Local wounded warrior caregiver named 2016 Dole fellow

FREDERICA — Max Poyer enjoys the quiet life. In the warmer months, he loves to be on the water with a fishing pole in hand, teaching his daughter how to cast. At home, he enjoys watching movies on Netfl ix with his wife Beverly who is more than just a wife — she’s also his full time caregiver.

 Beverly Poyer enjoys a rare day out with her husband Max and daughter Brianna.  Special to The Chronicle and The Journal

Beverly Poyer enjoys a rare day out with her husband Max and daughter Brianna. Special to The Chronicle and The Journal

The Army veteran was deployed for more than a year to Afghanistan in 2007; just a few short weeks after their marriage and birth of their daughter, Brianna.

“He had gotten out of the service, but when President Bush came on television asking for a troop surge, Max called and said was going back into the military. He said this was what he was trained to do and his country needed him,” she recalled.

Mr. Poyer returned to the United States with post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury in 2008.

“It wasn’t what I expected because he came home like this. Life literally just started when this all happened,” Ms. Poyer said.

After learning how to care for a veteran suffering from the physical and mental effects of war, Ms. Poyer advocated for fellow wounded warrior families in Delaware and eventually became an intern with Operation Second Chance.

She organizes caregiver gatherings over coffee to offer the wives of wounded soldiers a small break from their role as a caregiver as well as family activities.

The Frederica resident has also been named a 2016 Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow representing Delaware, one of 30 chosen nationally this year.

Through her new role, she will continue to serve as an advisor and advocate for caregivers and their wounded soldiers, offering support when needed. She will also be asked to speak with legislators and others who can help further advocate for families such as hers.

“There were no programs here whatsoever when we moved to Delaware, it was terrible. It was very diffi cult for me. It’s my desire to make some changes to that and bring some attention to those, there are quite a few, who live here. It took me 18-months to find another family like ours. We can do better,” she said.

As a Dole fellow, Ms. Poyer hopes to bring more awareness to the needs of wounded soldiers and their caregivers to Delaware during her two-year term.

The new Dole fellow said caregivers are often over looked and over worked, needing more help than many realize.

“A lot of caregivers are putting out 70 hours or more a week taking care of our loved ones. There’s very little time to do extra things,” she said.

Ms. Poyer does all of the parenting outside of their home and most of the minor household tasks the average person takes for granted such as grocery shopping and getting the mail from the mail box.

Due to his injuries, Mr. Poyer also has short-term memory loss and suffers from anxiety, which means his wife must be available most of the day to lend a hand when needed.

“This is our first year that he was not a long-term inpatient somewhere. With traumatic brain injury and PTS, there’s both cognitive and medical issues. Driving is even an issue because they’re outside of the home where there can be a lot of stress. A lot of families in Delaware with a wounded soldier are homebound,” she said. To better serve families such as the Poyer’s, the new Dole fellow believes Delaware needs more services for children of wounded soldiers, caregiver support and public awareness that such families do exist in the state.

“We’re still a normal family, but there’s more to it than one would think; especially when there’s invisible injuries. He looks fine, but this is a full-time gig. It’s probably more than full-time actually,” she said.

“We’ve gotten to a place where we’ve accepted it and we’ve adjusted as a family to our new normal. It wasn’t what we expected, but it’s what life had in store for us. Although my husband and I will never work in a normal capacity again due to his injuries and my care giving, we adjust. We’d love to one day own our own business where he can feel like he can engage again as well as giving me something outside of my role as a caregiver. In 10 years, I hope we’re not just surviving this injury, but rather, thriving.”

Just after midnight each night is when Ms. Poyer can finally call it quits. Until 6:15 a.m. the next morning all over again.

“The stories and experiences of our Dole Caregiver Fellows are at the heart of our foundation’s work,” said United States Sen. Elizabeth Dole. “These caregivers contribute critical first-hand perspective and knowledge, and their personal experience serves to strengthen the work of the Foundation and our partners. I am grateful for these individuals who have found it in their hearts to extend themselves beyond the challenges of caregiving to shoulder the responsibility of acting as a voice for their peers, our nation’s hidden heroes.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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