Transitioning from military to civilian life may affect social ties either partially or completely. Although there are many ways (via reunions, regimental associations, commemorations, close friendships and family links) by which some transitioning members seek to maintain these ties over time, it is likely that for many they will weaken.
Building new civilian social networks can be challenging for many CAF members. Social integration through formal, informal and virtual civilian social networks plays an important role during the transition from military to civilian identity and throughout the life of a Veteran.
Social support networks can come in multiple forms including family, friends, and veteran’s groups.
Social integration focuses on the degree and effectiveness of a person’s social integration within home, family, and community environments, including social relationships, networks, and supports. This domain recognizes the importance of support and caring, respectful interpersonal relations provided by social support networks such as friends, families and communities.
Social networks connect individuals to wider social relationships and offer a sense of community belonging and engagement.
Support from families, friends and communities is associated with better health. Such social support networks could be integral in helping people solve problems, deal with adversity, and maintain a sense of mastery and control over life circumstances. Social relationships tend to act as a buffer from aggravating health problems due to the nurturing and respectful nature, resulting sense of satisfaction and well-being. Data indicates that the more social contacts people have, the lower their premature death rates.
The most important aspect of this domain of well-being is to be in a mutually supportive relationship and engaged in community.
Some things to consider
- Do you have family and friends who are reliable and willing to support you through the military to civilian transition?
- Are you aware of social support and peer programs available for transitioning personnel and Veterans? Have you made contact with any resources that are relevant to my situation? Do you want to affiliate with your relevant Service Branch, Corps, or Regimental Associations?
- Did you investigate the availability of clubs, sports centre or groups that relate to your extracurricular activities or interests?
The transition process provides the opportunity to consider your family’s needs as it relates to transition. In other words, a main influence upon family life, the military, is replaced by a broader range of considerations when looking forward to life after the service. For the CAF member, transition planning becomes more family-centric. This is particularly noteworthy considering 67 percent of transitioning members between 2012 and 2017 were in a recognized relationship with children (married or common-law) at the time of release.
Transitioning out of the military may afford you the opportunity to accomplish lifelong dreams and the chance to serve both your family and local community. For many military families, the prospect of settling down in one geographic area is very appealing. To be able to develop long-term friendships in the same neighbourhood and belong to community groups are significant benefits that were more difficult to maintain while in the military, especially if you were subject to frequent moves. Staying in one location could also create opportunities to spend more time with your family.
For many families, transition to civilian life will permit the non-military spouse the opportunity to pursue a stable employment and advancement. Often, your decision to transitioning will provide you and your family with more disposable income especially if you are entitled to a pension.
You may experience a temporary loss of identity once you take off the uniform. Developing a new "Raison D’être" takes time but is ultimately rewarding. Serving Members are used to dealing with people on the basis of rank, and may look for an equivalent rank structure in the new organization they find themselves employed in. This may be less apparent or even non-existent depending on the corporate culture of that particular employer. The loss of status that you may feel accompanies the transition to civilian life could affect both of you and your family. The sense of camaraderie present in the military may change to reflect the unique attributes of your new civilian community. Within the CAF, over the years, you have adopted the military culture as a way of life. It may be unsettling to face a new community and/or employer as a civilian; learning the social norms and expectations may seem a little overwhelming at first. If you plan to transitioning from military to civilian life and you have not developed hobbies and made connections with community organizations, you may find yourself with too much time on your hands.
The transition from the military to civilian life can be challenging for both members and their families. This section is designed to inform family members how to prepare and assist with their loved ones transition, and also to raise awareness of resources and services available to them.
Military Family Services Program
The Military Family Services Program (MFSP) is the CAF-wide community-based support program delivering coordinated, consistent national services for families, as well as a framework for families and communities to influence and manage local priorities and services.
The definition of a family member has evolved to include spouses/partners, children, parents, relatives of significance or people who self-identify as the family of that member. All play important roles in support of transition.
