Shared Caregiving Stories

How Expo Markers Saved Our Military Family.

Guest blog by Jeannette D. Mayer.

Every day I look at my husband and am reminded how lucky I am that he was able to come to me… to us! DeWayne came home to our daughter Addy and me after using five of his nine lives from May 23 – Oct 2, 2005 while on a tour-of-duty in Iraq. (Humor is a vital part of our ever-changing daily new normal.) His 5 lives were used when: 1. A Humvee roll-over, 2.&3. improvised explosive device (IED)exploded at close range, 4. guarding a downed helicopter that was being dismantled when the main body of the helicopter was destroyed by explosion with soldiers guarding within 200yards. 5. An IED went off right under the command seat of the humvee he was riding in. Through-out all 5 accidents 1 comrade lost his life, 2 lost some limbs, while many others came home with complications that continue to impact life going on 10 years later.
By Spring 2006 DeWayne was home and reintegration back into civilian life began. After days, months, of yearning for my husband to be with me again, for Addy to have her dad back, the full realization came crashing down that something wasn’t quite right. DeWayne’s mental functionality wasn’t like it used to be. He went from the ability to manage a check-book, run a Schwan’s route, create new routes, restructure old routes while maintaining his second in command at the Schwan’s depot along with many other high level executive function to having substantial short-term memory loss, becoming easily lost, confused & disorientation. DeWayne had challenges locating familiar locations and with that, the discovery process began.
I started to attend medical appointments to understand what was wrong and what we needed to do differently. The end results indicated he has a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, (TBI) as well as post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).
• What happened between Oct 2, 2005 and Spring 2006? Medical appointments all over the valley began. Treatment for his TBI began, 6 months of outpatient TBI treatment, 3 days a week of 8-10 hrs a day treatment began. His TBI Dr. wanted inpatient for a longer time frame but this was the extent the Army would allow. We attended physical therapy, counseling, occupational therapy and recreational therapy. We learned how to live our daily lives with an ever-changing daily new normal.
• How was DeWayne different?; He would forget tasks, leave the stove on, forget his way home, not understand simple instructions, forget what he is supposed to do during any given day. His temper grew and his ability to control his temper was gone. He was sees people & hears voices that aren’t there. I built a pillow wall to protect myself from his violent nightmares. I couldn’t leave the room because he would wake up in a freight if I wasn’t in bed.
 After 6 months of TBI treatment in the civilian world the transfer of his care to the Boise VA Medical Center began. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend the why transferring of care was needed, which added to the anger. Learning to navigate the VA added to the already challenging daily new normal. Once we had DeWayne established at the VA we had to re-establish all his therapy programs. Creating new relationships with his therapy /medical teams and reminding DeWayne continually as to why we were doing all this became my life for another 4 months. We rejoiced when DeWayne’s occupational therapist Wendy transferred from the civilian TBI facility to the VA. Another joyful moment came along when DeWayne remembered Wendy. He had positive responses to Wendy so progress began once more.
While at the VA, the care was great. Time came to transition that knowledge into functional actions at home. We tried different notebooks, binders-with dividers, tasks sheets and schedule pages on the computer. We set alarms on his phone, bought him a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a small calendar whiteboard. My brain was aching to discover something that would support My Love to be successful in his daily living.
And then a stroke of genius came along! We decided to use our kitchen cabinets as a whiteboard using expo markers! It was a simple solution to what seemed like a complex problem. I felt I could breathe again. We created a functional – adjustable lifestyle “Our Central Command Post” aka our kitchen. I worked with a local cabinet maker who sat down with us multiple times to design cabinets that would meet our ever-changing daily new normal. The biggest asset was the Plexiglas inlay on the cabinet door. With whiteboard tape and expos markers we have been able to centralize our daily happenings. As a family, Our Central Command Post is where to go to regroup and move forward.
• Problem: DeWayne couldn’t keep track of his daily tasks
• Solution: Plexiglas inlay – DeWayne’s section: No more than three tasks to create a successful day – assigned blue.
• Problem: Daddy couldn’t remember his daughter’s schedule
• Solution: Addy’s section: daily schedule, chores, and assigned her purple.
Knowing his daughter’s schedule was encourage him to be a successful, supportive daddy.
• Problem: DeWayne wanted to cook dinner. He was a fine chef prior to deployment, however upon his return his cooking became less then desirable.
• Solution: Dinner section: detailed meal preparation instruction written down and assigned green.
• Above these sections are important phone numbers used regularly.
We chose the kitchen because it is a great central location to bring the family together. Not only did it pull DeWayne’s daily functions into one place, it brought us all together so we would have less distractions, quick access to the calming effects of food and it centralized everyday life. One most days, DeWayne can locate his daily medications, wallet, glasses, hearing aids, and other items in the kitchen. Hence the naming of our kitchen, “Our Central Command Post,” tying our home and military lifestyle into one functional happening. Today we live with TBI, PTSD, Tremors, Social Anxiety, Silent Seizures, Fall Risk, and mental confusion. Expo markers are a tool we use to keep moving forward. We celebrate with Expo Markers.

