Sunday, November 11th, 2012 is Veterans Day. This national holiday is a time to honor fallen soldiers as well as to express gratitude for the sacrifices surviving veterans made to preserve our country’s freedom.
The origins of Veterans Day harken back to the ending of the “Great War”, World War I, when on November 11th, 1918 international hostilities ceased, becoming what was know as “Armistice Day”. In 1947, President Eisenhower signed legislation proclaiming November 11th as Veterans Day, honoring veterans who served the US in all wars. A national ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is held annually in observance and many communities across the country honor servicemen with parades and events.
On this Veterans Day, it’s important to acknowledge that the state of America’s veterans is changing. Approximately 9.7 million veterans are age 65 and over and the number of veterans age 85 and over more than tripled between 2000 and 2010.
The ballooning of America’s aging veteran population presents challenges in meeting the healthcare demands of older vets, especially in regards to long-term care.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, veteran status is associated with a higher percentage of functional limitations in activities of daily living (ADLs) or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLS). In fact, more than 6 million vets live with a disability. New research suggests veterans age at an accelerated rate as compared to the civilian population. Symptoms like hypertension, elevated blood sugar and cholesterol, and obesity affect veterans at a much younger age.
What help is available to aging veterans?
The VA offers a host of home and community based services to support veterans’ ability to age-in-place. These programs help chronically ill and disabled veterans remain at home longer. A few of these programs include:
- Home Based Primary Care is health care services provided to Veterans in their home
- A Homemaker or Home Health Aide is a trained person who can come to a Veteran’s home and help the Veteran take care of himself and his daily activities.
- Hospice and palliative care helps veterans with terminal conditions or need assistance with managing pain to improve comfort
- Skilled Home Health is short-term health care services that can be provided to Veterans if they are homebound or live far away from VA
Veterans embracing Technology
In May, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched a new initiative to explore role of technology in enhancing care coordination and healthcare services to veterans. In the pilot program, the VA will supply 1,000 caregivers with an iPad equipped with mobile health applications to track veterans’ medical conditions, medications, and other health needs.
“The Apps are designed to increase the convenience and accessibility of VA healthcare and strengthen communication among Veterans, Family Caregivers, and clinicians,” said Kathleen Frisbee, Director of Web and Mobile Solutions in the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Informatics and Analytics.
Like other cloud-based care management software, the VA’s home telehealth system alerts care coordinators, nurses, or a physician if the patient’s medical condition or health measurements do not seem normal, enabling early intervention and better care.
Remember – As US citizens, we have a duty to honor the brave men and women who have served to protect our freedoms. They are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, children and friends. Their ever-increasing health and medical needs are our concern.
This Veterans Day, how will you pay tribute to America’s heroes?