Exploring Common Veteran Mental Ailments and Physical Disabilities
Veterans have likely gone through a great deal of trauma in their lifetime.
Returning from their time serving our country can be difficult and bring a new set of challenges that they did not face before their enlistment. It is important to recognize that veterans are a special class of citizens, as they have given up their every day life to fight for our country. We look to honor and respect veterans as best we can, but especially by seeking to understand the difficulties that veterans face.
There are four ailments that impact veterans the most when they return from their time in the service. These top four ailments include depression, PTSD, loss of limbs and brain trauma or injuries. Some veterans suffer from physical ailments that impede their ability to live the same active lifestyle that they had prior to their service. Others, however, may suffer from illnesses that can be invisible to an outsider.
It is important to understand that a veteran may be suffering in silence, so it is imperative not to criticize without knowing their history.
PTSD, Depression and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in Veterans
About 20% of veterans who are returning from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from depression or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with about 19.5% of these veterans suffering from a brain injury or trauma. It is imperative to note that TBI relates to depression and PTSD in veterans, as their brains have been altered in its functionalities and health. It is also important to note that PTSD and depression often go hand in hand for veterans.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can present itself in veterans through a wide variety of symptoms. It is important to recognize these symptoms, as they are a clear indicator that the veteran needs medical assistance immediately. If the veteran in your life, or you yourself, are experiencing the following symptoms, please speak with a medical professional immediately.
- Jumping or being easily scared/startled, especially at the hands of a loud noise.
- Feeling as though they have to constantly be at attention or watching for something or someone.
- Irritation or having frequent outbursts of anger & agitation
- Being emotionally distant from others
- Losing interest or feeling emotionless towards issues, people or activities that was of interest before
- Nightmares, flashbacks or popup memories from time served
- Lack of sleep
- Trouble focusing on tasks that are at hand.
If you or your loved one suffers from PTSD, medical attention and proper treatment can help mitigate the effects of the illness. A doctor can prescribe medication that will help the individual cope with their symptoms. When paired with proper therapy, medication can help an individual start to feel as though they are themselves again. It is important to note that an individual with PTSD should not be left alone for long periods of time, if ever.
A caregiver can help maintain contact with the individual with PTSD and ensure that they are safe and being taken care of. When untreated, PTSD can often lead to depression and/or suicide.
As previously stated, PTSD can often lead to depression in veterans. About half of the veterans that suffer from PTSD also have signs of depression. It can be difficult to understand when a veteran is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, if he or she is depressed or if it is a combination between both. Although signs of depression and PTSD are similar, they may have some key differences. Symptoms of depression include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Lack of interest in activities or topics that once were of interest
- Suicidal thoughts
- Oversleeping or difficulty sleeping
If you or your loved one are experiencing the signs and symptoms of depression, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Please call 911 if you believe that you are in immediate danger to yourself or others. A Veteran’s Hotline is available to all veterans seeking mental health attention and help, as well as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
When brought to the attention of a medical professional, depression can be mitigated. Therapy, medication, a caregiver for safety and often a lifestyle change can allow a veteran to feel fulfilled and happy again. Medical professionals can gauge the level of depression that a person is facing, as well as the proper treatment that he or she needs in order to be well again. In some cases, an individual may need to be placed in a treatment facility where he or she can get the attention and proper treatment that they require to be well again.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
Traumatic Brain Injuries, also known as TBI, can cause a veteran to have a lower quality of life when he or she returns from serving our country. Traumatic Brain Injuries are “caused by a sudden trauma, such as a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury, that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” (Real Warriors) For veterans, TBI’s may be a direct result from their experiences in combat or during their service. Common causes of TBI for veterans can be from being struck in the head area, crashing, bullets or colliding with objects. TBI should not be taken lightly, as they can severely impact a veteran’s quality of life after the injury is obtained.
Symptoms of TBI may show up in some faster than others, as the symptoms will vary from person to person. The following symptoms of TBI may be temporary or permanent, depending on the situation that the TBI was received in:
- Feeling sad, anxious or overwhelmed
- Vomiting suddenly and violently
- Frustration or irritation towards everyday tasks
- Seeking out drugs, alcohol or tobacco in order to conceal the emotional side effects felt after returning home
- Ringing sensation in the ears
- Feeling as though he or she is not ‘themselves’ or feeling a sense of being ‘off’
- Sleeping more or less than usual.
- Blurred vision
- Remembering or focusing on certain situations or facts may be difficult
- Acting irrationally and without cause or concern for others or themselves.
Treatment for TBI’s may vary depending on the severity of the injury and the person that is suffering from the damage. It is important to note that the frequency of treatment may range from continuous to on an as needed basis. Treatments include hospital stays, rehabilitation, medication and caregiving services to ensure that the individual is healthy and well. Medical professionals will gauge the severity of the TBI in question and will determine a course of action for the veteran in question. Veterans may choose to contact their VA program in order to obtain more information regarding treatment that is covered and how they can go about gaining such treatment options.
Limb Loss in Veterans
Due to their increased amount of dangerous activity while serving in the military, such as being in combat or on missions, veterans are at an increased risk of losing limbs. Often times, the reason a veteran has a missing or prosthetic limb is because they have lost it due to combat related injuries, such as an improvised explosive device (IED) or a bullet wound. Veterans that have lost a limb during combat are honorably discharged from their military duties and are sent home to heal properly.
Through the VA and their exclusive programs, a veteran may be able to live a long, happy and healthy life despite experiencing limb loss. He or she may choose to seek out VA programs that will grant them prosthetics, physical therapy and the equipment he or she needs in order to thrive in their own home. Additionally, bringing in an in-home caregiver can allow the veteran to live comfortably in their own home while receiving the supervision and attention they need. Caregivers are able to assist with medication reminders, meal preparation, light house keeping and assistance to and from doctors’ appointments. For veterans that have experience limb loss, a caregiver can serve as a defense between them and their recovery process. A caregiver can also serve as a companion for the veteran during this very lonely and challenging time.
When veterans leave combat and are discharged from their military duty, their life does not always go back to the way it was before. Veterans continue to struggle with ailments that will impact their lives, giving them a new set of challenges when they return home. However, veterans can live a long and healthy life with the help of proper treatment, medication and a support system. If you are interested in hiring a caregiver for the veteran in your life, please contact 24 Hour Home Care today.