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Manual BEFORE ITS TOO LATE: Our Aging Veterans Tell Their Stories

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New Hampshire veterans came together in March to explore questions of service and homecoming through a writing and photography workshop presented by New Hampshire Humanities with support from the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the Pulitzer Prizes, and The Mellon Foundation. Veterans worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent David Wood and international photo journalist Andrea Bruce to learn about using words and photos to tell their often untold stories.

She comes through the door uninvited. Right outside the defensive wire, I noticed several children. I told my jeep driver to head over there. Half a dozen kids were gathered around a young girl, years old, lying under a tree. She had triggered a booby trap set up by the local Viet Cong. A grenade, without pin, had been placed in a tin can with a wire strung across the road. They had hoped that the antenna on an American vehicle would hit the wire, yank the grenade from the can, detonate it over the vehicle. A few minutes earlier, the little girl had dislodged the grenade herself.

She was apparently untouched, except for a small hole, not much bigger than my thumb nail, right in the center of her chest. She had bled out internally.

Young man on a mission to honor World War II vets before it's too late

Not my fault. Not, directly, our fault. During my year in Vietnam and the years after, as the futility of the war became increasingly apparent, she was a reminder of it all, a refutation of any attempt to justify the war with geopolitical bullshit or the trivia of whose fault it was.

And because I played a tiny part in the making of that war, she came to my door.


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Read the full story HERE. A month ago he sent ahead a footlocker full of extra uniforms, cold weather gear and the required set of civilian clothes. There is laundry to do. This is not the first time he has packed for a long absence. He knows what he needs and about how long it will take. Our oldest son left for college a month ago. He is the lucky one. My oldest daughter comes to me just as I am starting to cook dinner. Her close friend has made cookies for George.

She wants to come say goodbye and wish him well. I hesitate and try to figure out the timing. Maybe she can come later because I hope for a family dinner. Her curfew gets earlier, our dinner keeps getting later. I am pretty sure he is hidden away in his room, immersed in computer games. A gaping hole is about to open up in the fabric of our family. We are never quite ready for it.


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Denial and avoidance become blessed coping techniques. My youngest daughter is having a meltdown regarding her Halloween costume. She set it weeks ago. Now, the day before, she is completely changing her mind. She wants to go shopping to find a new costume.

Veterans Home Care: In-Home Care for Veterans and Surviving Spouses

In addition, the unbalanced gender environment does lead to challenging clinical situations. Except for visitors, the world on a VA residential unit is divided up for the most part into male patients and female nursing staff. As more men enter the nursing field, this balance is changing, but sexual dynamics and frustrations can lead to conflicts and behaviors that require professional consultation.

In large units with very little privacy, patients have no ability to have their need for intimacy emotional or sexual met in any practical way. Given expanding lifespans, patients can live for more than a decade in residential settings with no access to sexual outlets of any type.

A Little-Known Benefit for Aging Veterans

Frustration and declining executive function may lead to acting out or inappropriate touching of staff or other residents. This kind of situation needs to be handled with tact, rather than accusations of sexual misconduct on the part of the veteran.

About the Author

Unfortunately there is no good therapeutic solution to solve the dilemma of sexual frustration in these residential settings that I am aware of. In addition, geriatricians and psychiatrists are frequently consulted to medicate patients who would be much less likely to be having violent interactions with others if the environment was set up differently. Even if older units get remodeled, the basic structure still typically involves long, institutional hallways. I have witnessed male residents with dementia pacing opposite sides of a corridor, getting more and more hostile toward each other as they pass.

If they both happen to get stuck at the end of the hallway, or one drifts across into the path of the other, fights sometimes occur. Institutional design can also create clinical dilemmas. Budgets frequently do not allow for needed staff let alone new or more effectively designed units. Alcohol abuse is much more prevalent in veterans later admitted to nursing homes compared to residents of community nursing homes.

In fact, a substance abuse history increases the risk that a veteran will need nursing home placement. Per Lemke and Schaefer , 1. Statistically, veteran nursing home residents with substance abuse histories tend to be younger, more likely to smoke, more mobile, to be verbally disruptive, and to have serious mental illness including PTSD than those without substance abuse histories. The biggest difference in working with veterans compared to patients in the community is their combat exposure and high risk for PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is also an issue for elders in the community, but tends to be less obvious and more likely to be related to having experienced childhood abuse or domestic violence. Even though childhood abuse survivors were also potentially put into emotional double binds by their experiences, there is a difference in the late life issues of having survived violence vs. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a tricky thing. Combat exposure definitely increases the risk of developing PTSD, but it sometimes does not emerge until late life.

The emergence of PTSD symptoms in late life after retirement age has been noted to correlate with the onset of dementia Johnston, These symptom delays may be biological, as the dementing brain seems to go backwards in time through old experiences.


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  • Some of it may be Ericksonian, as retired or aging veterans review their lives. His parents emigrated to the U. And yet, he cares more about our greatest generation than most any teenager you could find.

    In addition to his daily interview, he calls at least five World War II vets a day, just to thank them for their service and sacrifice. Thanking veterans and preserving their legacies is so important to Rishi that he is now delaying college, starting a GoFundMe campaign and expanding his mission across the country. Nice to know, as long as there are World War II veterans willing to talk, there will be at least one young man willing to listen.

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