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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Caring for aging veterans with PTSD

  • Many veterans in hospice, and other end of life programs, are facing instances of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that may have remained dormant during much of their active lives.
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  • The Arkansas Department of Health Hospice, of which the Cleburne County Hospice program is a part, was recently recognized as a Level 1 partner in the We Honor Veterans program. According to the We Honor Veterans organization, the program, the campaign provides tiered recognition to organizations that demonstrate a systematic commitment to improving care for Veterans. "Partners" can assess their ability to serve Veterans and, using resources provided as part of the campaign, integrate best practices for providing end-of-life care to Veterans into their organization. By recognizing the unique needs of our nation's Veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness, the Arkansas Department of Health Hospice and Cleburne County Hospice program are better able to accompany and guide Veterans and their families toward a morc peaceful ending. And in cases where there might be some specific needs related to the Veteran's military service, combat experience or other traumatic events, the hospice programs will find tools to help support those they are caring for.
    According to local hospice director Vicki Presley, many veterans in hospice, and other end of life programs, are facing instances of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that may have remained dormant during much of their active lives. As the end of life programs slowly move from veterans of the World War II era to those of the Vietnam War era, the characteristics of latent PTSD change.
    Most WWII vets returned home to a hero's welcome. This, combined with living in an era when men expressing internal feelings and psychological issues was frowned upon, contributed to a "bottling up" of the horrific experiences of that bloody war. As many of these vets near their final years, many of those repressed thoughts are returning to the surface and many are reliving the tragedies of that conflict that weren't typically discussed in the years of celebration after the victory.
    In contrast, Vietnam veterans, who will make up around 60% of veterans over the age of 65 by next year, on average have knowingly carried symptoms of PTSD for years. Drafted into an unpopular war and fighting an enemy that was often unclear and undefined at best, most of these veterans were unceremoniously shipped home to a public that was, at best, ambivalent, and, at worst, insulting and full of disdain. Not only did these vets experience the horrors of war firsthand, they experienced a lifetime of the horrors revisited through Hollywood movies, books, and documentaries. While it is true that support and help networks were more readily available for these veterans than their WWII (and Korean War) counterparts, constant and vivid imagery ensured that their horrific experiences would be relived for decades.
    The Arkansas Department of Health and the Cleburne County Hospice program will continue their efforts to provide services for the men and women who served their country as they transition to their final days. As part of a continuing effort to salute these local heroes, the Cleburne County Hospice Program will honor veterans in the program for their dedication to their country.
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