Every year, on November 11, we celebrate Veteran’s Day, a national holiday dedicated to honoring American veterans. November is also National Family Caregivers Month, which is a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. This month, we want to recognize Chris (on the left), who is a veteran and also a family caregiver.
“My name is Chris. I’m a retired Marine, who served my country for 17 years. I’m also a proud family caregiver for my son, Cody, who has intellectual and developmental disabilities and is on the autism spectrum. As a military family the challenges are obvious, but having a child with special needs definitely adds to those challenges. The obligations of being a Marine required me to be gone a lot and my wife carried the majority of the weight at home. Cody is now 22 years old and still requires full-time care. Now that I’m retired, I’m able to take the lead in taking care of Cody.”
Like most families who have a severely autistic child that grows into an adult, Chris and his family were concerned about what happens after high school. After waiting 11 years on the Innovations Waiver waitlist, Cody was awarded a slot last year, which allowed Chris to become Cody’s caregiver and direct service provider. Now this proud veteran is proudly supporting his son. Chris provides the daily support Cody needs in order to maintain his health and safety. Whether it’s daily reminders, encouragement, or helping Cody find motivation, Chris works tirelessly to help develop Cody’s skills and in learning new skills in being a family caregiver.
Outside of the needing assistance with daily living, adults like Cody also need transportation. Chris is also able to fulfill this important role so Cody can be a contributing member of society. Through the support Cody receives from his dad, Cody is able to volunteer at a behavioral health center five days a week. Cody loves volunteering and being part of a team. It gives him a bit of independence and helps him feel like an adult.
“Wearing many hats in a family can be overwhelming at times. I’m so proud that my husband served for 17 years and now, in his retirement, has taken on the role of caregiver for our adult son,” says Holly, Chris’ wife. “We love him so much!”
Easterseals UCP supports family caregivers. Our IDD Family Peer Support program promotes group services for parents and caregivers of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and mental health diagnoses. We connect families with much needed resources, advocate for them and help them make connections with their peers in local communities throughout North Carolina. Our team of experts facilitate monthly virtual peer support groups. Click here to learn more.
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Easterseals UCP and PORT Health are trustworthy, compassionate partners providing exceptional disability, behavioral health and addiction treatment services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our in-person and telehealth service delivery. Our diverse and inclusive 2,600 member team provides more than 10.2 million hours of meaningful support to 40,200 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home, facility and community locations across North Carolina and Virginia. Learn more at eastersealsucp.com.