MFSP support to military families must focus most intently on those in our military family community who are most vulnerable and adversely impacted by the conditions of military life. It’s for this reason the bulk of our services focus on spouses, children and parents. To approach this otherwise would be unfair to those most affected by the Canadian military family lifestyle.
Military Family Resource Centre
Referred to as the hub of the military community, Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) are located on all bases and wings across Canada, and Military Family Services (MFS) OUTCAN in Europe and United States. They are committed to enriching the lives of individuals and families in the CAF community through positive action, education and support. Dedicated staff are responsible for connecting families to a wide range of relevant programs and services that empower and encourage strong, independent, resilient individuals, families and communities.
MFRCs provide support to all CAF families including families of the fallen and those whose loved one is ill or injured. With the national launch of the Veteran Family Program (VFP) funded by VAC, MFRCs are now a pivotal partner in supporting families throughout their transitional journey from military to post service life.
The programs and services found at your local MFRC are designed to support you, your family and your community. When you walk into a centre you will be greeted by friendly, caring people who understand the unique military lifestyle and the challenges that can arise from a life of service.
The staff are connected to a diverse network of services both within the military and civilian communities to help provide you and your family with an array of options to fit your family’s unique needs. With services such as Emergency Child Care, employment counselling, and mental health supports amongst other programs that might be relevant to your evolving needs as you and your loved ones progress through your transition. The VFP expands the MFRCs existing network of services to more effectively support this journey.
Some examples of MFRC services available to help in the transition process include:
- Additional from TA at your local TC, one on one support for navigating the transition process and available services for you and your family;
- Help in developing positive coping strategies;
- Referrals to community-based programs and services;
- Financial planning workshops; and
- Care for Caregivers.
Veteran Family Program
The Veteran Family Program (VFP) is aim to help ease that transition by providing enhanced information and referral services, specialized transition programs and some of the traditional programs. The program benefits the medically releasing CAF members, medically released Veterans and their families by helping them navigate the complex process of transitioning, the challenges that may arise, and the sometimes-unexpected impact on the social, emotional, and financial wellbeing. Programs and services are always aimed to meet individual needs, and work towards finding solutions and support. The VFP can enhance other services provided through the CAF TG, VAC and other organizations in the local community.
Veteran Family Program Coordinators (VFPCs) are information and referral specialists for medically releasing CAF members, medically released Veterans and their families. Both the VFPCs and MFRC staff understand the adaptations your family may need to make prior to, during and after release. They will help you through transitional challenges via tailored programs and services, and provide information about extended resources in the civilian community. VFPCs are available through the MFRC and can:
- Conduct an intake and needs assessment to identify your family’s needs and help develop your family care plan;
- Provide you with information about the programs, services and resources offered through the MFRC that may be of assistance during your transition;
- Offer support to caregivers, one on one or through peer support groups, and network;
- Refer you to relevant community programs and services, and;
- Help you navigate the civilian environment.
For additional information on VFPC:
- Visit any Canadian MFRC and speak with the onsite VFPC;
- Call the Family Information Line (FIL) at 1-800-866-4546 or email FIL@CAFconnection.ca;
- Veteran Family Program additional information
Note for Family Members: You do not need consent from your loved one to access these services, if you wish they can be kept entirely confidential. You can also access these services on your own if the member or veteran is not able to attend.
Family Liaison Officer
Your Family Liaison Officer (FLO) is a registered mental health professional who is a part of your local CAF TC team. FLOs serve all family members of an ill or injured CAF member, Reg or Res F, including their spouses, children, parents, relatives of significance or people who self-identify as the family of that member; and family members and persons of significance to fallen CAF personnel. The FLOs are the connection between the CAF TC and the MFRC to ensure the widest variety of support is offered to families of ill or injured military personnel, and families of the fallen.
Whether the member is returning to service or transitioning through the release process, the FLO is available to help families cope with all phases of the member’s recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration and can:
- Provide group and individual counselling, resources and support to family members;
- Provide or support the development of educational and awareness sessions, briefings, and resources pertaining to: bereavement, transition; change management; crisis management; family violence; impact of injury; etc.