We have expo markers of every color and style gracing our kitchen for the Plexiglas cabinet door and my Mom calendar. I love the colors. The colors help keep items fresh, bright and cheerful. Expo markers are easy to clean off, to change, to keep fresh and new. They are simply fun. A touch of spice to our lives. The colors are also fun to draw pictures with, which our daughter’s friends have blessed us with drawing of flowers, smiley faces and words of encouragement.
The story of how Expo markers came into our lives began January 4, 2004: the best wedding gift from an amazing friend. Little did we know that God was working his magic for years down the road in so many ways. To this day, expo markers are truly the best wedding gift we received. The note that came with the expo markers said, “these are to leave love notes on your bathroom mirror for each other often”. Several years later our expo markers disappeared only to appear in our daughter’s bathroom. Our daughter liked our mirror notes so much that she knew it was time to draw on hers too, so we purchased a set for her bathroom. Adalaide’s bathroom is the main one for the home, so when guests come over, they also leave messages or works of art on the mirror. Expo markers officially transformed from being a family thing to being a Village thing helping raise a family.
Expo markers have brought stability into our ever-changing daily new normal of a life. They have been a part of bringing peace, joy, and continual love.
As a Military Family we are American Made, We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Every day I look at my husband and am reminded how lucky I am that he was able to come to me… to us! DeWayne came home to our daughter Addy and me after using five of his nine lives from May 23 – Oct 2, 2005 while on a tour-of-duty in Iraq. (Humor is a vital part of our ever-changing daily new normal.) His 5 lives were used when: 1. A Humvee roll-over, 2.&3. improvised explosive device (IED)exploded at close range, 4. guarding a downed helicopter that was being dismantled when the main body of the helicopter was destroyed by explosion with soldiers guarding within 200yards. 5. An IED went off right under the command seat of the humvee he was riding in. Through-out all 5 accidents 1 comrade lost his life, 2 lost some limbs, while many others came home with complications that continue to impact life going on 10 years later.
By Spring 2006 DeWayne was home and reintegration back into civilian life began. After days, months, of yearning for my husband to be with me again, for Addy to have her dad back, the full realization came crashing down that something wasn’t quite right. DeWayne’s mental functionality wasn’t like it used to be. He went from the ability to manage a check-book, run a Schwan’s route, create new routes, restructure old routes while maintaining his second in command at the Schwan’s depot along with many other high level executive function to having substantial short-term memory loss, becoming easily lost, confused & disorientation. DeWayne had challenges locating familiar locations and with that, the discovery process began.
I started to attend medical appointments to understand what was wrong and what we needed to do differently. The end results indicated he has a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, (TBI) as well as post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).
• What happened between Oct 2, 2005 and Spring 2006? Medical appointments all over the valley began. Treatment for his TBI began, 6 months of outpatient TBI treatment, 3 days a week of 8-10 hrs a day treatment began. His TBI Dr. wanted inpatient for a longer time frame but this was the extent the Army would allow. We attended physical therapy, counseling, occupational therapy and recreational therapy. We learned how to live our daily lives with an ever-changing daily new normal.
