Caring For Caregivers

As Lee Woodruff cared for her husband Bob after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq, one of the worst things, was the uncertainty.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In January, 2006, Lee Woodruff received a phone call that changed her life. Her husband, Bob Woodruff, had been severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Woodruff was in Baghdad for ABC News. The explosion shattered the left side of his skull and left him in a coma with shrapnel in his brain. Lee rushed to his bedside in Germany. She's been his primary caregiver ever since.

In an op-ed published in the Huffington Post earlier this month, Woodruff wrote that while we remember veterans and troops on this Memorial Day, we should also think about the unsung heroes, caregivers. She is changing the adult diapers on her bed-ridden Marine son. He is (unintelligible) a daughter who may scream out from nightmares in her sleep. Today, Lee Woodruff joins us, and we want to hear from caregivers in our audience. Tell us your story, our phone number 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, veterans and stereotypes on the Opinion Page this week. But first, Lee Woodruff joins us from the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York City. She's the author of the book "Perfectly Imperfect," and it's nice to have you today on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. LEE WOODRUFF (Author, "Perfectly Imperfect"): It's great to be here.

CONAN: And at what point did the caregiver stage really click in with you, that that's what your role was?

Ms. WOODRUFF: Well, and first can I just say it makes it sound like Bob is still bedridden and in adult diapers.

CONAN: Oh, I apologize for that.

Ms. WOODRUFF: No, I want to point out that he's back on the air and back at work. He's really had a miraculous recovery. And well, I'm probably everybody in my household's caregiver, my four children and my husband as well, I have been able to really back off from that role, which is probably the reason I could be here today.

But at what point did I realize, wow? I think when you become a caregiver in what I can an in-an-instant moment, I think there's a real halo effect, for lack of a better term, initially where you're just coming to terms with what's happened. It's that phone call in the middle of the night that rearranges life that was moving forward at its own pace. And I think it was probably days before the full implication of Bob's injuries really hit me.

CONAN: Yeah, crisis is somehow easier to deal with than, well then you realize it's going to be a long time.

Ms. WOODRUFF: You do, and they continued to tell me that at Bethesda Naval Hospital, that a brain injury is a marathon and not a sprint were the words, what the doctors said, that the doctors said over and over again. And then of course you want to believe - I remember writing in our first book, "In an Instant," I said you don't know my husband. You doctors don't know him. He's fighter, and he loves us. Of course that isn't always enough for some people. You know, it's not what that's about necessarily. That's only one part of the equation.

CONAN: Just one part of the equation, and the role changes with time. Initially, well, you're dealing with doctors a lot.

Ms. WOODRUFF: You're dealing with doctors, you're making decisions. For me, I called myself the general. It was the mode, the sort of icy, steely calm. I've decided I'm the person you want to be with in the elevator when it stops between floors because I'm really good at that part. I'll fall apart way later.

But I was very, very focused on what needed to be done for Bob, and I wanted to push everything away until we knew what we were dealing with. He was in a coma for 36 days, and I kept telling myself, I'm not going to ask a lot of questions. I'm not going to go on Google. I'm not going to find out what this could mean until he wakes up and we can see what it is that we're dealing with.

CONAN: And there is also then a sense of, well, you have children, so you have to - you're their caregiver, too.

Ms. WOODRUFF: That's right, and we live in New York, outside of the city, and Bob was in Washington. And so, essentially I had to do what so many do, especially those in the military who get that phone call. I had to step out of my life, literally, and leave it to family and friends and my community to pick up the pieces for my children while I went to Bob's bedside.

CONAN: Which is, that's a very difficult decision to do, to make - obviously there was no other choice.

Ms. WOODRUFF: There wasn't to me. I knew that - there's a shocking moment, and I talk about this in the book, too. Bob's whole family. We all were together in Bethesda Naval. We were getting the briefing, the first big briefing with all of the docs, more docs than I ever could imagine could fit in a room. And I remember they pushed the papers toward me to make the decisions about the surgeries and so forth, and I remember looking up at his parents and thinking, it's me.

I've been married to him for 18 years, but it hadn't really occurred to me, you're responsible for him. You're legally - every decision that's made, it all comes down to you. And as a caregiver, that was at first very frightening. It felt very alone.