- Make appropriate referrals to relevant community service providers and conduct group and individual counselling sessions;
- Tailor the entire suite of MFSP services to respond to the specific needs of each family; and
- Assist families to navigate and access to relevant programs and services.
For additional information on FLO please visit or call your local CAF TC or MFRC.
Often, family members and friends intentionally or inadvertently become caregivers. The responsibility of a caregiver is self-directed and challenging. Caregivers can develop symptoms such as compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, and/or vicarious trauma because they have been impacted by helping others without seeing their own wellness as a priority. The following information will help guide caregivers, family members, active serving members and Veterans during a medical transition.
Caregiver's Bill of RightsFootnote 1
The following rights are reminders to take the time to take care of YOU. Read them when you need and add to them. Add rights that reflect your unique values, experiences and passions.
I HAVE THE RIGHT TO:
- Connect with myself and my own unique experience as a caregiver. I acknowledge and confront my thoughts and behaviours when I can, but at times, I give myself permission to avoid these and do something fun and distracting.
- Take care of myself. This is not selfish. It will give me the energy to take better care of the person I care for.
- Get help from others even if the person I care for disagrees. I know my limits, and do only what I can do.
- Keep parts of my own life that do not include the person I care for. I have my own identity and my own life outside of caregiving.
- Do some things just for myself, whenever I want.
- Get angry, feel depressed, and talk about difficult feelings I experience.
- Get consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do for the person I care for and don’t let the person I care for control me by using guilt, anger or depression.
- Take pride in what I am doing. To be proud of the courage it has taken me to meet the needs of the person I care for.
- Make a life for myself that will help me ensure that I will continue to have a sense of purpose and happiness when the individual I care for no longer needs my help.
- Expect and demand improvements in resources to help and support caregivers.
- Add my own statements of rights to this list, based on my own unique situation, feelings and experiences.
Feelings about Caregiving
Everyone’s caring experience is unique to their situation, as are the feelings that go with it. As a caregiver, you may find yourself in sensitive situations that cause both positive and negative feelings – this is completely natural. It is important to remember that your emotions are sometimes out of your control, and "how you feel is how you feel". It is normal to have lots of different feelings and they are not right or wrong – they are your own. Let yourself feel your emotions and try not to judge them but rather accept them. Acceptance will let you confront these feelings and what they mean to you, how they affect your actions or even affect the individual you care for.
"I think what would have helped me early on is knowing that it’s okay to get angry about all the responsibilities. It is not necessarily okay to display your anger in certain ways. And it is okay to say no."
Below are some of the common experiences that caregivers feel.
Negative Feelings about Caregiving
Caregivers face difficult situations and can sometimes have negative feelings about these situations. You may try to ignore these feelings by not letting yourself feel them or work through them. You may tell yourself that you should not feel a certain way or you may ignore your feelings.
But your feelings are your own; they are part of your unique experience and journey.
The negative feelings you may experience depend on your own situation. These are completely natural.
Anxiety: Being unsure about the future can make you feel anxious. It can happen when you worry that something bad will happen. For example, you may feel anxious because you do not have enough help to cope with your current situation, which can lead you to think that things will not get better and might actually get worse.
Fear: You experience fear when you feel threatened. The responsibilities of caregiving or what that includes may scare you.
Guilt: Some situations can cause you to feel guilt. For example, you could feel guilty because:
Frustration, anger, and resentment: These feelings often go together. You may be frustrated because you cannot find enough time for yourself and this may lead to anger and resentment.
Hurt: There may be days when you feel that no one appreciates what you are doing. For example, the individual may experience anger or frustration and may at times direct this towards you. It may be hard for you not to feel hurt or alone at these times.
Isolation: Sometimes you may not have the time to do things you like as often as you used to because of your caregiving responsibilities; this may lead to feeling all alone.
Grief and sadness: Grieving is the process of adjusting to a loss. Grief can make you feel many emotions that are tough to understand. You could feel sad, angry, lonely, anxious and frustrated at the same time but also feel each of them separately at various times during the caregiving process.