• How was DeWayne different?; He would forget tasks, leave the stove on, forget his way home, not understand simple instructions, forget what he is supposed to do during any given day. His temper grew and his ability to control his temper was gone. He was sees people & hears voices that aren’t there. I built a pillow wall to protect myself from his violent nightmares. I couldn’t leave the room because he would wake up in a freight if I wasn’t in bed.
After 6 months of TBI treatment in the civilian world the transfer of his care to the Boise VA Medical Center began. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend the why transferring of care was needed, which added to the anger. Learning to navigate the VA added to the already challenging daily new normal. Once we had DeWayne established at the VA we had to re-establish all his therapy programs. Creating new relationships with his therapy /medical teams and reminding DeWayne continually as to why we were doing all this became my life for another 4 months. We rejoiced when DeWayne’s occupational therapist Wendy transferred from the civilian TBI facility to the VA. Another joyful moment came along when DeWayne remembered Wendy. He had positive responses to Wendy so progress began once more.
While at the VA, the care was great. Time came to transition that knowledge into functional actions at home. We tried different notebooks, binders-with dividers, tasks sheets and schedule pages on the computer. We set alarms on his phone, bought him a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a small calendar whiteboard. My brain was aching to discover something that would support My Love to be successful in his daily living.
And then a stroke of genius came along! We decided to use our kitchen cabinets as a whiteboard using expo markers! It was a simple solution to what seemed like a complex problem. I felt I could breathe again. We created a functional – adjustable lifestyle “Our Central Command Post” aka our kitchen. I worked with a local cabinet maker who sat down with us multiple times to design cabinets that would meet our ever-changing daily new normal. The biggest asset was the Plexiglas inlay on the cabinet door. With whiteboard tape and expos markers we have been able to centralize our daily happenings. As a family, Our Central Command Post is where to go to regroup and move forward.
• Problem: DeWayne couldn’t keep track of his daily tasks
• Solution: Plexiglas inlay – DeWayne’s section: No more than three tasks to create a successful day – assigned blue.
• Problem: Daddy couldn’t remember his daughter’s schedule
• Solution: Addy’s section: daily schedule, chores, and assigned her purple.
Knowing his daughter’s schedule was encourage him to be a successful, supportive daddy.
• Problem: DeWayne wanted to cook dinner. He was a fine chef prior to deployment, however upon his return his cooking became less then desirable.
• Solution: Dinner section: detailed meal preparation instruction written down and assigned green.
• Above these sections are important phone numbers used regularly.
We chose the kitchen because it is a great central location to bring the family together. Not only did it pull DeWayne’s daily functions into one place, it brought us all together so we would have less distractions, quick access to the calming effects of food and it centralized everyday life. One most days, DeWayne can locate his daily medications, wallet, glasses, hearing aids, and other items in the kitchen. Hence the naming of our kitchen, “Our Central Command Post,” tying our home and military lifestyle into one functional happening. Today we live with TBI, PTSD, Tremors, Social Anxiety, Silent Seizures, Fall Risk, and mental confusion. Expo markers are a tool we use to keep moving forward. We celebrate with Expo Markers.

