Accommodations for Employees with PTSD

Working when you have PTSD can be difficult unless you are accorded accommodations to make it easier. According to JAN (the Job Accommodation Network), some of the possible ideas for accommodation include:

For Memory Impairment –

• Having instructions written down
• Instructions for use of equipment posted
• Use of a wall calendar
• Use of a daily or weekly task list
• Verbal prompts and reminders
• Use of an electronic organizer or hand held device
• Use of a tape recorder when attending meetings
• Written minutes of each meeting
• Additional training time

For Reduced Concentration –

• Reduction of distractions in the work environment
• Space enclosures or private working space
• Use of white noise or environmental sound machines
• Use of soothing music using a cassette player and a headset
• Increased natural lighting or increased full spectrum lighting
• Large assignments divided up into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
• Uninterrupted work time

For Disorganization –

• Use of calendars to mark meetings and deadlines
• Use of electronic organizers
• Use of a professional organizer or organizational coach
• Use of a mentor

There are many more possible accommodations that can make life easier for someone who has PTSD.

A DARK ROAD TO TRAVEL

As a caregiver of a veteran, I’m quite familiar with the stress caring for someone brings. I woke at all hours of the night to assist when he called for help. I didn’t dare make any loud noises for fear I’d startle him into a panic attack. I became exhausted over months and months of caring for him and setting my own need for sleep aside. I had no time for myself, even to meet basic needs like grocery shopping or getting the oil changed on the car. I finally reached the point when I had to place him somewhere he could get the care he needed. It was either that, or both of us ending up in a nursing home…if it didn’t kill me first.

That may seem like a rather dramatic depiction, but it’s really not. It’s been three weeks since I placed my husband in an Assisted Living Center, and I’m still catching up on my sleep. He has his own room and aides to help him day or night, but he still thinks of nothing but coming home.

Veterans, like most of the rest of us, want to remain in their own homes rather than go into community living such as an Adult Foster Care Home, Assisted Living Center, or Nursing Home. It’s a difficult adjustment to make for both the veteran and the caregiver. I know I will always regret that I couldn’t keep him home no matter how hard I tried. I will always feel like I failed him, and, worst of all, I know this was not how he wanted his life to end.

Once I placed him in the Assisted Living Center, I thought things would be better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I received three calls in the first 24 hours telling me he’d fallen. Black eye, bruises, cuts and skin tears. He looked terrible. The next contact was to inform me I needed to hire one-on-one care for him since he was at risk of hurting himself from falls and the home was not prepared to provide the level of care he needed.

So now I’m paying for care at the Center and, in addition, paying for the one-on-one care he received at home. That’s crazy. It won’t be long before our savings are exhausted. Knowing that would certainly kill him. He worried because he was older than me and he wanted to make sure when he was gone I’d still be able to get by. So, I don’t tell him about the cost. It wouldn’t help anything.

While the VA has done some wonderful work in meeting the needs of veterans, they’re behind the ball on supporting caregivers of veterans. When you think of all the money saved by providing care at home, it should be a top priority. I’m paying almost $5,000 a month for keeping him in the Center, and another $3,000 to pay for the one-on-one care.

Today I have a home in the country that I love. I have a few animals for companionship and my friends and family do what they can to be supportive. I don’t know how long I can hold on to my home though with paying for his care. Worrying about it is what keeps me awake nights now. It’s a long, dark road to travel and I don’t see any way it’s going to lead to a good place. I’m afraid there won’t be any happy ending here.

READJUSTING TO CIVILIAN LIFE

War is hell. There is no way a family member can comprehend what their loved one has gone through while serving in the military. Their delight at learning their spouse, son or daughter is returning home likely won’t be dampened by thoughts of how changed he or she will be, but the reality is, it won’t be the same person that left. Experiencing a different land and culture changes a person, and living through a “life or death” ordeal is bound to change anybody.