CONAN: And then later there's a point - well thankfully, your husband did improve quite a bit, but then you have to let him start sharing those decisions, too.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Yes, and ultimately he was able to, which was great. But with a brain injury, and this of course is the signature injury of this war, it's a very slow heal. The brain is the slowest-healing organ in your body to heal itself, one millimeter a month.

So there were months there as a caregiver, and I actually, I talk about this in the "Perfectly Imperfect" book, which I call chutes and ladders. And the crisis is over, the adrenaline has receded, but now you are in this long waiting period where you really don't know what the outcome is going to look like. You don't know, is he going to go back to work? And there's a moment where we're lying in bed and I realized, I don't know if he's ever going to be able to be a journalist again.

He was hit in the left temporal lobe, which is your speech and language part of your brain. So there was a period of time where he woke up, and he was missing so many of his words, and he would use gibberish if he couldn't come up with a word. So I figured out pretty quickly that he wasn't going to be able to say double decaf latte. So probably a Starbucks barista was out as a future career. And I remember turning to him and saying, I think we're going to need to refinance the house. I'm going to call the banker about the mortgage, and he looked at me, and he said, what's a mortgage?

And my heart just fell, and I thought well, I don't know what a mortgage is. That was your job, you know. How can you not know what a mortgage is? And as the caregiver feeling the weight of your children on your shoulders and then this husband, this brilliant man who was grappling to put it back together, it was absolutely terrifying.

CONAN: And the whole deal changes. Whatever you thought was important beforehand, well it's still important, but it's important in relation to something else now.

Ms. WOODRUFF: I have two chairs, Neal, in my house, the orange chairs we call them, and those were the hideous, 10-year-old gross chairs that we've had since my son was born. And they were about - I was about to deal with that before Bob was injured. I was thinking, maybe we ought to re-cover those. Well, now they're completely threadbare and worn through, and they to me are a symbol of how your priorities change. I could care less about those chairs right now. Wallpaper, what kind of car I drive, none of those things are important.

CONAN: We're talking with caregivers today. Our guest is Lee Woodruff. She is the author of "Caring for the Caregiver" this Memorial Day on Huffington Post, and her book is called "Perfectly Imperfect," her most recent book.

If you'd like to join us, we want to hear from caregivers today: 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. And we'll begin with Betty(ph), Betty calling us from Chicago.

BETTY (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, Betty, you're on the air.

BETTY: Hi. I'm a 63-year-old returnee to the classroom, but I'm quitting in two weeks because my 95-year-old mother, who is blind, lives with me now. She came to live with me from one day to another when she lost her vision. And the most challenging part that I find being a caregiver for someone who forgets a few things but does not realize she forgets and is very adamant that she is remembering things 100 percent. And I have to make the adjustment to know that this is something that she has forgotten that I may have remembered and not to create conflict by insisting that what I remember is the right thing. And it sort of sounds like what the - your featured story is something like.

Ms. WOODRUFF: It's a lot like that, Betty, with a brain injury. And for me it was about preserving my husband's dignity, and I'm sure you feel that way about your mom, too, don't you?

BETTY: Yes, I do.

Ms. WOODRUFF: But at the same token, it's quite frustrating to repeat yourself five different times or to know that you're right. And gradually we wear ourselves down as caregivers, and one of things - I wrote at the end of my book, 10 tips for caregivers, what to do, what not to say, how to support them. And one of the things I said is, please stop telling the caregiver she needs to eat or sleep or go outside and get a walk, right? How many of your friends tell you that? We know that, don't we, Betty? We know we're supposed to do those things, but some days it's just simply not possible.

BETTY: No, and when they make the decision that they're not going to do it, and it becomes a tug of war, it's not worth it. And people don't understand that.

Ms. WOODRUFF: That's right.

CONAN: Is there a sense, Betty, of putting yourself in second place? You know you're right, but hey, this is not about your ego today.

BETTY: Very much so, and that's what I had to come to grips with because my mother will say to me, I didn't get 95 years old not being able to do whatever.

CONAN: Right, and at the same time, putting yourself in second place, well, that can wear after a while.

BETTY: That's why I'm quitting work full time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. WOODRUFF: Yeah, and I think you know what, Neal? You just hit the nail on the head. Putting yourself in second place is the definition of a caregiver.

