Health And Wellness Needs Of Senior Veterans

U.S. veterans who have endured enormous personal and physical sacrifices in conflicts around the world in an effort to protect our freedoms, often struggle with health and wellness issues in their later years. In fact, the statistics about veteran health are really shocking. Senior veterans are over 60% more likely to suffer from heart attacks and coronary heart disease, for example, and are more likely to develop cancer than civilians of a similar demographic. Given these startling statistics, it’s important that caregivers are prepared to address the unique physical and emotional health and wellness challenges that aging veterans often face. 

Barriers to Emotional and Physical Care 
Healthcare organizations in the United States are currently providing healthcare services for more than 9 million veterans. Veterans are eligible for a number of health and wellness services, but barriers exist that reportedly prevent them from getting the care that they really need. These barriers include: 

  • Lack of required timely health treatments. 
  • Fragmentation in healthcare services, or lack of care coordination. 
  • Mobility issues that impede or prevent getting to and from doctor’s appointments. 
  • Cost of healthcare and treatments. 
  • Geographic inaccessibility of healthcare facilities. 

Overcoming these obstacles can often be difficult for senior vets, so it’s important that caregivers are available to advocate on their behalf so they get the care they need. 

Addressing Emotional Health 
Aging can be difficult from a physical perspective for anyone, but veterans face unique challenges that often go beyond strictly physical impairments. Many veterans struggle with emotional issues such as depression, anxiety or issues associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although the Department of Veterans Affairs offers mental healthcare services to veterans, the barriers outlined above may prevent some veterans from getting proactive treatment. In addition, the psychological issues that many aging veterans face are often compounded by feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

Tips For Caring For Aging Vets 
Improving the overall quality of life for veterans is an important component of boosting their wellness and health. Caregivers can make a difference in the lives (and health) of vets by encouraging social interaction, assisting with the coordination of their care and helping them to feel less isolated. Here are some ways that caregivers can help support an aging veteran: 

  • Spend time with them. Feelings of loneliness and depression are very common among older veterans. Often, they simply want someone to talk with and to listen to their stories. Simply taking the time to sit and listen to them is one of the best things that a caregiver can do. Ask them about their lives, about their specific branch of the military and listen to their stories. These types of conversations can form bonds that can help reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Encourage them to volunteer. Many veteran’s associations such as the VFW, church associations or other local community groups, offer opportunities in which veterans of all ability levels can volunteer. Helping veterans find opportunities to get involved and lend support can provide them with the chance to build bonds with others and gain a sense of purpose. 
  • Help them build community. One of the most important things for an aging veteran is to get connected with a local community. Whether through an organization like the VFW, a retirement community or an other local group, finding like-minded people can serve as a balm to feelings of depression and isolation. In some ways, veterans may find retirement more difficult than their civilian counterparts, as the bonds formed during active duty can be so strong. Finding ways to connect groups of fellow veterans can help them reclaim that sense of camaraderie. 

Kyffin Grove offers residents ample opportunities to forge personal connections. Our active and engaged supportive living community provides veterans with access to coordinated healthcare and personal advocacy. Contact us to schedule a tour and to learn more.