Positive Feelings about Caregiving
Caring for a person can be a wonderful and positive experience. It can be full of laughter and close moments. You may get a lot of satisfaction from being able to help the person you care for when they need you most.
The positive feelings you have about being a caregiver depend on your own situation.
Personal growth: You may feel that you are growing personally because you are learning skills, such as being more patient, that allow you to give the best care. At times, you may feel unsure how you or the person you care for will overcome a challenge – but you take things day by day or hour by hour and learn from it.
Greater appreciation for health and well-being: Caring for someone who is very ill can change the way you look at life and death. This may lead to a new understanding or deeper sense of the meaning of life; it may change what you see as important or change your personal goals.
Strengthened relationships: Often the caregiving role helps you become much closer, physically and emotionally, to the person you are caring for and this can make you feel more appreciated. You learn that through hope and courage come strength. This helps form a trusting attachment to the person you care for.
"I don’t need to fill the silence, all I need to do is be there."
Sometimes caregivers are not well themselves, yet they have to care for family members, like children and youth. As a caregiver it is important to remain strong and maintain your own well-being so that you can fulfill your role as a caregiver.
Staying Strong when Caring for Children and/or Youth
As a caregiver, Staying Strong may not always feel possible. But by following as many of the Staying Strong points below, you are giving yourself and the child and/or the youth you care for the greatest chance to be healthy and resilient. Check off as many of the six steps below that you can do today. Don’t be frustrated about the ones you cannot do right now. Try each day to get closer to achieving that step.
How Caregivers Can Stay Strong
- Follow a routine.
- Make sleep hygiene important.
- Have a good balance between rest and activities.
- Role model good behaviour for the child and/or youth you care for.
Take care of your health
- In order to care for someone else you have to stay healthy:
- Know your limits.
- Practice self-care.
- Do not push yourself to burnout.
- Have a back-up caregiver or respite in case you become sick and need time off.
- Think of your relationship with the child and/or youth you care for: what is working well? What could be improved?
- How are you maintaining validation and attachment in your relationship?
- Does anxiety or fear get in the way of you being the caregiver you want to be?
- Once a day do something that makes you feel in control of your life.
- Something that’s just for you.
- That you’re good at, that’s positive – this will give you a sense of mastery and accomplishment.
- Eat a balanced diet, not too much, not too little, food gives you energy: don’t run on empty.
- Model good behaviour for the child you care for and educate them about healthy eating and food choices.
- Try to make eating together a regular activity, buying groceries and meal preparation are also activities you can do together.
- Ensure that you maintain leisure and activity.
- Incorporate physical activity such as an evening or morning walk into your everyday life.
- Get involved with social activities and organized sports.
How Children and/or Youth Can Stay Strong
- Have child and/or youth keep a bedtime routine.
- Limit technology-use before bed.
- Make sleep hygiene important.
- Help them maintain a good balance between rest and activities.
- Children cannot take medications on their own
- Give medication as prescribed or ensure that the youth is taking medication as prescribed.
- Monitor how well medication is working and any side effects and report these to health care provider.
- For youth, have them tell their doctor how it’s working for them and make sure they know their rights.
- Help the child and /or youth maintain positive and supportive relationships.
- Gain support from childcare providers or school officials so that the child and /or youth is constantly surrounded by a trusting adult they can confide in.
- Teach the child and /or youth how to communicate what they are feeling.
- Maintain the warmth in your relationship with the child and /or youth.
- Once a day have the child and /or youth do something that they feel confident doing or that makes them feel in control of their life.
- This provides a sense of mastery and will make them feel positive and increase their self-esteem.
- Put a sticker on a calendar for each day they do this.
- Have the child(ren) and /or youth eat a balanced diet made of healthy and nutrient-dense foods.
- Not too much, not too little: food is fuel.
- Don’t have the child and /or youth run on empty.
- Ensure that the youth maintains leisure and activity.
- Encourage them to incorporate physical activity into their everyday life by getting outdoors.
