The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care is nothing but complimentary about our veterans, whether they served recently or decades ago.
Whatever their role was, we’re appreciative of their effort in defending our country in peacetime or wartime.
Veterans Day, which was Nov. 11, was a national opportunity to thank those who served, but this appreciation needs to continue the rest of the year.
November is also a valuable time to increase awareness of some of the additional mental and physical challenges that many veterans face especially as their health declines.
They could be directly connected to their time of service, such as an injury received in combat. They could be health conditions that have gradually developed over the years, such as painful knees, backs or shoulders that perhaps began during military service.
Or these could be conditions that started as a result of service but were never treated, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which could cause anxiety and distress years after enlistment ended.
There could be environmental factors during their service which have led to physical or mental challenges later in life, such as exposure to toxins that may increase cancer risk.
All of these factors may require some discussions with caregivers and home health care personnel since they can affect the type of health care needed by veterans. A variety of benefits can be found through the Veterans Administration, including home health care, but every individual situation is different along with available resources in every community.
Challenges with veterans
The U.S. National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, reports that the quality of care in the military has advanced, so injuries that would have been fatal in the past now have a much higher survival rate.
This is excellent news as far as reducing death rates and sending more people home to their friends and families, but it also has created a larger pool of veterans with minor to extensive mental or physical injuries, some who will have to live with them all their lives.
Various studies show that the increase in injured veterans is leading to a higher increase in suicides as well as more possibilities of substance abuse.
The library’s findings also indicated that healthcare providers can benefit from more training in how to work with veterans, especially as more and more of them age.
A few generations ago, there wasn’t a lot of help for veterans who experienced difficult things on the battlefield or in the service in general.
They may have been told to “deal with it,” or drink more, or simply that they didn’t need to share their mental trauma. This often led to domestic problems, substance abuse, or even isolation.
Today, there are more resources, including mental health professionals who specialize in helping veterans work through some of these difficult memories, whether they were recent or far in the past. There are also may be various support groups available through an area hospital, veterans service organization or Veterans Administration office.
These painful memories won’t go away but through therapy and support, they can be managed and processed better.
When someone reaches the hospice stage, their care needs might be different than someone receiving traditional care. If they’re mentally alert, they may be thinking of common end-of-life concerns, such as what will happen to their family and their various assets after they’re gone.
Home care/hospice personnel may be able to provide a social worker or someone with administrative experience working with veteran benefit paperwork to help with these tasks and let patients know that everything is in place. The Veterans Administration offers a wide variety of assistance, including burial if needed. Taking care of these details will provide peace of mind for the patient and their family.
Reflecting on the end of their life may encourage someone to want to reach out to fellow veterans, even people who they haven’t spoken to for years. Family members or local veterans officials may consider pursuing these searches.
While everyone can benefit from massage therapy, veterans especially may enjoy this due to high levels of pain.
If they are already beginning to suffer from dementia or other mental conditions, health care personnel should be aware of the possibility of:
- Confusion, including flashbacks to military service.
- Aggression if they’re unsure where they are or what’s happening.
- Sensitivity to noises or other stimuli which could trigger older memories.
- Hallucinations or references to fellow service members.
How to help
Family members or loved ones of a veteran whose provider is recommending hospice care should reach out quickly to the nearest Veterans Administration office, if they haven’t already.
The VA does pay for hospice services and is happy to connect its people with local health care/hospice personnel to make sure he or she gets the help they need.
Above and Beyond Home Health Care also has experience working with veterans and the VA so will be happy to assist as needed.