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How to Support Senior Veterans Suffering PTSD

Blog January 12th, 2015

“The dog has been esteemed and loved by all the people on earth and he has deserved this affection for he renders services that have made him man’s best friend.” ~Alfred Barbou

Veterans Day is designed to be a time to bring focused attention to those that have bravely served our country through the armed services. Currently, there are many veterans returning from wars and deployment. And, if you’re anything like me, then you’re constantly wondering, “What can I do to support them,” and “How do I give back,” and “Where can I show my appreciation?”

Fortunately, working in the senior care industry has given me the chance to ask many veterans myself, and I found their answers interesting – as it wouldn’t have been something I assumed – so I thought I would share them here.

Vets and Pets

It’s common for veterans to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it’s not something they readily talk about. However, dogs are a different matter. There is an increased awareness in dogs that can help veterans stabilize emotionally from the trauma of war.

If you’ve ever heard of ‘pet therapy’ in nursing homes or assisted living communities, it’s very similar. Therapy dogs have the ability to energize those who are lonely, and provide solace for anxious seniors.

It’s not just nursing homes and assisted living communities either, but therapy dogs/kittens are provided for families who suffer a great loss and even students going into final exams – it’s also why there are so many therapeutic robo-pets being created for elders and veterans alike; they actually help.

PTSD Trained Service Dogs

When it comes to veterans (and anyone who has suffered a trauma), it can be especially difficult to communicate verbally. Talking about vulnerable situations, fears, and dark thoughts is not easy and may be uncomfortable – many veterans don’t think people will understand. However, similar to therapy dogs in nursing Homes and assisted living communities, PTSD trained service dogs can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Adjust serotonin levels
  • Motivate Vets to go outside and take walks
  • Support their owners in crowded places (making them feel comfortable)
  • Offer unconditional companionship

And… through grants and donations these three non-profit businesses provide the animal, the training and equipment for the veteran. Because these institutions thrive off of generous souls (like you and me), they’re usually free to the veterans and it’s a clear cut way for us to give back.

We have seen the results of therapy dogs with seniors and they are phenomenal. If you are looking for a way to support our troops as they come home, don’t look past the value of a friendly companion. We all deserve to lead productive, healthy lives!

PTSD Facts

According the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, most people – not limited to troops – suffer from a traumatic event in their lives at one point or another (60% of men; 50% of women). What makes the crisis all the more challenging for vets is that it’s rarely one incident, but a long span of time.

PTSD can be brought on by experiencing a dangerous situation or witnessing a death. With soldiers actively serving, they’ve no doubt experienced their fair share of both, thereby making them prime targets for PTSD.

As with many health concerns, the last thing you want to do is avoid it, so help a veteran any way you can – even if it’s simply providing an ear to listen. And never forget to thank our veterans for their service.


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