BETTY: Yes it is. Yes it is. And at the same time try to juggle, as you were saying, the dignity of your loved one at the same time trying to fulfill what we've decided is best for them.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Right.

CONAN: Betty, we wish you the best of luck.

BETTY: Thank you so much, and thank you, too.

CONAN: Sure, bye. Here's an email we have from Craig(ph) in Swansea, South Carolina. My wife suffers from TBI after a biking accident five years ago. My question from a caregiver's perspective is how do others cope with extreme mood swings and low frustration tolerance? How does this affect young children when they see their parent so frustrated and angry?

Ms. WOODRUFF: Boy that's a tough one. I've met so many of our veterans who suffer from that residual effect of TBI. Bob sometimes feels so guilty, which is perhaps why Bob and I have started our foundation to help our wounded veterans, because Bob really skated away from a lot of the emotional issues that often accompany TBI.

There were many moments early on when my children did see their father, and as you know, Craig, the filter can be off early on. So Bob was emotional and weepy when he first woke up and never angry but very grateful to be alive. And I think it was terrifying for the children to watch their dad, who'd always been the strong one, to see him so weak.

But on the other hand, my children are, I believe, so much more prepared to face the ups and downs in the world from having witnessed something that's less than perfect. And will become, I believe, so much more empathetic, people that can really understand when there's someone that needs help or perhaps is falling short of what we consider quote-unquote "normal." And that's really the only way to look at it as a parent. You've got to take those lemons and make some kind of lemonade.

CONAN: This Memorial Day, we're talking with Lee Woodruff about honoring the caregivers, those who take care of the sick, injured and disabled. We'll take more of your calls when we come back from a short break, 800-989-8255. You can also send us email. The address is talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. One in four people in this country are caregivers. They take care of a parent who is sick or a spouse who's been disabled. Lee Woodruff found herself in their number after her husband, Bob Woodruff of ABC News, was badly injured in a roadside bomb while reporting from Iraq. This month she wrote an op-ed on the Huffington Post to remember those unsung heroes. This Memorial Day, they are taking care of the sick and injured, many of them sustained injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan.

You can find a link to that op-ed on our Web site, at npr.org/talk, and we want to hear from the caregivers in our audience. Tell us your story. Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. And let's get to Ethel(ph) on the line. Ethel's calling us from West Henrietta in New York.

ETHEL (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Hi.

ETHEL: I think you really could call me a failed caregiver. My first husband came home from Vietnam after we'd been married seven years. And after he was discharged from the Air Force, he lost his eyesight related to his service in Vietnam. He also suffered hugely from post-traumatic stress, which was not diagnosed at that point. And he stayed with me another seven years, and I did everything I knew how to do, and he abandoned us.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Ethel, you cannot ever think of yourself as a failed caregiver. You've just said you'd done everything that you thought you could do. And we know for a fact that our Vietnam veterans were pretty shamefully, I feel strongly about. They were spat upon when they returned home. I had one veteran who told me, we were speaking together on a podium, he said you know, they threw rocks at me when I returned.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is part of my definition of a brain injury and the VA's definition, as well. Three-hundred-and-twenty thousand of our veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan have returned with some form of that.

These are the hidden injuries. They may not be a crushed skull, as Bob had, but they are as real. That kind of emotional pain is as real and severe as losing a limb. And without proper treatment, there's really very little that you could have done. Love is not enough in many circumstances. We need medication, and we need proper therapy and rehabilitation.

ETHEL: We certainly do. And I tell you the first time that I walked along the Vietnam Memorial, quite a few years after he had left us, I just wept the whole way. And I came to the end and said, my name belongs on that wall. I was a war casualty, too.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Every time I meet somebody, sister, brother, mother, father, and they tell me that somebody in their family has served, I say thank you for your service because you in some ways had the harder job. You didn't know where they were every day. You went to bed braced against the possibility of that phone call. And that is serving your country, as well.

ETHEL: You're right, and I was amazed last night to watch the program, the concert on the mall last night in Washington, and to see how much the role of the caregivers was acknowledged. I'm very thankful that that's being acknowledged for this generation of fighters.

Ms. WOODRUFF: It's about time.

ETHEL: Well keep up the good work, sister. Hang in there.

CONAN: Ethel, you too.

ETHEL: Thank you, bye-bye.

CONAN: So long. I wonder that Ethel's call raises questions about, well, she's hardly the only person whose relationship has been strained by the aftermath of war injury.

Ms. WOODRUFF: No, and you know, these injuries, people didn't survive these injuries in previous wars, and if they did, it was called sort of shell shock. And people came back like Ethel's husband, just simply different. And the statistics, when they can get their hands on them, the closest they can figure is 85 to 90 percent of marriages do not survive a brain injury. And again, this includes combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is a person coming back so altered from war, so altered from the things that they've done and seen. And in these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, crouched 100 percent of the time, 24/7, against the possibility of IEDs or suicide bombers, very different than Vietnam, where you could back off and get some R&R and go to Saigon or whatever. This changes the chemistry in your brain.

CONAN: Let's see if we can Kitt(ph) on the line, Kitt with us from Boone, North Carolina.

KITT (Caller): Hi there.

CONAN: Hi, Kitt.

KITT: I just - my experience was with three weeks after my middle son turned 21, he fell 45 feet out of a tree and his spinal cord was severed. And watching him go from being this incredibly strong, incredibly capable, athletic young man who was so independent to being literally infantilized by his injury where he was, you know, I had to dis-impact his bowels and turn him every two hours.

And it just - you know, the psychological aspects, I think for him as someone who never took his legs for granted, he just ran and mountain-biked and hiked the Appalachian Trail and then did so much, and then to lose access to his legs was just so profound. And watching that whole entire thing happen and then him being transferred from the hospital into my care, and just, you know, as I said, having to turn him every two hours and not being able to sleep and then just grieving over what had happened was just an enormous, enormous loss.

And despite the fact that he now is living independently, I know that he's still dealing with, you know, all sorts of other things that go along with a spinal-cord injury. And it just leaves you feeling absolutely out of control and helpless, and it's just devastating.

Ms. WOODRUFF: I think there's nothing harder than seeing a loved one in pain, especially as a mother. You want to do everything you can to make that right, and I am so sorry for what your family's gone through.

KITT: Well, you know, I'd like to that he is, you know, that he considers himself on some level lucky because quadriplegics obviously have a lot more to deal with. But, you know, regardless, when you walk into the emergency room, and the doctor looks at you and says your son's never going to walk again, it's just - you know, it's just really, really, really awful.

Ms. WOODRUFF: It's devastating. People are so quick to say to me when I tell me story, you know, gosh, I went through something with, you know, my mother or my son, but it's nothing like what you went through. And I say, oh, stop right there. Yes it is because grief is grief, and loss is loss and fear is fear. And there aren't blue medals for first and second and third prize. This is all really scary stuff.

I remember bringing Bob home. To hear you describe it reminds me of bringing Bob home from his inpatient rehabilitation, and he was still missing 16 centimeters of his skull and would have to wear a climbing helmet for the next four months until that surgery was completed. And I remember looking at the nurses as they handed me a giant Ziploc of all of his medication, and I thought, well wait a minute. This is me? Like I'm in charge now? Hang on. Nobody's prepared me for this. I can't come up with a medication schedule to save my life. And having to wake up every time he moved to make sure he wasn't sleeping on that side of the skull.

There is so much pressure on us as wives and mothers in this role, and then you've got the added emotion, as you so aptly described, of just loving this person so much and wanting to make it all right.

KITT: Yeah, and it's just - you know, I mean, having two sons who were very athletic, I mean, you know, they break their arms occasionally, and off we'd go to the emergency department. It would be a cast for six weeks, but this was something entirely different. And you know it's just - you just sort of never, you never quite get over that because you know this is, you know this is permanent.

CONAN: How's he doing, Kitt?

KITT: He's doing pretty well. He's living independently now. He's up in Ashville, and he's doing much, much better. But as I said, it's, you know, it's an event that leads to a process, and the process seems to never end.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Somebody told me once, a wise man, and I have always remembered these words, that of course your son is grateful to be alive, but there's a grief-gratitude sort of scale on either side. On the one hand, of course you're grateful to be alive, of course you are, but it doesn't mean on the other hand that you can't grieve for the things that you've lost and the dreams that you had.

