While some of the elderly population that receives home care includes veterans who have served our country, not all of the veterans who require home care services are elderly.
And for these younger veterans there are often different types of care needed for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and loss of limbs.
There are 23 million veterans and three million of them live with service-related disabilities, according to the Veterans Administration. Of the veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, 43,000 are living with the effects of traumatic brain injuries; 16,000 suffered catastrophic or devastating physical injuries; 8,400 live with amputated or badly mangled limbs; there are 4,000 new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosed each month.
Often what makes caring for veterans different than the typical aging population is that veterans are still cognitively there and hey want to get out and be active.
John F., a 50-something Vietnam veteran, is blind and has PTSD (both of which he attributes to exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide sprayed on forested land during the Vietnam War to defoliate trees and expose enemy fighters). He also has diabetes, kidney ailments, experiences sleeplessness and restlessness.
Although John F. is married, he needs in home care to assist him with bathing, housekeeping, meal preparation, and transportation to and from the V.A. for doctor’s appointments. John F.’s wife is on dialysis and often caregivers are helping the whole family of veterans, not just the veteran. John has cycled through four caregivers in 10 months.
To help prepare caregivers for these special circumstances with veterans, additional training on hoarding and PTSD is taken. Online courses about caring for someone who is living with depression can help caregivers who have veteran clients.
The care turns into respite care when the wife or husband needs to get out. For example, one client was taken to a local train station he enjoyed visiting so that his wife could get some time alone.
Statistics from a study by the United Health Foundation show that care for a veteran with service-related health conditions is a longer-term challenge with a higher burden of care. These veterans tend to need assistance with activities for daily living such as bathing, dressing and feeding as well as help with housework, transportation and grocery shopping. As a result of this great need, their family caregivers report higher emotional stress and physical strain along with financial hardship.
When it comes to caring for veterans, many consider it a privilege to serve those who served the country.