Many veterans find that memories from their time of service continue to upset them as much as half a century after the fact. In many cases, these veterans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a relatively common condition for anyone who has experienced a terrifying event. Fortunately, seniors who suffer from PTSD have a wealth of resources available to them that can help. Below you can learn all about PTSD in senior citizens, as well as many of the ways that you can help your loved ones with the array of PTSD resources available.
Symptoms of PTSD in the Elderly
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome include unwanted traumatic memories, flashbacks, emotional distress to reminders of the event, negative changes in mood, hopelessness about the future, and trouble maintaining close relationships. Those who suffer from combat-related PTSD are also often easily startled, suffer from nightmares, and feel the need to avoid reminders of wartime events.
For many veterans, these symptoms appear to only surface late in their lives, or their symptoms may resurface with old age. This is because stress can trigger PTSD, and with old age comes with a variety of new sources of stress including declining health, reductions in income, the death of friends and family, and reduced cognitive abilities.
Veterans may often find that their symptoms become worse because with retirement because they no longer have as many things going on in their lives to distract them. To make matters worse, those that may have been coping with over the counter drugs and alcohol will find that these methods work are no longer viable in old age, and their symptoms may worsen if they don’t find another means of coping.
Helping Veterans with PTSD
You can help your loved ones with PTSD in a number of ways. The essentials of veteran home care begin by encouraging the vets in your life to eat well, exercise, volunteer, and engage in activities that allow them to feel safe and strong. These tactics are usually effective because veterans who feel like they’re not as strong and active as they once were often experience worse symptoms.
It’s also useful to help veterans to connect with those who have similar experiences, whether that’s meeting with another veteran, or joining a support group for those who have suffered from traumatic experiences. These groups are excellent at teaching veterans healthy new ways of relaxing and avoiding PTSD symptoms. It may be useful to seek professional help. Over the past few decades, a number of proven treatments have been developed for PTSD. A doctor can refer you to a qualified therapist that will have experience in helping provide long term care for veterans in overcoming the symptoms of PTSD.
Additionally, veteran’s assistance is generally best served by informing friends, family, and other caregivers about PTSD. This can help those individuals understand the significance of wartime experiences, and help them to understand the source of the veteran’s emotional problems. Being informed about PTSD can also help those people to provide better support, and to avoid accidentally triggering PTSD memories.
Use the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Studies have linked PTSD to a variety of chronic health problems, including arterial, musculoskeletal, and dermatological disorders. It has also been linked to a number of mental health problems including anxiety, mood disorders, and potentially dementia. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of any and all benefits available to veterans who served during wartime.
Wartime veterans age 65 and older may be eligible for financial assistance during their retirement through the VA. You can find a detailed guide of qualifications and benefits through the VA here. Benefits are generally awarded on the basis of need, and determined largely on the basis of income and assets. You can apply for benefits by calling the VA Benefits Center at (877) 222-VETS, or contact the VA care center closest to you. With the help of the VA, you may be only a phone call away from helping to provide a more comfortable and stress-free life for the veterans in your life.
Do you have a loved one who is a veteran? How have you seen them deal with PTSD? How have you been able to help them? If you know of any additional resources, we’d love it if you shared them with us in the comments below.