When I looked up Veteran’s Day on the internet earlier in the week, the first links that appeared were related to office closures such as banks and public offices. There was nothing about actual men and women who served in the Military. But, there is a lot going on with the Veteran’s Health Administration and I learned some shocking facts about Veterans when researching this post. First, approximately 8 percent of our prisoners are veterans. The good news is that the number is falling and while there are probably a few veterans who simply committed crimes unrelated to their service to our country, many of them have PTSD.
Prison is the extreme but there are many more veterans who are suffering from PTSD. I never thought of it as a condition that affected the elderly but Dementia and PTSD have a relationship. Additionally, the traditional treatment of long term use of benzodiazepines to manage anxiety with PTSD is now suspected of contributing to Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias. Medication recommendations have changed and are successful, but Dementia and PTSD are still closely correlated. These are our patients – Medicare beneficiaries who fought in wars that ended long ago continuing to suffer from PTSD and losing the cognitive ability to cope.
Although younger men and women in the military are taught how to recognize PTSD and get help when needed, the older generation lived in an age when they were supposed to ‘suck it up’. They viewed mental illness as weakness. They had a preconceived notion that men were supposed to be ‘strong’ and boys didn’t cry. Some of them have lived miserable lives. But as they are approaching the end of their lives, you can help them by learning to assess for PTSD and assist your patient in getting the help they need.
The Veterans Health Administration has a seemingly unlimited amount of information available for Veterans and Healthcare Providers. There are continuing education courses online at no cost for nurses that grant credit. There are teaching guides that can be downloaded that will help you teach your patients about PTSD. They are yours by clicking the blue box.
When I worked in critical I took care of a patient shot six times by her retired husband. According to her family, they were the perfect couple but a flashback to a combat zone ultimately caused the death of my patient. A few years later, in the cath lab, a patient with Alzheimer’s Dementia became very angry when a physician of Asian decent walked into his room prompting the patient to scream something about killing those Japs. The physician was a kind man and didn’t take offense but imagine how very frightened my patient was thinking that the ‘enemy’ had found him.
Jails are now designating areas for Veterans. The Hospice Benefit has a program to recognize veterans. Home Health nurses won’t wait for a program to formally assist Veterans. Let’s get started by learning about PTSD and getting our Veterans Treatment.
They were willing to die for us. We can lighten the pain of their ongoing suffering.