If the person you care for is a combat veteran, you may not have heard much about those experiences. You are not alone. In generations past, veterans made it a point to put the war behind them and “forget.” But things can take a dramatic turn in later life. As they face the challenges of serious illness, many vets start having symptoms that appear to be a delayed form of PTSD.
Physical pain, need for medication, or dependence on others can bring up old, traumatic memories. Dad may start to have nightmares or insomnia. Or you might notice an unexplained change in Mom’s temperament. Researchers believe this comes on because the stress of illness makes it too hard for the mind to continue suppressing the bad memories. For instance:
- Trouble breathing from an illness such as COPD brings up past anxieties.
- Pain can provoke memories of one’s own or another’s injuries.
- Medications for pain or other conditions can cause fuzzy thinking. This in itself interferes with keeping combat memories at bay.
Moral and spiritual concerns
Sadly, combat veterans have experienced the worst humanity has to offer. Your family member may have had to bury feelings about things he or she was called on to do in the line of duty. As the reality of “meeting one’s maker” draws closer, overpowering emotions of shame, guilt, and regret may arise.
What you can do.
Veterans typically don’t like to talk about their wartime experiences. But they will talk with another vet. The Veterans Administration is aware of these late-life issues. They have counseling available for vets and for family members. In addition, hospice and palliative care programs often have a “We Honor Veterans” program. Their practitioners are specially trained to support the care needs of those who selflessly answered the call of duty.
Let us help.
At Senior Care Management Services we have deep respect for the contribution of our men and women in uniform. As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we can guide you to resources that will help ease the invisible wounds your loved one carries from their service. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.
In the tradition of “positive psychology,” we encourage family caregivers to know and use their signature strengths. These personality traits can become reliable tools. Courage, for example, has many faces beyond bravado and derring-do. See if you recognize yourself in these descriptions.
Honesty and integrity are facets of courage.
Are you a person who insists on living by your values? Do you prize authenticity? Courage is at the root of what it takes to
- know your limits and take respite breaks when you need to;
- talk compassionately with a family member about behaviors that are not healthy;
- ask a sibling to participate more in helping out with Mom or Dad.
Another aspect of courage is the willingness to continue even if the going gets tough. Think about ways you advocate for your parent with the healthcare system. Or perhaps you’ve found yourself calmly handling once-unimaginable tasks in personal care or wound care.
Courage also involves feeling several things at once, yet staying focused. A courageous person may feel fear. But they steady themselves with a belief that they can make an impact. The thoughtfully courageous assess situations with eyes wide open. They see the risks. Rather than run, they look for ways to reduce the chance of a negative outcome.
The roar of a lion—a blustery manner or righteous indignation—may look like strength. But that type of courage is not usually constructive in family dynamics. Better to remember that lions can be tender too, and they work for the overall good of the pride.
Courage may not be something you think of as your signature strength. This fresh look at the many sides of courage may help you see the daily bravery you exhibit as a family caregiver.
Are there days when you don’t feel like a lion?
We all feel that way from time to time. Usually it’s when there is more to be done than we think we can accomplish. As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services can help you look authentically at the situation, and find your courage to take the next step. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.
Did you know that 60% of people with flu symptoms leave the house during their illness? Furthermore, 70% of them go to the drugstore. A good reason to stay clear of the pharmacy during peak cold and flu season!
Good preparation involves a lot more than a vaccine.
Cold and flu germs are highly contagious. If an infected person sneezes, anyone within a 3-foot radius is likely to get exposed. And those flu germs live up to 24 hours on hard surfaces. Not to mention that the sick person unwittingly starts spreading germs as early as three days BEFORE feeling any symptoms and continues to be contagious up to 24 hours after the natural break of a fever.
Tips for yourself and for your loved one
- Get the flu vaccine. Even if it’s not a perfect match with this year’s influenza virus, it will minimize the intensity of symptoms.
- Get eight hours of sleep at night. In one study, those who got fewer hours were three times more likely to catch a cold.
- Wash hands often. Touching hard surfaces (counters, doorknobs, the poles on public transit) is a sure-fire way to bring germs into your body, usually through rubbing your eyes or eating.
- Frequently clean surfaces at home and work.
- Shy away from crowded situations.
Avoid the pharmacy by stocking up ahead of time on
- soups, teas, and other fluids to keep well hydrated;
- fever reducers: Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin;
- saline drops or a neti pot to gently flush nasal passages;
- honey and/or cough drops to soothe the throat;
- decongestants (to dry up the nose), cough suppressants (for nighttime sleeping), expectorants (for daytime purging of mucus in the lungs). Consult with the doctor beforehand to be sure there are no conflicts with prescribed medicines;
- lots of tissues. Don’t keep used ones around;
- humidifiers to ease breathing;
- wedged pillows to sit (and sleep) more upright.
Are you prepared for getting sick?
Very likely you have many people relying upon you. And as a family member, you don’t readily get a “sick day.” As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services see family members work themselves so hard that they frequently succumb during cold and flu season. Let us help relieve the stress ahead of time so you have a chance to dodge the illness. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.