By any standard, the amount is daunting: Thousands of military personnel continue to return home from serving overseas with major injuries, meaning they can no longer do tasks that once were easy. They may have missing limbs or cope with the reality of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). More face the hidden scars that accompany post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“This is a 20-year problem. There’s still a war now, but when all of these soldiers need help, it’s going to be a monster. What’s here right now is just a small percentage of returning veterans out there in society. The number of people that need help now is a problem. When the masses start to hit – we need to be ready with open arms,” Malcolm Junior said.
Malcolm was a first sergeant in the U.S. Army. He spent 26 years in the military, serving in places as wide ranging as Louisiana, Fort Riley, Kansas, Germany and Bosnia. Now, he helps people by providing home care services through his Homewatch CareGivers office in Southwest Houston.
“When I get to the point where I need help at home, that’s what I want. I want someone looking out for me,” he said.
Wounded warriors returning from combat with injuries are among those who could use help at home. It is difficult for the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to report exactly how many young Americans experienced severe wounds in combat over the past decade of war. The Pentagon says incomplete battlefield reports and conflicting databases make it difficult to be precise. Either way, the numbers still add up to huge quantities. According to the Department of Defense, more than 50,000 Americans were wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Among those, some 16,000 suffered severe or catastrophic injuries. According to the U.S. Army surgeon general’s office, since 2001, military surgeons have amputated more than 1,600 limbs; another 6,800 people have badly mangled limbs that will never function the same again. Furthermore, since 2002, the Defense Department says doctors have diagnosed more than 43,000 patients with TBI. Many more are still undiagnosed. And, the Department of Veterans Affairs takes on about 4,000 new cases of veterans with PTSD each month.
“Maybe they can’t prepare meals for themselves. Maybe they don’t want to. Maybe they need some help around the house. Maybe they need transportation to the VA or a doctor to allow them to live independently,” Malcolm said.
Veterans needing assistance may qualify for the Aid and Attendance pension benefit through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The best way to understand if you qualify is to contact a Veterans Service Officer and begin the application process. Vets and their families should be aware that the paperwork can be complicated and mistakes can often cause delays. The New York Times’ Susan Seliger recently wrote a series on the best way to overcome challenges and get the benefit:
- The ‘Long and Unacceptable’ Wait for a Veterans’ Benefit
- After the Denial Letter Arrives
All Homewatch CareGivers offices can provide veterans in-home help. If the veteran qualifies for the Aid and Attendance benefit, they can then use those funds to help pay for services.
“The problems that face wounded warriors can be similar to those with a chronic illness. They feel they cannot do anything, especially when they first get back. Eventually, they get new training, but that first experience is hard,” Malcolm said.
Malcolm says an additional challenge for many disabled vets is they are trained not to rely on others, but circumstances force them to do so.
“The principles in the military about leadership are all about being up front and leading and not being dependent on anybody. Once you’ve been exposed to that, you don’t want to come back and live at Mom and Dad’s house and depend on them for small things. They especially cannot do this if they have PTSD. They’re likely to blow up,” Malcolm said. “If they can get their independence back, and live on their own, like Homewatch CareGivers can help with, they would much rather have that.”
In preparation to assist those living with PTSD, our caregivers have access to more than a dozen courses on our award-winning, professionally-developed and accredited Homewatch CareGivers University. Caregivers gain knowledge in the following areas:
- How to recognize signs of pain
- Ways to prevent or diminish catastrophic reactions, such as sudden mood changes, crying, verbal abuse and physical violence
- How to intervene in cases of domestic violence
- How to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression
- How to ensure a person receives the appropriate care for depression
“When a client is stressing, caregivers have to be calm, cool, and make the right decisions. Caregivers can’t freak out when it comes to stressful situations. We have to educate ourselves on PTSD. You have to understand it to be able to deal with it,” Malcolm said.
Helping other veterans is very important to Malcolm and Homewatch CareGivers. In addition to providing veterans care as part of his home care services, he also works with the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.), the official nonprofit service organization for USA military veterans benefits.
“I help VFW members because they need it. Home care is something veterans can use the most when they come home,” Malcolm said. “In the military, a noncommissioned officer, like a sergeant, is charged with taking care of soldiers and their families. I’ve been doing this for a long time and that’s what I’m still doing. I can still look out for my fellow soldiers and their families and make sure they’re doing well.”