We have expo markers of every color and style gracing our kitchen for the Plexiglas cabinet door and my Mom calendar. I love the colors. The colors help keep items fresh, bright and cheerful. Expo markers are easy to clean off, to change, to keep fresh and new. They are simply fun. A touch of spice to our lives. The colors are also fun to draw pictures with, which our daughter’s friends have blessed us with drawing of flowers, smiley faces and words of encouragement.
The story of how Expo markers came into our lives began January 4, 2004: the best wedding gift from an amazing friend. Little did we know that God was working his magic for years down the road in so many ways. To this day, expo markers are truly the best wedding gift we received. The note that came with the expo markers said, “these are to leave love notes on your bathroom mirror for each other often”. Several years later our expo markers disappeared only to appear in our daughter’s bathroom. Our daughter liked our mirror notes so much that she knew it was time to draw on hers too, so we purchased a set for her bathroom. Adalaide’s bathroom is the main one for the home, so when guests come over, they also leave messages or works of art on the mirror. Expo markers officially transformed from being a family thing to being a Village thing helping raise a family.
Expo markers have brought stability into our ever-changing daily new normal of a life. They have been a part of bringing peace, joy, and continual love.
As a Military Family we are American Made, We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Every day I look at my husband and am reminded how lucky I am that he was able to come to me… to us! DeWayne came home to our daughter Addy and me after using five of his nine lives from May 23 – Oct 2, 2005 while on a tour-of-duty in Iraq. (Humor is a vital part of our ever-changing daily new normal.) His 5 lives were used when: 1. A Humvee roll-over, 2.&3. improvised explosive device (IED)exploded at close range, 4. guarding a downed helicopter that was being dismantled when the main body of the helicopter was destroyed by explosion with soldiers guarding within 200yards. 5. An IED went off right under the command seat of the humvee he was riding in. Through-out all 5 accidents 1 comrade lost his life, 2 lost some limbs, while many others came home with complications that continue to impact life going on 10 years later.
By Spring 2006 DeWayne was home and reintegration back into civilian life began. After days, months, of yearning for my husband to be with me again, for Addy to have her dad back, the full realization came crashing down that something wasn’t quite right. DeWayne’s mental functionality wasn’t like it used to be. He went from the ability to manage a check-book, run a Schwan’s route, create new routes, restructure old routes while maintaining his second in command at the Schwan’s depot along with many other high level executive function to having substantial short-term memory loss, becoming easily lost, confused & disorientation. DeWayne had challenges locating familiar locations and with that, the discovery process began.
I started to attend medical appointments to understand what was wrong and what we needed to do differently. The end results indicated he has a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, (TBI) as well as post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).
• What happened between Oct 2, 2005 and Spring 2006? Medical appointments all over the valley began. Treatment for his TBI began, 6 months of outpatient TBI treatment, 3 days a week of 8-10 hrs a day treatment began. His TBI Dr. wanted inpatient for a longer time frame but this was the extent the Army would allow. We attended physical therapy, counseling, occupational therapy and recreational therapy. We learned how to live our daily lives with an ever-changing daily new normal.
• How was DeWayne different?; He would forget tasks, leave the stove on, forget his way home, not understand simple instructions, forget what he is supposed to do during any given day. His temper grew and his ability to control his temper was gone. He was sees people & hears voices that aren’t there. I built a pillow wall to protect myself from his violent nightmares. I couldn’t leave the room because he would wake up in a freight if I wasn’t in bed.
After 6 months of TBI treatment in the civilian world the transfer of his care to the Boise VA Medical Center began. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend the why transferring of care was needed, which added to the anger. Learning to navigate the VA added to the already challenging daily new normal. Once we had DeWayne established at the VA we had to re-establish all his therapy programs. Creating new relationships with his therapy /medical teams and reminding DeWayne continually as to why we were doing all this became my life for another 4 months. We rejoiced when DeWayne’s occupational therapist Wendy transferred from the civilian TBI facility to the VA. Another joyful moment came along when DeWayne remembered Wendy. He had positive responses to Wendy so progress began once more.
While at the VA, the care was great. Time came to transition that knowledge into functional actions at home. We tried different notebooks, binders-with dividers, tasks sheets and schedule pages on the computer. We set alarms on his phone, bought him a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a small calendar whiteboard. My brain was aching to discover something that would support My Love to be successful in his daily living.
And then a stroke of genius came along! We decided to use our kitchen cabinets as a whiteboard using expo markers! It was a simple solution to what seemed like a complex problem. I felt I could breathe again. We created a functional – adjustable lifestyle “Our Central Command Post” aka our kitchen. I worked with a local cabinet maker who sat down with us multiple times to design cabinets that would meet our ever-changing daily new normal. The biggest asset was the Plexiglas inlay on the cabinet door. With whiteboard tape and expos markers we have been able to centralize our daily happenings. As a family, Our Central Command Post is where to go to regroup and move forward.
• Problem: DeWayne couldn’t keep track of his daily tasks
• Solution: Plexiglas inlay – DeWayne’s section: No more than three tasks to create a successful day – assigned blue.
• Problem: Daddy couldn’t remember his daughter’s schedule
• Solution: Addy’s section: daily schedule, chores, and assigned her purple.
Knowing his daughter’s schedule was encourage him to be a successful, supportive daddy.
• Problem: DeWayne wanted to cook dinner. He was a fine chef prior to deployment, however upon his return his cooking became less then desirable.
• Solution: Dinner section: detailed meal preparation instruction written down and assigned green.
• Above these sections are important phone numbers used regularly.
We chose the kitchen because it is a great central location to bring the family together. Not only did it pull DeWayne’s daily functions into one place, it brought us all together so we would have less distractions, quick access to the calming effects of food and it centralized everyday life. One most days, DeWayne can locate his daily medications, wallet, glasses, hearing aids, and other items in the kitchen. Hence the naming of our kitchen, “Our Central Command Post,” tying our home and military lifestyle into one functional happening. Today we live with TBI, PTSD, Tremors, Social Anxiety, Silent Seizures, Fall Risk, and mental confusion. Expo markers are a tool we use to keep moving forward. We celebrate with Expo Markers.

