Written by Laura Taylor, National Director of Social Work at the Department of Veterans Affairs
What comes to mind when you hear the word “aging”? For many of us, our thoughts turn to the potential challenges we may face as we grow older but as Betty Friedan said, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” While aging can bring a new and unique set of challenges, it also offers a whole range of opportunities to enhance our well-being and explore new or long-neglected areas of interest.
Today, Secretary Bob McDonald is taking part in the national discussion around aging and sharing how the VA supports older Veterans by participating in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. This event, held once every decade, is an opportunity to discuss both the challenges and opportunities that accompany aging and put forth ideas for how we, as a Nation, can improve the quality of life of all older Americans, many of whom are Veterans. To learn more about the White House Conference on Aging, please visit http://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/
Within the Veterans Health Administration, a number of programs provide services and supports to Veterans that empower them to remain healthy, happy and safe as they age. The Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care offers a continuum of clinical programs that can address the unique health care needs that often accompany aging. These programs are found across all health care settings within the VA (e.g., hospital, outpatient clinic) as well as out in the community and in Veterans’ homes. Home and community base programs such as Home Based Primary Care are particularly important for enabling many Veterans to remain in their own homes and continue to be around their loved ones. For a complete listing programs and information on how to decide what programs might be best for you, please visit the Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care website: http://www.va.gov/GERIATRICS/index.asp
Caring for aging Veterans often means supporting those who care for Veterans at home, their family caregivers. Caregiver Support Coordinators (CSC) at each VA medical center serve as clinical experts on caregiver issues and are knowledgeable of both VA and non-VA support services and benefits available for older Veterans and their family caregivers. VA has a National VA Caregiver Support Line (CSL) (855-260-3274) which serves as a resource for caregivers of Veterans.
VA provides training for family caregivers. Caregivers who are caring for older Veterans engaged in VA healthcare are invited to participate in monthly education calls. With an overarching theme of “Care for the Caregiver,” groups are held three times each month, with a different topic of discussion each month.
In addition, Building Better Caregivers™ (BBC), a 6 week online workshop, is available to caregivers of older Veterans who are caring for someone with dementia, memory problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, a serious brain injury, or any other serious injury or illness. BBC helps caregivers in two key ways: it offers training in how to provide better care, and helps caregivers learn how to manage their own emotions, stress and physical health. Following the completion of the 6 week workshop caregivers are invited to join the BBC Alumni Community for on-going support and resources.
To find out more about VA’s Caregiver Support Program or to find the closest Caregiver Support Coordinator, please visit www.caregiver.va.gov.