- Encourage walking, exercise, extracurricular activities, sports and involved with social activities.
Resist (especially with youth)
- Help them resist urges.
- Avoid negative behaviours.
- Negative behaviours can include people, social media, technology, drugs, and alcohol.
The stress of your added responsibilities as a caregiver and the feelings that go along with it can be very difficult. It is possible to become so overwhelmed that you cannot give the best care. This does not mean that you are a bad caregiver. It just means that you have reached your limit. At this point it is important to ask for help.
Here are some reasons why caregivers do not ask for help:
- Feelings of guilt and shame.
- Not knowing that others are in the same situation.
- Lack of knowledge about available options/resources.
- Not being able to pay for formal caregiving services.
- Not enough time to find help.
- Cultural beliefs that discourage help from outside the family.
- Lack of services to meet your needs.
- Feelings of depression, which can reduce the motivation needed to find help.
- Not being able to talk about feelings.
It is always okay to ask for help. Asking for help is part of providing the best care possible.
You should feel proud of what you are able to do and realize that you have a right to continue to maintain good physical and mental health, and to take time to do things other than caregiving that make life meaningful life for you. If you notice a big change in your mental or physical health, speak to your health care provider about it as soon as you can. Several distress lines offer support to caregivers, do not hesitate to reach out.
"I feel guilty taking time for myself, what helped was remembering that I’m a person too with needs and with limits."
Caregiver of an Ill and Injured Member
Caregivers may face significant challenges in supporting a Veteran or military member living with an Operational Stress Injury (OSI), alongside managing other responsibilities related to work, life, family and oneself. OSI can be a mental or physical injury that occurred during the member’s service with the CAF. OSI is best described as any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from operational duties. OSI includes any diagnosed mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as other conditions.
There is support for caregivers who may be struggling and would like to speak with someone immediately. Services are available through the FIL, MFRC, Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program (CFMAP) and VAC Assistance Service.
24/7 FIL: Call 1-800-866-4546 or email at FIL@CAFconnection.ca
24/7 CFMAP: Call 1-800-268-7708
24/7 VAC Assistance Service: Call 1-800-268-7708
OSISS - Family Peer Support: Call 1-800-883-6094
Canadian Armed Forces Caregiver Assistance Benefit
Ill and injured members of the CAF, who suffered permanent catastrophic impairment, temporary catastrophic impairment, or a non-catastrophic impairment in Afghanistan, and have a dependant child living with them, can request reimbursement for child care payments or other caregiver expenses through their local TC.
The Caregiver Benefit is payable for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of the member in caring for a dependant child. These expenses include but are not limited to:
- Routine Personal care;
- Supervising daily activities;
- Health care and hygiene functions; and
- Household tasks.
The daily maximum amount of the Caregiver Benefit payable is:
- $75 Canadian with a receipt; or
- $35 Canadian with a declaration.
The Caregiver Assistance Benefit is not payable if the caregiver is a member of the Special Force, Reg F, or Res F on Class B or Class C Reserve Service, who is in receipt of pay and allowances.
To determine eligibility and parameters, or to initiate a request for reimbursement, please contact your local TC.
For additional terms and conditions, see Compensation and Benefit Instruction (CBI) 211.05 – Caregiver Assistance Benefit
Veterans Affairs Canada Caregiver Recognition Benefit
Having a disability sometimes means you need ongoing care to remain in your home. The VAC Caregiver Recognition Benefit recognizes the important role a caregiver delivers on a day-to-day basis by providing them $1000 per month, tax free.
To receive this benefit your VAC Case Manager will conduct or arrange an assessment to confirm that you require the assistance of a caregiver.
You should apply for the Caregiver Recognition Benefit if:
- You need daily assistance of a caregiver for at least four of your activities of daily living;
- Your caregiver is not paid to provide or co-ordinate your care and is over 18 years of age;
- You are not a permanent resident of a nursing home or long-term care facility;
- You are a former CAF member; and
- You have a VAC disability benefit*
* You may have received your disability benefit as pain and suffering compensation, a disability award or as a disability pension.
