PTSD in Older Veterans: What You Should Know

Author: Maine Veterans' Homes
Posted: October 18, 2020
Category: Veteran Health & Wellness

Are you the adult child of a Veteran? If so, have you thought about the importance of an emotional support system for your parent? Or maybe you’ve seen signs of concern but simply don’t know where to turn to find support.

Learn more about military-related PTSD, its causes, and how you can help in this blog post.

Why PTSD Occurs As a Veteran Ages

It’s not uncommon for older Veterans to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms even 50 years or more after their time of service. You may notice your parent is often tired due to not sleeping and having nightmares; they may be easily startled or continually relive 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 fewer 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 their emotional needs.

Emotional Support for an Aging Veteran

You can help provide emotional support in a variety of ways, whether it’s through a Veteran support group, or resources you and your family can use to help. Also, this may be the time to contact professionals experienced in working with Veterans.

  1.  Look to specially-trained professionals for support. At Maine Veterans’ Homes, our team of 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. 

  2. As a long term care community serving Veterans, we understand 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.

  3.  Focus on camaraderie. Find opportunities for your parent to be surrounded by other Veterans who understand them and with whom they feel 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.

  1. Equip yourself with resources. MakeTheConnection 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. 

  2. If a crisis arises, call a crisis line for Veterans. The Veterans Crisis Line is for Veterans in crisis and their families and friends. You’ll be connected 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, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Many Veterans Won’t Ask for Help

A RAND Corporation study 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, among other things.

What’s even scarier is the high percentage of Veterans whose emotional struggles increase as they age. The latest Department of Veteran Affairs Suicide Report found that the highest number of suicides among any Veteran age group was between 55-74 years old.

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 they, 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’ Homes, we are more than an assisted living, skilled nursing, and long term care center. We are Veterans’ advocates. We’re committed 24/7 to Maine’s Veterans and their families.

Learn more about what our six communities offer and see if your loved one is eligible by downloading our free guide >>>

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