In the preceding newsletter, this column introduced the concept of loneliness as it applies to the caregiver. On this Veterans Day, I not only take loneliness into a deeper dimension, but I also salute men and women worldwide who have served their country throughout the years.

Because a vast majority of those being cared for are elderly, a large number represent Veterans of past World Wars. However, statistics show the majority of care givers to be “baby boomers,” many of whom continue to deal with residual effects from Vietnam.

And how could we omit the oft-overlooked wife or sweetheart when we speak of loneliness in terms of Veterans Day? The women who spend present days either caring for a loved one or being cared for during their final journey in life. The women who spent untold hours watching news on television or sitting beside a radio trying to glean any word of further casualties. The ladies who paced each day waiting for the postman to deliver a 6-week-old letter from afar. And the wives who went to bed each night trying desperately to shut their eyes against the cold, empty space beside them.

For a vast majority of those involved in the Caregiving process, loneliness is not a new concept nor an experience not dealt with before; however, the past doesn’t make the present any easier to live with. All who feel a personal involvement with Veterans Day learned years ago that to be lonely vs. alone were two entirely different situations, and today’s circumstances don’t change that realization. The Vet who was separated from loved ones by the external force of a war was no doubt very lonely, but he/she knew that survival would ultimately reunite them with family and friend. The Vet who presently caregives to a spouse, parent or other loved one has no such reassurance, for survival now serves as a reminder that if the battle is lost, they may truly be alone. In this same light, the wife now caring for a disabled vet may indeed deal not only with her loved one’s physical injuries but may also struggle with his emotional and mental issues as well.

While this special day is universally spent in tribute to those who fought for their beliefs and for their country, isn’t it ironic that November is also National Caregivers Month? So many veterans involved in the caregiving process, and so many similarities in circumstances.

To all who read this, I urge you to take whatever measures are needed to relieve the loneliness within you and within your loved one. Don’t wait until the battle is lost. Yesterdays “trenches” are today’s bedrooms, nursing homes and other health care facilities. Take the extra time. Put forth the extra effort. Fight to break down the walls of defense. Don’t let a loved one lose the battle without knowing they were loved. You fought to defend a country: can’t you now fight to prevent a loved one from feeling unloved or unneeded?

They may lose their battle — but please give them the power to win their war.

Copyrighted by Patti St. Clair 11/11/1999