Recognizing Unsafe Behaviours
Unsafe behaviours are destructive. Caregivers, members, and Veterans alike should seek help immediately if experiencing these unsafe behaviours:
- The urge to inflict harm to oneself or others and/or suicidal thoughts;
- The inability to control anger;
- The tendency to overspend;
- Becoming physically violent or threatening;
- Using substances to cope;
- Driving while under the influence;
- Being threatened (physically or emotionally) by someone; and/or
- Being forced to engage in sexual activity against one’s will.
Tips for Staying Emotionally/Psychologically Healthy
- Find community resources available at your closest MFRC FIL 1-800-866-4546
- Find a friend or family member to talk to or join a support group such as OSISS family peer support;
- Find a new interest that may have been put aside and try implementing it into the day’s routine (reading a book, taking a bath, exercising, arts and craft, watching a favourite movie, etc.); and
- Seek professional help from a counselor, therapist, religious or spiritual leader, or social worker if stress, sadness, or anxiety begins to feel out of control.
Family Violence Prevention
OSI do not result in family violence; however, family violence can happen in any home, at any time. The CAF Family Violence Prevention and Awareness Campaign explains in detail what family violence is and where to go for support.
Family violence means an abuse of power within a relationship of family, trust or dependency, and includes many forms of abusive behaviour. Examples include emotional abuse, psychological abuse, criminal harassment, neglect, financial exploitation, destruction of property, injury to pets, physical assault, sexual assault and homicide. Abusive behaviour often results in the person feeling afraid and controlled.
A relationship is abusive if either partner or family member:
- Dominates or controls the other;
- Keeps the other isolated;
- Uses insults or put-downs;
- Damages the other’s property;
- Shows extreme jealousy or possessiveness;
- Pushes, hits, throws things, chokes or physically restrains;
- Forces sex; and/or
- Limits access to money.
Where to go for support in the CAF (connect through local MFRC):
- Base/Wing/Unit Family Crisis Team;
- Military Police;
- Social Work Officers;
- Medical Officers (MO);
- CFMAP 1-800-268-7708; and
- FIL (24/7) 1-800-866-4546.
Where to go for support outside the Canadian Armed Forces:
- Emergency Services 911 police;
- Military Family Resource Centres;
- Victim Services;
- Rape Crisis or Sexual Assault Support Centres;
- Social or Family Service Agency;
- Children’s Aid Society; and
For additional information, visit the CAF Family Violence Prevention and Awareness Campaign
Taking care of a person living with mental illness or experiencing mental health challenges can be both rewarding and stressful. You will learn new skills and build a stronger relationship with the person you care for, though this time may be demanding as you take on new responsibilities. Stress is a natural part of life, but if not managed well, it can lead to your own health problems. Caregivers can tend to focus on the person they care for more than themselves and put themselves as a second priority. The most important thing to remember as a caregiver is to take care of YOU. Actions we take to take care of our health and well-being are known as self-care.
Although being a caregiver entails advocacy for the individual, and lots of it, it’s important for you to advocate for yourself and set boundaries. Just as in the pre-flight instructions, you should put on your own oxygen mask before helping another person put on theirs. Caregivers in the mental health context need to take care of themselves before they can take care of someone else.
Common Barriers to Self-Care Include:
- Your own attitudes and beliefs: “I’m being selfish if I sleep late today.”
- Being afraid of what you need: “I’m feeling overworked, I need time off but can’t take leave.”
- Being afraid or not knowing where or how to ask for help: “I don’t want to bother them, they have their own problems.”
- Wanting to care and show your affections in a selfless way (common with family caregivers): “He’s my son, he’s my priority.”
Tips for Taking Care of You
- Set limits for yourself on what you can get done.
- Say no if you need to: it is okay.
- Ask for help: family, friends, even colleagues may want to help but may not know how to.
- Delegate some of your responsibilities to others.
- Take time to take care of yourself daily.
- Prioritize your day.
- Engage in activities you find relaxing (meditation, yoga, or a daily walk).
- Know your limits.
- Learn how to recognize when you feel stressed.
- Learn ways to cope with stress.
- Talk to others who have been through what you are going through.
- Share your feelings and thoughts with those close to you.
- Maintain your other relationships.
- Try not to rely on caffeine, alcohol and drugs to cope.
- Focus on things you can control.
- Set realistic goals for yourself and the person you care for.
- Be prepared so that if you need more support you will know who to turn to.
Build your Own Toolbox
- SKILL: Connecting.
- TOOL: Creating my support network.
- When thinking of a support network, what comes to mind?
- Who and what do you need?
- Who could help you with each need?
- Keep in mind the various supports around you including:
- Informal supports (friends, neighbours, family).
- Formal supports (doctor, social worker, counselor).
- Unique supports (support group, faith or spiritual group).
Looking at the table below, create a similar one for YOUR support network.
What I need?
- To vent to someone
- Help with walking the dog
- My best friend
- My neighbour’s daughter
- My mother-in-law
- My other children
- Over coffee or phone
- I will pay her $7 a week
- She will come over one Saturday per month
- I will make a chore chart
What Type of Help Do You Need?
It is important to identify the type of help you need. Explain your situation to family, friends, colleagues, and community members so that they are able to understand your situation and support you. Give them regular updates and try to include them in any decisions you want to make.
Taking some time for yourself, like a short vacation, may be helpful. If you are providing care for others or have any dependants, you may ask a family member that is up to date to fulfill some of your duties to take your place and be there if the person you care for needs support during your time away. Think about what you can and cannot do on a regular basis. Then think about how often you need help. Is it every day, once a week or in the evenings? Make a list of people who have agreed to help out when you need a break.
Family, Friends and Neighbours:
The people closest to you and your situation may be a source of help that will not cost money. Ask them for help and be specific. When many people are helping, each person might only need to offer a small amount of time.
Even though meetings and discussions with family and friends are helpful, make sure to respect everyone’s opinions and limits.
The transition for those left behind after a loved one has died is very difficult. The mission of the HOPE program (Helping Our Peers by Providing Empathy) is to provide confidential support to families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. This includes a member in service or retired from the Reg F or Res F of the CAF. Regardless of the cause of the loss whether it is attributed to military service or to other factors such as sudden death, accident, illness, suicide, natural causes.
In many cases, this connection with peer helper is very helpful, even if family, friends and in some cases, professional counsellors are available to provide support, many bereaved individuals also express a desire to speak with someone who has been through a similar experience. People who are grieving often make a connection with their peer helper because they understand that their peer helper has already walked this path.
The HOPE program was created in 2006 with the help of people who have lost a military loved one. The program matches trained volunteers who offer peer support to bereaved families. The families are welcome at any time and there is no time limit for requests for support from the program.
The Impact of the Program
- The HOPE Program has developed a strong expertise in the grieving process.
- The program outcomes/data illustrate high positive results and improvement in psychological well-being for families.
- The program helps prevent family members from feeling as if they are alone in their grief and it offers a safe place of support.
The role of the HOPE Program is to bring unique support and comfort through our volunteers. Peers will listen to a member story/stories, your thoughts, acknowledge their feelings, as well as share their experience, which offers to the member a sense of HOPE. Sharing experiences highlights the possibility of moving into an alternative experience to the current experience for the member over time.
The HOPE Program is for adult family members. They can be reached via their toll-free telephone number at: 1-800-883-6094 (available from Monday to Friday, from 8:00am to 16:00pm (Eastern Time) from anywhere in Canada) or through email at: HOPE-ESPOIR@forces.gc.ca
Community Integration is developed through a supportive network, life-enhancing activities, active learning, and engagement. It allows you and your family to grow together as an entity. Ensuring appropriate services are offered to members and their families is essential in a new community. Accordingly, you and your family take the time to familiarize yourselves with what the community has to offer. This guide provides the following form to assist this formalization process with community resources:
The Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization, helping Veterans, members of the CAF, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and their families get the care and support they deserve. The Legion is a democratic, non-partisan, member-based organization. It endeavours to make a difference in the lives of Veterans, and to always remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The Legion Veterans Services Network serves Veterans and their families, providing support, referrals, representation, advocacy and financial assistance. The services are free of charge, whether Veterans are a Legion member or not.