We have expo markers of every color and style gracing our kitchen for the Plexiglas cabinet door and my Mom calendar. I love the colors. The colors help keep items fresh, bright and cheerful. Expo markers are easy to clean off, to change, to keep fresh and new. They are simply fun. A touch of spice to our lives. The colors are also fun to draw pictures with, which our daughter’s friends have blessed us with drawing of flowers, smiley faces and words of encouragement.
The story of how Expo markers came into our lives began January 4, 2004: the best wedding gift from an amazing friend. Little did we know that God was working his magic for years down the road in so many ways. To this day, expo markers are truly the best wedding gift we received. The note that came with the expo markers said, “these are to leave love notes on your bathroom mirror for each other often”. Several years later our expo markers disappeared only to appear in our daughter’s bathroom. Our daughter liked our mirror notes so much that she knew it was time to draw on hers too, so we purchased a set for her bathroom. Adalaide’s bathroom is the main one for the home, so when guests come over, they also leave messages or works of art on the mirror. Expo markers officially transformed from being a family thing to being a Village thing helping raise a family.
Expo markers have brought stability into our ever-changing daily new normal of a life. They have been a part of bringing peace, joy, and continual love.
As a Military Family we are American Made, We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Shared Caregiving Stories

Working out

Why I go to the gym

Guest Blog, Jeannette D. Mayer For as long as I can remember, my husband and daughter have given me a hard time about getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. Over the years it hasn't been easy overcoming the negativity that comes from them about my early morning self-care. As our daughter has gotten older she has grown to understand how hurtful her words are, and the reasons why I actually need to go to the gym. She now encourages and supports my early morning self-care with playful banter. As for my husband, it is still a challenge. For me, going to the gym early in the morning is peaceful because DeWayne, my veteran, my wounded hero, is asleep at home. This means this is my time where I don't have to worry about him. He is tucked safely into bed, and knowing that he is safe, gives me this needed security to leave the house for a couple hours. Most mornings the gym is quiet. I seem to be the only crazy one getting up this early. My mind and soul thrives on the short time alone. For me, alone time is regenerating. My brain can think. I can work through issues, cry, laugh, consider what challenges are happening and possible ways to face them. Plus, I don't really enjoy working out in front of other people. It is a small gym and I have my routine set. Truthfully -- other people coming in the gym early tend to disrupt my harmonious rhythm. (Okay, that really sounds selfish, I know). But in my defense, as a caregiver there are many days it is a high-demanding "giving" job. My husband requires so much attention that in the mornings it is nice to have this space to myself, and to just be "me" while working out. The addiction of working out feels amazing. It helps my energy levels build and my depression levels lower. I feel mentally terrible when I don't get to go to the gym or when a workout is cut short. I also joke that is this is also how I take out my sexual frustrations. It has been many years since this has taken place in our bedroom. Yes, my husband has seen a urologist at the VA Medical Center, and outside of the VA as well. After a multitude of exams and testing and many aids they both came to the same conclusion - nothing more can be done. It appears this section of our marriage has come to an end. At our young age, alternative releases are needed, and working out is great for that. I’m sorry but cuddling and hand holding only go so far. Working out helps a lot! My advice: if you are a caregiver - find what works for you. Find a way to ignore the naysayers, even the ones within your own home. Create a routine that is meaningful and passionate for yourself. Only you can find what works for you. For those who wish to support a caregiver: please, don’t lecture a caregiver on their method of self-care. They know all too well they need to take care of themselves. What they need is someone backing them up. Be there with encouraging words, be there physically if they need someone to help watch their children or hang out with their veteran. Some people find regeneration through surrounding themselves with people. Be that person who goes and does with the caregiver. The best support is the support with actions. We are a Military Family who is American Made! We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Reflecting Back on our Legislative Lunch

On March 19, 2019, the Idaho Caregiver Alliance hosted our first legislative lunch at the Idaho State Capitol. The event was open to all caregivers, their loved ones, and our legislators. The lunch, sponsored by Blue Cross of Idaho and Molina Healthcare, was an opportunity to help connect caregivers with their legislators in a setting less intimidating.

During the planning process, it was suggested that we pick a type of lunch that would reflect family caregivers; we decided on a breaded bowl of soup.

The event was so successful that we’ve scheduled our second legislative lunch for 2020, stay tuned. Here is a video we put together from the photos collected during the event, click here.

If you would like to become an advocate and/or contact your legislator, click on this link which will help you find out who your legislator is.