Caregiver Spotlight: Meet Michelle

Featured in BlueStarFam.org

“Oftentimes, EFMP caregivers are too stressed or exhausted caring for our child with special needs to even consider taking care of ourselves,” Michelle, a Navy spouse, recently told Blue Star Families. “Our schedules are filled with therapies, doctor’s appointments, IEP meetings, pharmacy runs, insurance claims paperwork, and we don’t have the capacity to do much else.”

We know Michelle’s story as a military-connected caregiver is just one of many. So, today, we’re kicking off our Caregiver Spotlight series to propel their voices to you, while recognizing the day-to-day challenges they bravely face and our duty, as a community, to provide resources and support to improve their quality of life. 

Get to know Michelle:

My name is Michelle, a Navy spouse for over 24 years. My spouse Cass is serving overseas as the CO of the USS Mount Whitney for 15 months while my two children and I stay behind in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach, VA area. I was honored to receive the title of the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Navy Spouse of the Year for my platform of advocating for military children and education, especially those with special needs. I am passionate about the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) because of my 16-year-old daughter Marisa, who has special needs and was enrolled shortly after birth, and I hope to be a voice for the many EFMP families across the service branches.

Cass with Marisa

Oftentimes, EFMP caregivers are too stressed or exhausted caring for our child with special needs to even consider taking care of ourselves. Our schedules are filled with therapies, doctor’s appointments, IEP meetings, pharmacy runs, insurance claims paperwork, and we don’t have the capacity to do much else. It becomes even more frustrating when others say “take care of yourself” when we know we need to but physically can’t fit it into our schedules. Add on our spouse deployments, detachments, and unavailability in general, and it becomes impossible. Caregivers suffer from CTSD, not PTSD, which correctly states that we deal with Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder. The stress never goes away and continues to snowball as our children age.

But Michelle made attending a Blue Star Families Caregivers Empowering Caregivers (CEC) social event a priority.

When providing around-the-clock care for a loved one, the idea of making time for yourself and tending to your self-care can fall into the “low priority” category. That’s why our Blue Star Caregivers program offers so many resources—both virtual and in-person—so you can find something that works for you.

And what did Michelle find work for her? One of our CEC events. Here’s what she had to say about it: 

“[The] Blue Star Families event at Norfolk’s Board and Brush was exactly the respite and fellowship I needed today. To be honest, there is an incredible unmet need in our area for more events like this to allow EFMP caregivers a place to relax, let their minds escape the details of what is needed from them, and to refill their cup among other caregivers who truly understand our unique world. If someone isn’t living this truth, they will never understand how challenging it is.

After an event like today, I feel energized and rested mentally to tackle the days ahead. I am so happy that Blue Star Families provided this to us and I sincerely hope we can continue to support our EFMP caregivers on a monthly basis. 

Michelle and Cass with their two children.

With my stressful schedule, I would prioritize finding the time to attend a Blue Star Families event like today. Thank you Blue Star Families for recognizing this unmet need and making this event a success!”

Are you a military-connected caregiver who, just like Michelle, is interested in connecting with your peers?

Michelle with Marisa, as a baby.

Become a member of Blue Star Families for free today to get connected to our supportive community of military family members and civilian neighbors! 

Also, be sure to check out our CEC social events calendar to find a gathering near you. Or, explore other valuable resources within our Blue Star Caregivers program—from a robust digital toolkit to Circle of Care, Blue Star Cares, and more.

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