Do Senior Veteran Loved Ones Need Help Sooner?

Serving in the military is a unique career path that comes with equally unique challenges. Every veteran has a story, but there are many commonalities shared among them. And because of what those are, your veteran loved one could require professional home care sooner than an average person. Caring for a veteran can also present challenges due to the unique culture surrounding the military. Finding a professional caregiver with experience in helping military families could be a significant advantage.

In 2012, the average age of the 15,000 veterans with a service disability was only 41. In fact, 46 percent of these veterans were younger than 40. Many medical conditions that are prevalent among veterans, including many that don’t discriminate by age, can require in-home care, and it’s often in their best interest to seek that help as quickly as possible.

Mental Health Disorders

The mental pressures that come with serving in the armed forces can be extreme, and they can take a severe toll on veterans' mental health. In service, veterans may have seen things that the rest of us can’t imagine. This can cause veterans to feel removed from society when they return to civilian life. Every day, approximately 20 US veterans commit suicide.

If your loved one suffers from a mental health issue like anxiety or depression, it may affect his ability to cope with day-to-day tasks, even if he’s physically fit. Home care can be an excellent remedy for helping with tasks like cooking, cleaning and general housework, while also giving your loved one much-needed company and companionship. The sooner you can seek help the better. Among other adverse effects, depression can lead to a more rapid mental decline in seniors, so making sure they are not alone could be of vital importance.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that may occur after someone suffers a life-threatening event. It's very common for veterans who have seen combat: A 2015 study of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that one-in-ten had PTSD. Common side effects include flashbacks, upsetting memories, trouble sleeping and a feeling of nervousness, which go on for months after the event that caused it. It can leave sufferers unable to carry out day-to-day tasks due to mental health problems such as:

  • A deep feeling of shame
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Substance dependence
  • Physical pain

PTSD can worsen in old age, so it is crucial that you seek help immediately if your loved one shows signs of PTSD and especially if those symptoms worsen. With cases of PTSD being more prevalent in veterans, it is vital that veterans seek help as soon as possible.

Injuries

Injuries are common in military service. In fact, both joint and back injuries, and mental health issues are the two most common reason for vets to seek medical assistance, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Chronic or reoccurring injuries could mean that even comparatively young senior veterans have mobility issues, which could require in-home care. Even if the problems are temporary, your loved one may be eligible for professional care until the condition improves. If he or she needs home care while recuperating from an injury, arranging it as quickly as possible can prevent further damage.

Service Disabilities

Tragically, many service members suffer life-altering injuries while serving their country. If so, the VA may pay a benefit depending on the severity of the injury and may take care of any medical costs and the costs of helping the veteran to live independently.

These disabilities could be life-long, and the veteran may need home care to help sustain life at home. While family members may be prepared to take some of the burdens, caregiving can rapidly take its toll on people who aren't ready to embrace this responsibility. Home care is hard enough before considering a life-altering disability. Many professional caregivers have experienced numerous veterans like your loved one and could be instrumental in helping care for your loved one. Involving one in your care plan from the outset can ensure that your veteran is getting the best care possible.

Veteran’s Culture

Veteran’s culture can make veterans feel hard to relate to and can come sometimes present a unique challenge to the person tasked with providing care. The VA believes that military culture can influence a veteran’s “values, beliefs, expectations and behaviors.”

When Linda’s father needed professional care, it was difficult to convince him that it was necessary:

“He spent 30 years in the Air Force and was fiercely independent. Veterans are proud and especially people of his generation. We went through a stage where he was very apprehensive but once he accepted care, it made his life, and my mom’s life, a lot easier and their carers became great friends.”

The earlier you can introduce much-needed care for your loved one, the more receptive he or she may be. It may be that it’s hard for veterans to ask for help, but military culture helped Ben’s father, who has Alzheimer’s, to bond with his professional caregiver:

"Dad was in the army, and his caregiver was in the air force, so they got on well right from the start and chatted away about service-related stuff. That gives my mom comfort that he has something in common with the person who supports him and he's less likely to be stressed when she's gone. It gives me peace of mind because I know the respite time my mom gets doesn't have that 'Is he OK while I'm away?' factor."

Look for a caregiver who has experience in dealing with veterans and their unique culture, and follow these eight tips on interviewing a caregiver to ensure his or her expertise aligns with the needs of you and your loved one.

Financing Home Care

Short and long-term home care may be covered in part by VA healthcare, click here for more information.

A career in the military comes with many sacrifices, and unfortunately, these can often continue into a veteran’s old age. It may be that veterans could use a little extra help earlier than members of the general public. Hiring a professional caregiver to contribute to your loved one’s care can help, and involving the caregiver sooner than later is always a good idea.

For more information on how veterans can pay for home care, click here.

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