KITT: Exactly, exactly. Well thank you so much. And I look forward to reading your book.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Thank you.

CONAN: Kitt, thanks very much for the call.

KITT: Take good care.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can go next to Elizabeth, Elizabeth with us from Chicago.

ELIZABETH (Caller): Hi, this is Elizabeth.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

ELIZABETH: Hi. I grew up in a home, my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a couple years before I was born. And I grew up basically also being his caregiver, along with my mom. My brother and sister, who are much older than me, were pretty much out of the house by the time, like, he started getting, you know, worse and having to take more medicine. And he was in a wheelchair since the age of three with me. And I grew up, you know, being the kid at five years old who had to go and take care of my dad when my mom had to go out and run errands. I had to go find pain pills.

You know, I'd be trying to figure out, okay, what color is the pain pill? Which color is the Darvocet? And it was very difficult, and I know an earlier caller or an emailer asked about that. You know, as a child, like how do you deal with it?

And it was very hard when he would go in these bouts of depression because he was a very strong man. He was a Marine and, you know, very proud to be a Marine, but what do you do when your body is failing on you, and mentally you're still the same man, and what do you do?

And it was very hard to hear my father say I want to kill myself and then have to talk to your mom about that who didn't really believe you because he never shared it with anybody, and my father unfortunately passed away in January, and I did not want to be there.

I know this is really horrible to say. I did not want to be there when he actually took his last breath because I feel my entire life I've been dealing with his illness. And in some way, now, with the passing of him, there's almost this release that I have of depression of being angry at multiple sclerosis because nobody knows where it comes from, nobody has a cure for it. There is only treatment.

And it's very hard on our entire family. My mother, she can't sleep through the night because she's always having to get up, give him a pill, roll him over. And I see that's a stress that it caused in our family as a whole. And it's very, very hard to, you know, grow up in a household, you know, when you're -when you have a terminal illness.

But the only flipside I can say is that now, here in Chicago, I work with a lot of children from very, very underserved populations, who maybe have a parent in jail, or maybe they have a parent who is terminally ill, or maybe they don't have parents. And I guess my big thing, now, is that I realize I can take the positive of my family experience and apply it to my career that I have now, because I have a lot of patience for the kids I work with and I have a lot of understanding, you know? And it was…

CONAN: And that's the - that talk about…

ELIZABETH: Yeah.

CONAN: …taking lemons and making lemonade, you've done something extraordinary, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH: It's the only thing you can do, because otherwise, you wallow in depression, you know, and be like, oh, I didn't have a father and I have this. And, you know, it was very hard. I grew up dancing, and my father could never come see the majority of the performances I did because they were always in a theater that had steps.

What it's made me do now is I am, you know, I'm somewhat of an activist, I like to think, here in Chicago. And when we do performances (unintelligible) I used to work with, we would always try to make sure that we were in always wheelchair accessible theaters - not only so that my father could come and see it, but other people as well…

CONAN: Sure, yeah.

ELIZABETH: …you know?

CONAN: Lee?

Ms. WOODRUFF: Well, I was going to say there are lots of ways you could have taken that, Elizabeth. You could have been - dive in for the Percocet yourself. And there are a lot of ways…

ELIZABETH: Oh, yeah.

Ms. WOODRUFF: …to numb pain. And you have chosen a really noble career and a noble way to say to yourself I'm going to do something out of my experience to help somebody else. And I think, really, in the end, that's really what life is about.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. And my father - the last conversation I had with my father, it was quite extraordinary, 'cause like, he was gone overseas for several years and then came back and he was (unintelligible) at one of the Marine bases. And he was off-base with his partner, who was black. And this bartender wouldn't serve his black friend, who he had just been fighting with in the service. And my father did understand my whole Jim Crow laws and pretty much almost got arrested for this guy, you know, by getting into a fight.

And then a couple of days later, he saw this amazing black preacher speak, he's all about giving hope and rights. And then my father started realizing that that was Martin Luther King. And I was very fortunate here in Chicago, obviously, we have our wonderful president, Barack Obama. And I got to hear him speak on election night. And my father just thought it was so cool that, you know, he got to hear Martin speak and I got to hear Barack speak.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ELIZABETH: And, you know…

Ms. WOODRUFF: Justice is served.

