Many of our Veterans that suffer from PTSD and other mental health issues lose interest in things they once loved and enjoyed doing, or may not do them due to physical limitations.
The man or woman that once was out hunting, fishing or playing or playing golf now just sits around at home doing nothing and watching TV. Even a simple family outing seems all but impossible as they cannot handle crowds, noises, long lines and get just plain aggravated by most everything. My own Veteran is like that. He just sat at home and watched TV. He wanted to be left alone.
Going through trying out a new medicine turned out to be a disaster and re-adjusting to the old medicine took all summer. This meant sitting on pins and needles for what would happen next. I paid close attention to what shows he was watching in a back bedroom he was holed up in. He watched Food Network most of the day. I also knew that grocery shopping is one of the few things he still enjoyed. Good! We could go during low customer times and he can walk as slow as he needs and can take breaks as needed. He likes eating (unfortunately).
But, as a family, we hadn't done a single thing all summer. School was coming up quickly. How could I combine groceries, eating and fun for some teenagers into one activity? Impossible at first glance. But, in our case, I had paid enough attention during hours and hours of Food Network to remember a place called Jungle Jim's in Ohio. I suggested going there. As usual, he was worried. He came up with all the things why we couldn't go. Do they have electric carts? What if he has a panic attack? What if his sunglasses break (he needs them to shield his eyes from bright light and they broke 2x before while shopping)? I did hours of research. I promised to buy gear from his fav college team, and put spare shades in the car. "Sweetie, they even have a Starbucks and I can buy you an iced coffee", plus we can take breaks as needed. I mapped all the bathroom breaks, a trip to Skyline Chili AND a bucket of wings from the Lube. I showed him pictures of the supermarket, how they had food from all over the World and the US.
This last point finally sparked his interest. Normal grocery shopping in a place also fun for our kids and two restaurants he likes. For the first time this summer he had done something new, and with the family. We were so proud of him. And of the family…
Even a Veteran that has virtually no interests left (or so it seems) can find things they can do with the family. I had to pay close attention to mine. It was food for him. For your Veteran, it might be a favorite sports team, books they enjoy, tech gear, art supplies, or movies. If you find what they still can enjoy, you can find something new to do. Is there a book store they haven't been to? Is there a place where a movie was filmed? (I took our family in better times to where they filmed “A Christmas Story”.) Restaurants they might enjoy? (Calling ahead might be necessary to see if they take out or can provide a quiet place for a Vet with PTSD -- we had to take food out and did a picnic.)
If they fear regular movie theaters try finding a drive-in. This way you can stay in the car in the back row or on the side. It gives them more security knowing they can get out fast if needed. See what sparks their interest, be creative.
Doing new things, even with a great deal of planning helps the whole family. What has worked for you?
Caregiver Cornelia Malies, Kentucky
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