Caring for Aging Veterans

In honor of Veterans Day, November 11th, we’ve dedicated this month’s blog posts to our country’s veterans.   We’ll try to provide context for the common challenges faced by our veterans in order to better provide support, where possible.

A good number of our aging population is comprised of veterans. And sadly, there is also evidence that our younger veterans are aging more rapidly. In fact, a recent CDC study found that veterans between the ages of 25 and 64 had more than twice the rate of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer than non-veterans.

There is no doubt that many veterans need in-home care and that care may require very specific assistance and an understanding of the challenges unique to veterans.  One can expect that they might require help with prosthetics; they may have multiple chronic issues and/or need some level of mental health care. Of particular relevance is the ability to provide the appropriate support to those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact, there are many instances in which symptoms of PTSD worsen or return as an individual ages. We’ll talk more about that next week, but the point is that caring for aging veterans often requires diligence and the help of professionals.

How To Get Help

Recent statistics show that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides care to 4 million older veterans and 40% of those veterans live in rural areas, like Alaska. The VA has tried to provide support to those giving the care (often family, friends and loved ones) through tools and programs. If you want to learn more, you can view a recent presentation.

There are also specific pages on the VA website that will give you a lot of insight:

Geriatrics and Extended Care

Home Health Care

Yet, many veterans face financial and other challenges that prevent them from receiving the care that they need.  A good place to start is with The Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension program. This program can help veterans get funding to pay for a caregiver.

And of course, you can download a guide that is available in our resources section, for The Society of Certified Senior Advisors:

Understanding Veteran’s Benefits

You can also download this guide, provided by the Eldercare Resource Center.

VA Health Care and Medical Benefits will provide some of the assistance, but it can also come from veterans’ home and community-based services, pensions (as we mentioned), supplemental insurance benefits and grant programs, as well as non-governmental and non-profit organizations.

A great resource can be found on Make the Connection an organization centered on shared experiences and support for veterans.

At Midnight Sun Home Care, we can also help you determine what resources you need and how to go about getting the appropriate support. That’s in part, why we offer 3 hours of complimentary care—to help you determine what works best for your loved one.

How to Give Help

But, all of this takes time. So, it’s important to be aware of the basic ways in which you can help the veterans you know, from the beginning.

Again, just listening can be hugely healing and a fantastic way to provide support. You can also focus on:

Providing safe and familiar experiences

  • Supporting healthy eating
  • Encouraging exercise (at an appropriate level)
  • Finding support groups and professionals to provide what you can’t
  • Communicating that it’s okay and admirable to ask for help
  • Making sure you hire help when you need it

Sometimes you need help with these things and helping often involves taking care of yourself as well. If you compromise your own needs when caring for someone at home, you ultimately won’t be able to give them the support they need. That’s why using an in-home care service is so valuable. At Midnight Sun Home Care, we can provide services to help your loved one, in the context of what they want and need as an individual. And we can give you much needed respite and support as you try to support that very important person in your life.

A lot of this sounds like common sense, but for the aging veterans in your life, it can make a huge difference in the quality of each day.