Upon return from overseas, veterans will likely have difficulty switching from a military mindset back to the civilians they once were. According to “War Zone Experiences Reported by Members of the U.S. Military in Iraq,” 60% of service members have been attacked or ambushed, 86% were on the receiving end of incoming fire, 50% were shot at, 36% discharged their weapon, 63% saw dead bodies or remains, and 79% knew someone who was seriously injured or killed.

So, what should the family expect? Well, according to “Returning from the War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members,” by the Department of Veterans Affairs, some of the most common physical reactions include:

• Sleep difficulties
• Upset stomach and/or difficulty eating
• Headaches and sweating when thinking of the war
• Rapid heartbeat or breathing
• Existing health problems become worse
• Nightmares
• Flashbacks or unwanted memories
• Anger
• Feeling nervous, helpless or fearful
• Feeling guilty, self-blame, shame
• Feeling sad, rejected, or abandoned
• Agitated, easily upset, irritated, or annoyed
• Feeling hopeless about the future
• Experiencing shock, being numb, unable to feel happy

Think about the difference between what the family is expecting in this reunion and what they actually may encounter. Perhaps it will be easier for them to accept when they realize it is part of the readjustment process and not an attitude their loved one adopted while overseas.

Given time, most veterans will make the necessary adjustments and will get on with their lives, but sometimes it’s not that easy. Know that there are many programs available for veterans to help with readjustment. If you need help, please don’t be afraid to ask.

When You See an Assistance Dog

Assistance dogs provide a variety of services for the people they serve. They may be guide dogs for people with low vision, turn lights on and off, provide support for going up and down stairs, and so much more. They are specially bred and trained for the work they do, and one must never forget that, although they are loved, they are not just pets. These guidelines will help you know what is proper when you meet a service dog.
• Don’t touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract the dog while he is wearing his harness or service vest.
• Do allow the dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of his handler.
• Don’t treat the dog as a pet.
• Do give it the respect of a working dog.
• Don’t give the dog commands.
• Do allow the handler to do so.
• Don’t try to take control in situations unfamiliar to the dog or handler.
• Do assist the handler upon her request.
• Don’t walk on the dog’s left side as it may become distracted or confused.
• Do walk on the handler’s right side. For someone who is blind, you should be several paces behind.
• Don’t attempt to grab or steer the person while his guide dog is guiding him or attempt to hold the dog’s harness.
• Do ask if the handler needs your assistance and, if so, offer your left arm.
• Don’t give the dog people food.
• Do respect the handler’s wishes.
• Don’t tease or abuse the dog.
• Do allow it to rest undisturbed.
• Don’t allow pets to challenge or intimidate an assistance dog.
• Do allow them to meet on neutral ground when all parties can be carefully supervised.
• Don’t allow the dog on your furniture or in areas of the home where the handler doesn’t want it to go.
• Do ask the handler to correct any misbehavior or trespassing.
• Don’t let the dog out of the house unsupervised. It is a very valuable animal!
• Don’t pat the dog on the head.
• Do stroke the dog on the shoulder area but only with its handler’s approval.

Going Back to School

Furthering your education is always a good thing. Not only does it make you more sought-after in the job market, but it’s also a way of tuning-up your brain (remember, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it)! Today approximately 660,000 veterans are undergraduate students with another 215,000 undergraduate students actively serving in the military. Three quarters of these students are male. 85% are “non-traditional” students (older). Almost half of them are married. The majority of these veterans are enrolled in 2-year programs (43.3%).
A number of support programs exist to help veterans who are returning to school. Student Veterans of America, Military & Veteran Student Services, Student Veterans Association and the Student Veterans Organization are a few of these support services. They are designed to provide resources, support and advocacy to ensure the success of veterans returning to school.
Disability Network/Lakeshore also provides support services for Student Veterans enrolled in the Independent Living Program. DNL staff can provide mentoring in study techniques or other supportive services and help veterans connect with the community resources necessary to ensure success.