Thursday, August 6, 2015

Vietnam Era Caregivers - You Are Not Forgotten

PTSD is not only a condition of today’s troops, veterans, and first responders, unfortunately, it is a condition that affects our vets of much earlier conflicts.  When you consider the state of the country at the time of Vietnam, our troops came home to protests, rioting, and a very difficult adjustment for those serving. 

The stories were dreadful.  Like now, families felt somewhat isolated, but the country was far less respectful of those serving.  Today, even without full understanding of how to act or what to say, our troops are mostly warmly accepted and supported.  By contrast, my uncle was briefed to change out of his uniform immediately upon arrival in the States to avoid the chaos of the anti-war protests. Others were verbally and physically assaulted.  
The effects of coming home and working diligently to be invisible in the communities has also produced a long-term result – many of those from Vietnam did not receive treatment for their PTSD, nor did it have that name in the 1960’s, though the condition has been around as long as there has been trauma and conflicts. 

Another result is this aging population may come to seek VA care only in their later years, and they and their families have lived for decades with what is today openly discussed.  PTSD then and now will have many of the same symptoms of scent and sound triggers, sleep disorders, difficulty communicating and relationship challenges.  Add to this the possible loss of prime mobility, hearing loss, and aging issues, including presumptive conditions like Agent Orange, and we know we must actively communicate with the caregivers of each era.

It is less known, but very sobering that 80% of Vietnam veterans reported active PTSD symptoms 25 years after their service in a RAND study, with very high rates of depression and suicide.  These caregivers are hidden among you and please lend your support to them, include them in your peer groups, and learn from their experiences. 

PTSD may be a more familiar term these days, but our Vietnam era caregivers are only now coming out of the shadows.  To our Vietnam and earlier era caregivers, thank you for your quiet strength and service.

Linda Kreter & the
VeteranCaregiver Team

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