With additional certified coaches, Operation Family Caregiver can now enroll more caregivers of returning service members and veterans.
Newport News, Va. – Riverside Health System announced that it is further expanding the footprint of its popular Operation Family Caregiver (OFC) program statewide following the addition of certified caregiver coach Kate Parkinson, a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
OFC, operating as a collaboration between the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health (CEALH) and the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, provides valuable coaching and support programs at no cost to caregivers of newly returning service members and veterans of all generations across the Commonwealth.
Parkinson, a Yorktown, Virginia resident, brings significant skills to the OFC team. She currently serves as Service Coordinator of the Christian Village of Eastern Virginia and has spent more than two years in various capacities at Hampton Roads Neuropsychology, responsible for interpreting and documenting cognitive tests, among other roles.
During her time in the U.S. Air Force, Parkinson also served as a Family Liaison Officer, assisting surviving family members with emotional support and linking them to helpful agencies when their loved one passed away unexpectedly.
“Operation Family Caregiver is a wonderful program backed by dedicated partners who are deeply committed to helping families who may be struggling to meet the needs of their veteran loved ones,” said Parkinson. “It is an honor to join the OFC implementation team and to be able to help even more families to take advantage of these services.”
Parkinson joins other certified coaches on the OFC team who also have vast experience serving family members and care partners of military veterans.
That coaching team includes Brandi Jancaitis, a military spouse who earned a Master of Public Health degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia Tech. Her direct caregiving experience includes serving as a Lead Case Manager for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program and as Prevention Specialist with the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. Jancaitis also served veterans and their families through the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services, as Director of Virginia Veteran and Family Support (formerly the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program) and Director of Housing Development for Veterans.
“As a nation, we’ve done a great job of supporting our military service members, but where we haven’t done quite as well is supporting the caregivers – the families and loved ones behind the scenes who are really holding things together,” said Jancaitis. “It’s a lot to put on a family, and there aren’t a lot of programs that serve them and lower the strain on the entire family.”
OFC was designed to address that critical need.
“For many family caregivers, the OFC program gives them a chance to focus on their own needs for the first time, which enables them to better care for both themselves and their veteran loved one,” Jancaitis said.
Other OFC coaches in the area include Gary Lloyd, a licensed professional counselor who has worked with people of all ages coping with addiction and other challenges.
As a retired Naval Flight Officer, he held many positions over the course of his military career, taught safety, mission tactics and compliance monitoring. Lloyd earned a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University and a Master of Education degree from the College of William & Mary. He has been a family caregiver for the past decade.
In addition to the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, Riverside also partners with the nationally recognized Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving to offer OFC, which is confidential, evidence-based, and tailored to each individual family. Programs are typically 16 to 24 weeks long, with sessions held in person, over the phone, or via Skype videoconference.
Riverside’s OFC program launched as a three-year project in the Fall of 2015. In 2018, Riverside announced that it was one of just a few OFC partners in the U.S. who would receive a fourth year of funding.
“OFC was specifically developed to address the unique challenges of veteran caregivers – those who are caring for loved ones who have sacrificed so much for our country,” said Christine Jensen, Ph.D., Director of Health Services Research for Riverside CEALH and a Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving Master Trainer. “By building our roster of highly qualified and certified coaches, we are excited to be able expand the enrollment of the OFC program.”
To learn more about the Operation Family Caregiver program or to register, visit riversideonline.com/ofc or call 888-597-0828.