Over the course of their service, veterans may be physically and emotionally strained in ways that most people can only imagine. Whether enduring combat, encountering disease, or being exposed to chemicals and noise, being a veteran means that your loved one has been tried and tested. Unfortunately, even those who left their service without apparent physical injuries may go on to discover a disability later in life. Fortunately, it’s possible to ensure these heroes can continue to live dignified lives despite of the sacrifices they’ve made.
Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
One of the most common conditions suffered by returning combat veterans is post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental disorder resulting from the experience of a terrible event or disaster. Depending on their era of service, about 10-30% of combat personnel end up suffering from PTSD at some point during their lives. Symptoms may include emotional detachment, anxiety, social isolation, flashbacks, hopelessness about the future, and other forms of emotional distress when triggered by bad memories and other reminders of the event.
To make matters worse, veterans who suffer from PTSD are also at greater risk for autoimmune diseases. While the connection between veterans and autoimmune diseases isn’t clearly understood, researchers believe it to be related to the physiological effects of intense stress. That’s why veterans who suffer from PTSD are far more likely to also suffer from lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and similar autoimmune diseases.
Other Common Risks
Veterans are exposed to a lot of weird stuff: waste, sand, dust, depleted uranium, Agent Orange, and worse. That exposure often comes at a cost. It was only recently discovered that exposure to jet fuel may have long-term neurological effects, and almost certainly causes hearing issues. Nearly a quarter of Vietnam vets have Type 2 diabetes, a staggeringly high rate of disease that’s believed to be caused by chemical exposures during their service.
It’s been estimated that about one-third of Gulf War veterans went on to develop Gulf War Syndrome, a catch-all phrase for a range of unexplained and debilitating symptoms, ranging from chronic fatigue and joint pain to psychological and gastrointestinal problems. Two and a half decades later, it’s still unclear exactly what kind of exposure caused these veterans to fall ill.
The Benefits of Care
Facing this gamut of disabilities, it should be clear that disabled veterans do not only deserve of our care, but are often in need of it, as well. Fortunately, the costs of care for disabled adults can be offset by the Veteran Affairs Aid & Attendance Pension Program. The VA permits deducting the cost of care for disabled adults on an annual basis when calculating pension benefits, which can make providing in-home care much easier for many people.
And with the help of in-home care, your loved one’s disabilities or illnesses don’t have to prevent them from living a normal life. Caregivers can help with preparing meals, reminders for taking medications, maintaining regular hygiene, getting dressed, shopping, and basically all similar day-to-day tasks that can otherwise be difficult for a disabled veteran to cope with. Military service can be a punishing experience that leaves our veterans permanently challenged, and that means it falls to us to ensure they have the best care possible.
Do you have a loved one who served in combat and deals with PTSD or a physical ailment as a result? What have you found to be helpful in caring for them? We’d love for you to share your stories in the comments below.