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Moving Forward

TRANSCRIPT

ALAN
So other than organizing tasks and scheduling all the people on your homecare team, what other things came up when Evan came home?

CULLEN
Well, it was sometimes a battle adjusting to our “new normal.” Having an extra person living in the house – you know, my kids were both excited and scared to have their Uncle Evan living with us. Evan was still struggling with a lot of behavioral and physical things and with his memory. I think the thing that made the kids the most nervous, and me and Heidi too, was that Evan had some impulse-control issues.

ALAN
How did you deal with that?

CULLEN
I asked one of Evan’s therapists for suggestions about how to help Evan manage those issues. The therapist offered to role-play with Evan so he could practice everyday social situations. It helped Evan set appropriate expectations of how meeting new people might go. My kids even got into practicing with him, which I think Evan really appreciated. It helped him feel less stressed about meeting new people, and it helped the kids feel more comfortable dealing with his impulsivity.

ALAN
Many caregivers find that the injured service member or veteran seems to take a couple steps backwards in their progress when they transition home. Did you find that at all with Evan?

CULLEN
Yes. And even though it was frustrating and scary, the healthcare team was there to assure us that a little regression is pretty normal during transition. It helped that we had seen him transition from one facility to another a few times already, and each time it took him a little while to adapt to the new environment. It took him a few weeks of being home to adapt and catch back up, but getting him on a schedule and giving him structure helped him get back to where he needed to be.

ALAN
You mentioned that the kids were a little nervous and maybe scared about Evan’s unpredictable behavior at times. Were there any other concerns about safety?

CULLEN
Of course. We had to make a lot of modifications to our home to make sure it was going to be safe for Evan and meet his needs. But even then, there’s always that little voice inside your head that’s telling you, “It’s all on you now. You’re not in a hospital anymore where you have equipment and doctors and nurses right there and eyeballs on Evan at all times.”

We did attend some caregiver training that was especially focused on caregivers of service members and veterans, and that helped. We also joined a caregiver support group, where we could share our experiences and get advice and support from others who had already been through the same kind of thing.

Still, it was nerve-racking. But we did what we could to make our home as comfortable and safe as possible, for us and for Evan. The occupational and physical therapists came out to our home before Evan was released, and they recommended things like grab bars in the bathtub and gave us tips on how to organize Evan’s room so he could easily see and get the things he needed to use.

ALAN
And how’s Evan doing now? Has he gone back to work, is he driving?

CULLEN
He does have a job, and he is able to get there using public transportation on his own. His vision was damaged in the injury, especially his depth perception. And his reaction time is a little slow. He did get a driving evaluation by a specialized occupational therapist, and she found that, for now, he’s not quite safe enough to drive. He’d really like to, and he often asks us if he can drive, and we have to keep reminding him that it’s not safe for him to do that yet. He may never be able to return to driving, and that’s a tough conversation to have. Every time. But down the road, if he improves, we’ll have him reevaluated by a rehabilitation driving specialist. So there’s hope.

ALAN
Not being able to drive is tough. So what is your advice for caregivers who are just about to bring their injured service member or veteran home?

CULLEN
My advice to all caregivers – whether the person was just recently hurt or whether they’re ready to come home – would be, “never lose hope and always know that there are people available to help both the injured person and you.” There are going to be a lot of difficult moments, a lot of uncertainty. But if you hold onto hope and remember that you’re not alone, you’ll get through it. And your family member will get through it too.

ALAN
Thank you so much, Cullen.