One support system your aging father or mother can gain as a veteran of the U.S. Military is compensation in the form of veteran financial assistance for assisted living or skilled nursing care. While this financial assistance is a benefit all veterans deserve, don’t forget to also evaluate additional ways you can support the emotional needs of your parent as both an aging adult and a veteran.
Many children often don’t realize the importance of an emotional support system for their parent as a veteran. Or, if they have seen signs that cause concern, they simply don’t know where to turn to find support.
Why PTSD Occurs As a Veteran Ages
It is not uncommon for older veterans to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms even 50 or more years after their time of service. You may notice your parent is often tired due to not sleeping and having nightmares; he may be easily startled, or he’s reliving events from the past. You may also notice symptoms of depression and a loss of interest in activities.
The National Center for PTSD says there are a number of reasons why PTSD occurs with age, including:
- More time to think about memories and less distractions, such as they may have had with work and busy family lives
- Medical problems that make them feel as if they have lost their strength
- More time spent watching the news and seeing traumatic events that bring back memories
- The natural part of aging that involves looking back, reflecting on life and trying to make sense of experiences
Some veterans experience increasing stress as they age, known as Late-Onset Stress Symptomatology. If this occurs, it is important your parent gets support for his emotional needs.
Emotional Support for an Aging Veteran
Emotional support can be provided in a variety of ways, whether it’s through a veteran support group or resources you and your family can use to help provide support. Also, this may be the time to contact professionals experienced in working with veterans.
- Look to specially-trained professionals for support. At Maine Veterans’ Home, our team of specially-trained healthcare professionals work together with you and your parent to develop a customized plan based on your parent’s needs as an aging adult and a veteran. As a long-term care facility serving veterans, we understand the physical, emotional and mental needs and work closely with state and federal agencies, veterans’ service organizations, the Department of Veterans Administration, and local community organizations.
- Focus on brotherhood. Find opportunities for your parent to be surrounded by other veterans who understand him and with whom he feels a connection. Don’t underestimate the power and strength this bond can provide as an emotional support system.
“There is a sanctity and fraternity to military brotherhood that is nearly impermeable. This tight-knit bond and unwavering trust serves as a valuable survival skill and creates lifelong bonds that are almost unimaginable to those of us who have not walked in your boots,” writes Lida Citroën, who assists veterans in making a military-to-civilian transition.
- Equip yourself with resources. MakeTheConnection.net is a website where veterans and their families can connect through the experiences of other veterans. The site provides online information, resources and solutions to issues and challenges veterans may face. At Maine Veterans’ Home, our services include not only providing support to veterans, but also to their families.
- If a crisis arises, call a crisis line for veterans. The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Many Veterans Won’t Ask for Help
A RAND Corporation study from 2008 found that only 30 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD or depression sought help from the VA health system. That means the majority did not seek help from the professional organization set up to assist them.
This study was based on veterans having served since 2001; many predict the number is even higher for veterans who served decades ago.
Many veterans hide symptoms of mental illness from family and friends as they fear embarrassment, disappointment and a lack of understanding, amongst other things, according to an Army 2007 Mental Health Advisory Team IV study.
What’s even scarier is the high percentage of veterans whose emotional struggles increase as they age. Sadly, suicide rates for veterans increase with age. A Department of Veteran Affairs Suicide Report found that more than 69% of Veteran suicides are among those age 50 and older.
Provide Support Beyond Financial
Whether you’ve noticed changes or are helping your parent align living arrangements for needed care, don’t forget to consider what he, as a veteran, may need emotionally. While emotional scars are not as visible as physical, they are often more impactful and challenging. They require a lifetime of support.
At Maine Veterans’ Home, we are more than an assisted living, skilled nursing or long term care center. We are veterans’ advocates. We’re committed 24/7 to Maine’s veterans and their families.
We welcome you and your family to visit any one or all of our six locations throughout Maine, or to contact us for any additional resources you may need. Contact Maine Veterans’ Homes online or give us a call at 800-278-9494.