Legion Branches are the cornerstone of communities across Canada, and provide one of the largest volunteer bases in the country. With 1,350 Branches from coast to coast to coast, Legion members provide local services and support to build a stronger Canada.
Programs and Services
The Legion has various services to support Veterans including:
- Assistance with VAC. The Legion's Veterans Services Network works on behalf of Veterans to ensure they receive the benefits they are eligible for. They offer assistance and information on sometimes-complicated processes.
- Adjusting to Civilian Life. Legion Professional Command Service Officers can assist you and their families in accessing immediate and long-term supports and services:
- Initiate referrals to CAF Transition Support Services relocation and employment.
- Provide assistance at all stages of the disability claim process through VAC.
- Offer guidance to members and their families in accessing transition and mental health supports, services and benefits.
- Provide emergency financial assistance, and help accessing additional financial supports.
- Provide assistance for families, and help families access the benefits and supports they are eligible for.
- Financial Assistance. The Legion provides financial assistance to serving and former CAF members, RCMP, and their families who are in financial distress. Grants are available for the following: food, heating, clothing, prescription medication, medical appliances and equipment, essential home repairs and emergency shelter or assistance. Smaller comforts can also be provided to Veterans and surviving spouses who are hospitalized.
- Mental Health and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Legion's Service Officer Network can guide and help you access the supports you and your families identify and access the resources and support your need.
- Homeless Veterans. Trained Legion Command Service Officers can assist with the following:
- Finding suitable accommodation: Working closely with VAC, shelters and community organizations to get Veterans off the street and into temporary and/or long term accommodations;
- Financial Assistance: The Poppy Fund can provide, housing support through financial assistance for items such as first and last month’s rent, rental arrears and furnishings; and
- In addition, Legion Branches and Commands across the country support numerous initiatives that help homeless and near homeless Veterans in their communities. From conducting outreach programs, to working with local organizations and first responders to identify and refer Veterans to the Legion, to supporting housing and food banks, Legion members are the 'boots on the ground', helping homeless and near homeless Veterans get the support they need.
- Support for Families. Legion understands the challenges military families face, and the sacrifices they may endure, and they strive to support these family members (spouse by marriage or common-law, child of a Veteran, under the age of 18 or in university/college to age 25 and/or child of a Veteran, that was incapacitated prior to the age of 21 and declared dependent on the Veteran) through a range of programs and referral services such as :
- Assistance in accessing benefits and supports through VAC;
- Support and referrals for assistance with a Veteran adjusting to civilian life;
- Emergency financial assistance;
- Referrals for mental health support and services;
- Provide assistance and supports for independent living; and
- Support in accessing funeral and burial services for a Veteran.
- Free, one-year Legion membership to welcome Veterans to the Legion(for still serving or retired CAF members who have not been a member of the Legion). The Legion is pleased to offer a free one-year Legion membership, including a subscription to Legion Magazine and access to the member benefit programs.
TO DO LIST
To be in a mutually supportive relationship and engaged in community, the following considerations are proposed as they could help you to go through a seamless transition.
1-6 Month before your date of release
- Think about joining military associations / mess memberships, legion, etc.
- Consider joining groups with similar beliefs, language, culture, etc.;
- Consider joining sports activities / associations / coaching events you enjoy;
- Consider getting involved with opportunities for spiritual development; and
- Consider pursuing volunteer options.
Within 1 Month of your date of release
- Consider whether you want to connect with a Peer Mentorship program (e.g., HOPE, OSISS).
- Think about whether you would like to be a Mentor (after you transition out) to transitioning CAF members.
- Determine how much you want to stay engage with the CAF community.
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