone else to alert the Caregiver that they are showing signs of stress and their behavior is changing as a result. Murphy compared it to a driver with their taillight out who isn't aware of that until a police officer pulls them over.

"So these Caregivers are experiencing a taillight effect where they don't know their taillight is out," Murphy said, noting that can manifest itself in behaviors like being more impatient or just generally not being the same person.

Caregivers then had a discussion about whether stress is helpful or harmful, with all agreeing it is harmful but some saying it can be helpful as well if it is managed properly.

"Stress is just part of life," Coffey said. "It is somewhat helpful. It prepares you to excel at something because you are thinking about it. Think about athletes about to play in the Super Bowl."

Leadership on the call provided Caregivers with contacts to reach out to if they need help.

The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. Visit our website at