After dedicating their lives to our nation, our nation’s veterans often face difficulty as they near the end of their lives. While every veteran has different needs, those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) face unique challenges. PTSD, sometimes known as combat stress or shell shock, often occurs after a person experiences severe trauma or a life-threatening event.
Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. About 11-20%
Gulf War (Desert Storm). About 12%
Vietnam About 15% were diagnosed at a time of a study in the 1980s. It’s estimated that about 30% have had PTSD in their lifetime
It’s becoming increasingly more evident that veterans have a greater need for quality end-of-life care. Hospice care is a benefit that the VA offers to qualified veterans in the final phase of their lives.
Understanding Symptoms of PTSD in Veterans
Dangerous or life-threatening experiences such as combat can cause veterans to relive frightening events. These experiences cause feelings of uneasiness, anger, irritability, or anxiety. While it’s normal to be alarmed by unsettling memories, veterans with PTSD may experience these symptoms for more than a few months. Additionally, they may have difficulty sleeping, experience nightmares, and feel on edge. The veteran may also lose interest or find it extremely hard to participate in everyday activities. Other symptoms include:
Recurrent, intrusive reminders of the traumatic event
Extreme avoidance of people or places
Negative changes in attitude, mood, and personality
Emotionally reactive to people, places, or situations that remind them of the traumatic event
Ways to Alleviate PTSD in Veterans
When providing hospice care for veterans with PTSD, there are several considerations for the hospice team. Some symptoms of terminal illnesses, like severe pain, shortness of breath, and anxiety, may trigger flashbacks or nightmares. Additionally, opioid pain medication can make PTSD symptoms worse. The hospice team will collaborate with the patient’s healthcare team to prescribe the appropriate and most effective medication regimen. The hospice team will work with the veteran’s physician, social worker, and other interdisciplinary team members to create a plan of care. This plan of care may include:
Connecting with others
Personalized medication and treatments
Personalized and effective non-pharmacological treatments
Professional social, emotional, and mental support
How Can Hospice Help Veterans?
Veterans are eligible for hospice care if enrolled in benefits and meet medical needs for hospice (terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less). As of 2019, because of the VA Mission Act, Veterans now have increased access to more community healthcare options. Those who must drive 30 minutes or more to a VA provider or 60 minutes for specialty care may choose a provider closer to home.
Hospice uses a multi-disciplinary team approach to support and provide Veterans with end-of-life treatment. The team works closely with the VA and can provide support and treatment in the home. Hospice offers the veteran and caregivers:
24/7 on-call care
Medical equipment and supplies
Pain and symptom management
No co-pay for hospice care
Collaboration with the entire medical and healthcare team
Spiritual and emotional support
Care at no cost to Veterans and their families.
Ohio Valley Hospice collaborates with local VA agencies and programs to raise awareness about the benefit of hospice services for Veterans. As a Veteran, expenses for hospice-related services or enrolled veterans are covered in full.
We Honor Veterans Program
Ohio Valley Hospice partners with the We Honor Veterans program to give veterans the best care possible. This program provides resources and training to meet the needs of our veteran patients and their families through respectful inquiry, compassionate listening, and grateful acknowledgement so that veterans can have a peaceful end-of-life experience.
VA Hospice Program Benefits
Hospice is a benefit that the VA offers to qualified Veterans who are in the final phase of their lives. This multi-disciplinary team approach helps Veterans live fully until they die. The VA also works very closely with community and home hospice agencies to provide care in the home. The VA hospice benefit includes:
Care available wherever you call home
No co-pay for hospice care
Medical equipment, medication and personal care supplies
Personalized pain and symptom management
Care coordinated with your doctors
Physical, occupational and other therapy services
Spiritual care and support
Volunteers with military experience (when available)
Ongoing grief counseling for patients and family
Veteran-To-Veteran Volunteer Program
Ohio Valley Hospice’s Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program pairs Veteran volunteers with hospice patients who are Veterans as well. Veteran volunteers have the ability to develop a unique connection with patients and their families through their common experiences and stories, establishing a strong relational bond.
How can Veteran Volunteers Help?
Reminisce or tell life stories
Educate and answer questions regarding Veteran benefits
Assist in pinning ceremonies, distribute certificates and help with other recognition events
Ohio Valley Hospice offers individualized in-home hospice care, allowing patients a peaceful end-of-life experience in a familiar and secure environment. We provide a full spectrum of hospice services uniquely designed for each patient.