Read e-book Keeping Memories Alive: Our Aging Veterans Tell Their Story

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What always fascinated me about his war story was that when he was eventually shipped out to Western Europe in one of the D-Day waves , there were so many U.

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This family — in the later s — spotted a postcard in a gift shop in Paris that featured a photo of my father disembarking from his ship on the Normandy beach, taken by a French photographer named Gaby. A historian from the museum authenticated this years later and identified the ship by its numbers. To me, he was always Uncle Oren, the one who died in the war. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world.

Before we hit the beach there was machine guns up on both sides of the hill up the top. And this is not military orders. Every guy do what he thinks is right. So most of our guys agreed and went over the side. Because you feel it. You have to do it. Once he joined the service, Hairston says, he learned tradition dictated southern officers should command African American troops, because they would better understand the soldiers they had to lead. And that persisted through the war, the thought that black troops just were not fully capable of being good soldiers.

And I could see my career going down this tube. War is inhuman. If we were to have sanctity in a world where you could live and do what was right, what was morally correct, and for everybody to be honest about things — you have to see something like this to know what not to do. And that would be good not only for years from now, but for today. And it has a much more modern and authentic feeling to it. For the last three years, Myers and Staymates traveled back to Europe with The Greatest Generations Foundation where he and Staymates roomed together, which Myers says was a time he will never forget.

His daughter Claire, 60, was watching in the stands with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including Maia, three, too young to grasp the significance of the day. Far from it. Some of the most prevalent ones include:. These common symptoms will often affect the way someone with PTSD lives life. For example, people may:. Military experience is not something easily forgotten. It is life-changing. In fact, many aging veterans still have vivid memories of their combat experiences, which can negatively affect their lives even many years after war. After retiring, symptoms of PTSD may become more prevalent for various reasons such as:.


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Some veterans don't experience symptoms of PTSD immediately. The common patterns for PTSD in veterans are:. As people get older, it's normal to look back in the past, reflect on, and make sense of past experiences. Veterans who don't really experience symptoms right after war may go through late onset stress symptomatology, or better known as LOSS. People with LOSS generally live pretty comfortable and happy lives -- they spend time with loved ones and go to work. As they get older though, they start to deal with changes that come with old age, like more health problems, retirement , and loss of loved ones.

These changes, especially if they happen all at once, can have adverse effects. Elderly people with LOSS may begin having more thoughts about their wartime experiences. It's not always a bad thing to look back and remember combat days.

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In fact, some people with LOSS find it productive to reflect because it helps them make meaning of what they went through. However, if you are having difficulty dealing with your combat memories, there are several methods to seek help or get help yourself. The first and most important step is to not be afraid to ask for help.

Know that it is not a sign of weakness, but rather courage and strength. Keeping this in mind, you may want to consider the following to cope:. Keep your mind engaged and your body active.


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Get outdoors more, exercise , volunteer for a cause that matters to you, and eat well. Loving yourself is very important. Open up to a friend or family member who has also gone through military experiences. It always helps to know that you aren't alone, and that there are plenty out there who have also gone through hard times. Look into joining a support group. As people get older, feeling lonely or ostracized can exacerbate PTSD symptoms. Being a part of a group will help to mitigate these feelings, and allow you to connect with other people who have gone through similar experiences.

Don't be afraid to tell your family and close friends about what you are going through. Talking to others not only informs them of your thoughts and experiences, but it can also help you to better understand yourself. If there's something from wartime that's triggering some issues you may have like sleep , stress, memory, or anger problems, then your loved ones would be able to provide you with support and assistance too. If all else fails, speak with a professional. You may find it productive to converse with someone who is trained and experienced in dealing with PTSD and aging.

Believe it or not, there are proven and effective treatments for PTSD. Taking action for your own health and well-being early on will allow you to see a therapist sooner and get relevant information on PTSD treatment as necessary for your case. The reason for this is because the symptoms for both can get worse with age.

Art of Aging: Seniors Make Memories Through Art Program

Addressing the issue now may help curb them from becoming a bigger problem in the future. Early treatment may also help to improve your family life. Those suffering from PTSD may pull away from loved ones for no clear reason or have difficulty getting along with people in general.

They may even be violent or aggressive. If you are able to get help with your PTSD symptoms early on, not only will you be able to live a better life sooner, but your family and close friends will also benefit from it. Last but not least, PTSD can also be related to other health issues. For example, studies have shown that heart failure is linked to PTSD. Active treatment for your PTSD could improve your physical health in the long run.

Non-veteran retirees can go through PTSD as well. They may have experienced other forms of trauma such as car accidents, unexpected loss of a loved one , or sexual assault, for example, which lead to PTSD symptoms. Invasive medical procedures and life threatening health diagnoses can also cause PTSD in seniors. The below statistics gathered from the U. Several community studies have reported that the prevalence of current PTSD in adults who are over 60 years of age ranges from 1. Not all aging adults meet the full criteria for a PTSD diagnosis, but it's not uncommon for them to exhibit some symptoms.

Some examples of interpersonal trauma include sexual abuse, rape, or childhood physical abuse. Trauma and homelessness go hand in hand. Homelessness is a traumatic experience that can lead to PTSD in a plethora of ways. Homeless adults may feel traumatized after losing stable shelter and being disconnected from family and regular routines and social roles. This is just the beginning. Homeless individuals have to deal with having the constant uncertainty of where to find safe shelter and shelter that will protect them from brutal weather conditions sometimes and food to survive.

Sleeping on the streets, homeless people witness crazy incidents everyday like murder, physical assault and rape , car accidents, and more. Dealing with this everyday may lead to a sense of hopelessness and symptoms of PTSD like exhibiting reckless behavior, having trouble sleeping, and getting vivid flashbacks of distressing events witnessed. However, homelessness itself is often a coping mechanism for seniors with PTSD. Once a senior has obtained or been provided stable housing , is when their PTSD generally begins to resurface, as they no longer have the stresses of living on the street to deal with.

A stable environment can exacerbate PTSD symptoms in the homeless, therefore making support and educational programs all the more important so that previously homeless seniors can understand the psychological changes they'll experience in a stable environment.

How to Preserve Your Living Legacy

Services can be referred to the senior in how to cope with their PTSD in their new living arrangements, so that they don't willingly go back out onto the streets as a coping mechanism. From medications that focus on restoring balance to brain chemical imbalances, to reducing social isolation and early intervention programs.

A senior with PTSD is more likely to withdrawal from others as they may feel embarrassed from their traumatic experience s. This exasperates traumatic episodes in the senior's mind, through intrusive memories and dreams. Medical conditions can be further traumatize seniors with PTSD from combat experience or childhood trauma, such as procedures for urologic cancers that cause embarrassment and pain. Support groups going through the same procedures that allows for seniors to share their experiences and form camaraderie with others, has helped to lessen PTSD episodes amongst seniors.

The burden of isolation is reduced, and the senior may be able to work on their relationships outside of the support group as well. Another useful factor of support groups and communication with others going through the same medical procedures and senior living issues, is how it helps seniors with PTSD to manage and develop plans for upcoming medical appointments. MRI scans often trigger traumatic combat experiences, when seniors communicate with each other in preparation for upcoming appointments, they are more able to get through the procedure with ease, as they are prepared for it and have companionship.

Psychotherapy can be effective in targeting specific symptoms of PTSD like hyperarousal and re-experiencing traumatic events from decades ago. Having the senior tell and retell their traumatic experience repeatedly to a medical professional, can help the senior to understand and come to terms with what they went through.