Veterans have dedicated themselves to ensuring America’s safety, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. They served when called; some endured unspeakable hardships, and all of them fulfilled their sworn duties without questions. When the time comes that veterans need support, they deserve the best that we can give.
Caring for a veteran requires special understanding and knowledge of a soldier’s unique characteristics. Their training has made them strong and single minded of purpose and that can create challenges if and when they need help. If you are caring for a veteran, be aware that they may have a different mindset and temperament than others you know and care for. Whether the veteran needs daily, long term or hospice care, providing what they need depends upon understanding how they need to receive support.
Veterans may suffer feelings of guilt, abandonment, and regret from their service. Often times, veterans have lost friends in battle. They may have had to leave fellow soldiers behind. The emotions from these traumatic events are carried for a lifetime. When illness strikes, it can magnify feelings of guilt, abandonment, and regret. Helping to heal emotional wounds is as important as healing the physical ones.
The warrior’s ethos is ever-present.
The warrior’s ethos is what some might call the “superhuman standard” that is ingrained in soldiers during their training and service. It’s the “I’ll never quit” toughness that makes a great soldier. This ethos makes it extremely difficult for a veteran to give in a little, either to accept physical assistance, emotional support, or hospice care. Keep this in mind when providing patient, compassionate care.
The soldier’s responsibility is to care for others
This trait often makes it difficult for the soldier to accept care. The soldier’s first instinct is to make sure that everyone else is safe. Caregivers who know this can help to foster discussions with the veteran about family members. Help them to arrange for care, financial support and other daily needs for their family. It will be reassuring to the veteran. This may also make it difficult for the veteran to talk to their loved ones about their end of life wishes. The care team can play an important role at this time, talking with the dying veteran, and conveying his or her wishes to the family.
Veterans may be alone.
Caregivers may find that they are the only person visiting the veteran regularly. Sometimes veterans do become estranged from friends and family because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, crippling mental disorders, and more. This is a time to be as compassionate as possible, comforting the veteran and providing support. It may also be a time to broach the subject of renewing contact with family and friends, reaching out to renew relationships.