WASHINGTON—Providing ongoing care for wounded, ill or injured veterans during ordinary times poses many challenges, but travel restrictions, closures, and childcare issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many caregivers to take on additional responsibilities. To help share the load, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has partnered with the VA to provide up to 40,000 hours of respite relief for more than 1,600 military and veteran caregivers.

“We know that our family caregivers of Veterans are some of the hardest working people around. But they need help, and partnerships like this can deliver that help,” said Suzanne Shirley, director of Partnerships & Community Engagement for VHA Innovation Ecosystem. “We’re so excited to help the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and CareLinx provide this much-needed support for America’s Veterans and their caregivers.”

The partnership donated $1 million in short-term respite care, which caregivers for veterans can access online through CareLinx, a nationwide caregiver network. Caregivers in Florida, Texas and California can apply to receive 24 hours of relief at no charge from one of CareLinx’s qualified in-home care professionals. The time can be used all at once or in four-hour increments spread over the remainder of 2020.

These “pinch hitters” can help veterans by performing tasks such as cooking, providing transportation, bathing, and assisting with mobility. They can also offer companionship, undertake light housekeeping, go grocery shopping, help with exercise and toileting, and assist with dressing and grooming.

If the veteran or someone in the household has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, respite relief will be scheduled once it is safe to do so. The respite caregiver will complete a symptom check prior to arriving for their shift. Approved applicants will also receive a box of personal protective equipment to ensure the veteran, family caregiver, and respite caregiver remain safe.

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the Respite Relief Review Committee will review applications for relief assistance on a rolling basis, with preference given to those who have been impacted by COVID-19 through loss of other respite care, loss of job, or reduction or closure of services as a result of the pandemic. In addition, caregivers whose veteran has experienced increased anxiety or stress as a result of quarantining and inability to attend regular appointments are also encouraged to apply for respite relief.

Through the Innovation Ecosystem, the VA hopes to use this partnership with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation as a model for other programs that bring the public and private sectors together to support military and veteran families across the country through this and other crises.