ELIZABETH: Yeah.

CONAN: And it comes around.

ELIZABETH: And I think that…

Ms. WOODRUFF: Yeah.

ELIZABETH: …when you have a family member who is terminally ill, you can look at it as a gift because you know that they're going to die eventually, so why not say I love you, I'm sorry and work through everything as opposed to holding it in and someday regretting that you never have to say I'm sorry, or I love you, or I'm angry at this disease, or I'm angry that you'd got into a biking accident and now, you know?

CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. WOODRUFF: I'd like to say, just that we do that regardless of whether or not we have…

CONAN: Exactly.

Ms. WOODRUFF: …a terminally ill parent, I think that we all need to live our lives telling everybody how much we love them because, honest to God, you don't know, God forbid, that it's you that steps off the curb tomorrow and gets hit by a bus.

ELIZABETH: Exactly.

Ms. WOODRUFF: So we should all live our lives with grace every day.

ELIZABETH: Exactly.

CONAN: Elizabeth, thank you so much.

ELIZABETH: Thank you. And thank you for the show.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

We're talking with Lee Woodruff today, wrote "Caring for the Caregiver this Memorial Day" on Huffington Post, also the author of "Perfectly Imperfect."

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we can get Ron(ph) on the air. Ron, calling from Louisville in Kentucky.

RON (Caller): Hello. Thanks for having me on.

CONAN: Go ahead, Ron.

RON: I like to tell you about my wife. She has Huntington disease, probably had it for about 25 years or more. Completely - it's a degenerative disease, brain cells die that control motor function and actually can't talk, can't swallow, can't even brush her hair out of her eyes.

CONAN: I'm so sorry.

RON: Incontinent bladder and bowel. And the worst thing I think is that - having to deal with the insurance companies. And, in fact, we don't have a single payer, so every time something changes, you got to fight them - it's at least a two-shift job already, and then you've got to take time to fight an insurance company to try to get coverage to - you know, I still can't get diapers for her. I try to get…

Ms. WOODRUFF: You know, I hear this from so many families. It's so unfair. It's, as you say, the double whammy of having the, you know, the energy required to care for your loved one, but then just fight against things that aren't covered, simple things sometimes, that should be covered. I hear this so often, also from our military families as well. The process that they have going - winding through the VA is not always an easy one.

And while the VA has very much stepped up its game, there are many issues they must face, long-term issues to keep the care in rehabilitation going. So I really feel for you.

RON: Thank you.

CONAN: And, Ron, Huntington, it's a long haul.

RON: Yeah. It's…

Ms. WOODRUFF: It is a really long haul.

RON: It's like I told the lady that screens calls, it's like an unending prison sentence. I'm tied to her, I can't hardly leave the house. The State's threatened me, if I leave, you know?

CONAN: Yeah.

RON: I could go to prison if something happens to her while I walk out the door. It's just unreal. They threatened you, but they won't do a thing. I never got any help at all from the federal - I paid taxes for the last 50 years and I can't get squat from the federal government because people just rather spend money on wars than helping their citizens. It's a crazy thing, and it's the only place on earth I know that's like that. Europe's not like that. Japan's not like that. Maybe China, I don't know.

CONAN: Well, Ron, hang in there.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Yeah, hang in there. You know, Neal, can I just raise an issue, too?

CONAN: Very quickly, if you could.

Ms. WOODRUFF: Just about caregiving and depression. And I write about this a little bit in the book, but we need to give the caregiver a permission to step up and get help for him or herself, whether it's medication or talk therapy. It's a long solo road. And we have to take the shame and the stigma out of that.

CONAN: Finally, we got this e-mail from Suzanne(ph) in Portland, Oregon. Thank you for recognizing and talking with caregivers today in honor of Memorial Day. Caregivers are the unsung heroes of warfare, tireless, self-sacrificing people, usually women, who are chronically unacknowledged. I really appreciate your attention to these critical folks in our families and communities today.

Wonderful topic suggested to us by a article that Lee Woodruff wrote on Huffington Post. And thank you so much for being with us today.

Ms. WOODRUFF: You're welcome.

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Stay with us.

We're going to be talking about veterans and stereotypes in just a moment.

I'm Neal Conan.

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