Late-life veterans’ issues

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.

Common triggers
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.

This Veterans Day is November 11, 2015

A very Happy Veterans Day to our veterans. Thank you for all you have done for our freedoms. We frequently hear about all the challenges Veterans Affairs face in assisting veterans with their needs. But today I want to call attention to an interesting program for veterans that has recently received national media attention.

Shakespeare for Veterans?

Yes, Shakespeare for veterans. Recently, ABC News reported on a Milwaukee program for veterans called “Feast of Crispian,” a reference to a Henry V pre-battle speech. In this acting program, veterans work with area actors in scenes of heavy conflict from Shakespearean plays. The aim of this free program is to help former service members work on addiction and reintegration issues, mental health problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The project director of the program states that Shakespearean plays work well because the language of Shakespeare “holds big emotion.” Nancy Smith-Watson says the language “elicits it, but it also holds it, the metaphor just enables a lot of emotion to be put on them.” The acting, she says, helps veterans access bottled up emotions by using Shakespeare’s words, which breaks down walls and builds confidence. Participants are encouraged to be as angry or sad as they want. One participant, a 25-year-old Army veteran credits the program for allowing him to open up and be himself. He has also remained sober and free of drugs and alcohol for six months.

The program started in 2013, and to date has had 300 veterans participate.




Love this Guy! D-Day Vet Sneaks Out of Care Home to Get to Normandy

In a move reminiscent of the bravery and determination of D-Day and WWII veterans, a nursing home resident and D-Day veteran quietly left his nursing home this week to get to Normandy and the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  He was not going to miss it, and even his wife was in on the plan.  The nursing home though, was not aware of his plan, and after realizing he was not there, notified the police who looked for him until another veteran called to say he was with them, and everything was fine.  He would be back when the celebrations were over.  How great is that?

See his return home below: