Supporting Veterans with PTSD
By: Cheryl Cox, RN Behavioral Health Regional Director | AccentCare
In 1980, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was identified as a distinct disorder with a specific set of symptoms and was officially added to the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It’s very important to recognize the prevalence of PTSD in veterans, most often this population will not talk about what happened during the war. At times, PTSD occurs against someone’s will with flashbacks. They happen involuntarily. Psychological clues and triggers cause these flashbacks. Things like loud noises, smells, laughter, etc. Individuals aware of the triggers start avoiding these triggers and this affects quality of life.
At times, many veterans feel isolated. They don’t discuss things because they feel we won’t understand. Some of them were ridiculed for fighting in certain wars, like Vietnam. They didn’t come home with a lot of fanfare. Here are some PTSD signs and symptoms to look for:
- Sleep pattern disturbance
- Deficit knowledge
- Ineffective coping
- Dysfunctional grieving
- Impaired social interaction
- Physical sensations; pain, sweating, nausea, trembling
If loved ones notice these signs, they should contact the person’s physician. The physician will be able to give their recommendations. Behavioral Health Nurses at AccentCare want to ease PTSD symptoms. They do several things such as providing a safe place, interacting with guided imagery, and sometimes just sit in silence with them. Here are other ways to help veterans cope with PTSD:
- Mindfulness meditation: Increasingly, meditation and mindfulness-based relaxation techniques have been shown to help manage a range of disorders.
- Regain focus through physical activity.
- Aromatherapy or Art Therapy
- Pets for PTSD
This is a challenging time for veterans with PTSD as they watch news coverage of current conflicts. One of our Behavioral Health Nurses is treating a patient who is dealing with feelings of dread and fear due to the current state of the world. He was in the Korean war, and says this new war is triggering his PTSD. He’s spending his days watching all the news programs. He’s very emotional, tearful, reminiscing about his time in the war. So, this is a difficult time for veteran patients.
The greatest way we can support our Veterans’ mental health, not just suffering from PTSD, but overall issues of depression and anxiety, is to have better availability of resources. There’s a need for more clinician appointments. It’s very hard to get an appointment for services through the V.A. It can take between 6-8 weeks to get the first appointment.
With that difficulty to receive care, home health services have played an important role in the support of veterans. Behavioral Health Nurses are able to come to where the patients are. Seeing them in their homes provides a level of comfort, safety, and security. We are able to touch base with them weekly, so they can catch changes, and prevent repeat hospitalizations. In my experience, having home health has helped veterans work through many obstacles, giving them a sense of purpose, and that they have support from the community and loved ones.”
Cheryl Cox, RN, AccentCare Regional Behavioral Health Manager.