Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
Helping Senior Loved Ones Who are Veterans with PTSD

Helping Senior Loved Ones Who are Veterans with PTSD

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Service to the nation is a badge worn proudly by many of our senior loved ones and we honor their service.

These brave men and women have precious stories to share of heroes with whom they served, travels to foreign lands, battles hard fought, friends lost and memories of a lifetime.

Unfortunately, many also came back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from those life changing experiences that are now painful memories. Many of those affected are boomers who served in Vietnam.

Those particular service members witnessed many atrocities and lived in horrible conditions during their tour of duty. Several of these veterans are on disability, as they find dealing with PTSD makes many activities in their life hard to handle.

After they returned home, and now as they retire and look back on the past, many Vietnam vets found it difficult to keep a job, hard to discuss their experiences, hard to recover from nightmares, and troubling trying to overcome the reality that America wasn’t always understanding of their issues — or even their service.

Vietnam War

  • Both men and women served in Vietnam
  • According to a Harris poll most were happy they went:
    • 91% were glad they’d served their country
    • 74% enjoyed their time in the service
    • 89% agreed with the statement that “our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win.”
  • 9 million Americans served in the military during that era; 3 million served in the Vietnam theater
  • 2/3 of those were volunteers and 73 % of those who died were volunteers

Helping our Senior Vets with PTSD

  • Communicate with the family, especially children. Let them know the situation as much as they can understand depending on their age. Tell them about war, how living with trauma affects people, what type of behavior to expect with the senior in their life, and how to deal with the words they hear and the emotions they feel. You might want to check out these books for more: Why Are You So Scared?: A Child’s Book about Parents with PTSD by Beth Andrews and Katherine Kirkland and Daddy’s Home by Carolina Nadel.
  • Stay patient with the behaviors and mood swings your vet may exhibit.
  • Learn about the effects of PTSD so that you will understand better what to expect and how to deal with what might happen or is now happening.
  • Talk with your senior’s doctor about lingering medical consequences of their tour of duty, including physical disabilities and diabetes (thought to be caused by Agent Orange).
  • Openly discuss the events with your senior vet who needs closure, acceptance of the events of the past and a healing of their spirit as they move through retirement.
  • Contact the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) to gain access to educational, health, cultural and emotional adjustment services to help your senior vet.
  • Currently a lawsuit is in process arguing that Vietnam Veterans were wrongfully dishonorably discharged due to PTSD. If this litigation is effective, it could mean that these vets can reapply for benefits. Be aware of the outcome if this might benefit your senior vet.
  • Seek out with your senior the services of a trained mental health counselor (one who specializes in PTSD) to deal with the psychological effects of PTSD. Get family therapy, if needed, so that you can come together for treatment.
  • Join a support group for PTSD with your senior and other family members to learn from others and realize you are not alone.
  • Help your senior avoid alcohol and drugs or get into treatment if this is already a problem. Although it may seem like temporary relief, it can worsen symptoms of PTSD.
  • Practice relaxation techniques and meditation to help calm your senior vet.

When you face the trauma together and gather your support network, you can help your senior overcome PTSD. You all deserve a bright future!

We are grateful to your senior loved one for his or her service to our country and to you for your role in caring for them!

2 Responses to Helping Senior Loved Ones Who are Veterans with PTSD

  1. I really have to sympathize with these Vietnam vets that returned with PTSD. It’s the same as agent orange. The military doesn’t want to admit fault with either symptom. I too am a Vietnam vet and am very fortunate that I received neither PTSD or agent orange even though I was around the same battle fields. I am quite healthy for a 66 year old vet and I do not attend the VA hospitals for any treatments, I reserve that right for the veterans that deserve it more than me, those that have more critical issues than I do. I am also a member of a local VFW post so that I can support our vets in various ways.

    It’s important to not only remember our Vietnam vets, but WW II, Korea and now what’s being called the “War on Terrorism” vets.

    Thank you for allowing me to post on your web site.

    • We agree Bob! All vets are special heroes and deserve to be treated that way. We hope all vets and their family caregivers seek the help that they need. Thank you for sharing!

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