June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness month. PTSD occurs after someone goes through a traumatic event. It is a stress response to disaster, overstimulation, assault, violence, or combat. While the information below applies to Veterans at the end-of-life, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect anyone. Additionally, each Veteran will have unique needs, so we must make sure that we do not make assumptions based on the title of “Veteran.”
Peace, comfort, and dignity are three goals of care in hospice. The approach to these goals is different for everyone, especially Veterans with PTSD. Often times, Veterans were faced with conflict and other stressors that other individuals and civilians were not exposed to in their past, which can affect their end-of-life journey. Combat and non-combat experiences both influence a Veteran’s needs. Emotional, verbal, or environmental triggers can impact how a Veteran responds to a scenario. It is important to take all of these factors into consideration when visiting, talking, and caring for a Veteran, especially one that has or is experiencing PTSD.
PTSD symptoms may include:
1. Reliving the event and re-experiencing symptoms.
2. Avoidance of people or events.
3. Numbness, shame or hopelessness.
4. Hyper-arousal, anxiety or high-alert for danger.
5. Relationship challenges.
6. Drinking and/or drug problems.
During the final months, weeks and days, individuals reflect on their actions, experiences, and time. Family and friends can help Veterans experiencing PTSD find peace, comfort, and dignity through different types of therapy, medication, or personal connection. Examples include regular visits and discussion, honoring their service and branch, displaying a flag or a shadow box with memorabilia and photos, creating a legacy video to document pastimes, recording an audio journal to showcase a story, or creating a Memory Book to honor their service. The best method and support depends on the individual. We encourage family and friends to try some of these examples to promote healing and help create a safe space for all Veterans, including those with PTSD at the end of their life.
Learn more about Hospice of Southern Illinois’ commitment to veterans; learn about the We Honor Veterans Program and our Level 4 Status: https://hospice.org/ourcare/we-honor-veterans-program/. At times, calling the Veteran Crisis Line for immediate support may be warranted, 1-800-273-8255.