TOOLS FOR VETERANS

In my ceaseless searching on the net for things to blog about, I found a website that may interest you. If you go to: http://www.googleforveterans.com, you’ll connect with a website designed to help veterans stay connected with friends and family once they return home.

For instance, you can record your military experiences through writing your own story, posting photos, inserting maps of where you served, etc. Or, you may choose to explore different options for what you’d like to do after your return home. You can get help with writing a new resume, setting up a business, keeping track of your business expenses, or getting the specific news that captures your interest delivered right to you.

You can also use the site to connect with other veterans, call friends who were deployed or are stationed overseas, host a conference call between veterans, or watch 3D virtual tours of service.

You may choose to use the website to reconnect with your loved ones by phoning them from your computer, researching the news you want more information about, or video chatting with friends and family.

There is even more to do here, but it’s I’ll let you check it for yourself. All-in-all, this is a website for maintaining connections and creating opportunities.

GETTING THE SAME RESULTS

I believe it was Albert Einstein who first said something to the effect that if you keep doing the same thing, you shouldn’t be surprised when you keep getting the same results. There is a lot of wisdom in those words!

In a recent survey conducted by the American Legion, results indicated that 59% of the 3,100+ veterans surveyed felt they saw no improvement following treatment for their PTSD or TBI, or in some cases, felt even worse. That’s appalling. With the negative impact PTSD and TBI have on life satisfaction, there are too many veterans who are not getting the help they need.

Another 30% of the respondents said they had stopped participating in their treatment plan before it officially ended because of the side effects of the medications being used. In some instances, veterans were being treated with up to 10 different drugs.

The most common problems were increased anger, sleep issues, depression and irritability. The stigma associated with having TBI and PTSD leave many veterans unwilling to seek treatment. Estimates indicate that only half of those who need care are willing to go into treatment, and those who already are in treatment aren’t getting enough to reach full recovery.

Complementary and alternative therapies were also considered. With 60% of the veterans who were treated using traditional methods still meeting the criteria for being diagnosed with PTSD or TBI, complementary therapies are receiving more attention.

Some of the suggestions for correcting the problem were:

• Development of an integrated, coordinated, comprehensive PTSD/TBI management strategy in recognition of the growing numbers of veterans who have the disorder
• Prioritizing the importance of research for PTSD treatments
• The DoD and VA need to coordinate their management strategies focusing on best practices and a measurement-based system based on long-term term interventions
• Caregivers must be included in treatment plans

As soldiers continue to return home from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD and TBI, it’s time the VA and the DoD prioritized their plans for treating PTSD and TBI. Alternative treatments have been shown to be effective and those who have served deserve the best care possible.

FINANCIAL BURDEN

One of the most common issues that I work with is helping individuals with disabilities learn to manage their money. It can be so frustrating to go through each month holding your breath to see if there will enough cash on hand to get you through. Fortunately it’s easy to learn how to budget and with a few tips on handling your finances, you should be able to find yourself standing on a bit firmer ground.

First of all, keep track of where your money is going. That seems to intimidate some people who think it’s going to be a horrible chore, but it really isn’t. I pay most of my bills on line these days, so I can go back and pull that information from my on-line account and see where I stand. When money starts getting tight, I go back to square one: making a list of my bills and recording how much they are costing me. I did that this weekend and found one problem immediately – my electric bill had gone up tremendously. I have a swimming pool I heat during the summer and it takes extra electricity to do that. I need to include it in my plan so I’m prepared for the increase when the summer comes.

Once you’re writing down what you’re spending your money on, take a look to see if it’s worth it to you to continue dealing with. My cell phone is costing me about $150/month. The bad part is I hate the actual phone, so I know the minute this contract is up, I’m going to switch plans and get something cheaper.

A few other tips to help you come out ahead:

• Pay your bills first and live the rest of the month on what is left.
• Put something away for your retirement or emergencies. It doesn’t matter if it’s only $10 a month, but make a commitment to growing your savings.
• Pay your bills on time. Having a list allows you to write down that the bill has been paid and you can keep track so you don’t have to pay late fees.

With a little forethought and a little planning, you’ll have greater peace of mind when it comes to the end of the month!

NARCOTIC PAINKILLERS & CHRONIC PAIN

Currently, close to half of the soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from chronic pain. According to JAMA Internal Medicine, about 44% of the members of an Army infantry brigade reported chronic pain three months after returning from their tour of duty. Civilian rates are about 26%. Narcotic pain medications may be being used to treat these individuals, but there are also times when people are refused the medications they need to keep their pain under control.
Pain is tough taskmaster. When non-relenting, pain becomes overwhelming and makes life miserable. Unfortunately many times chronic pain goes untreated as physicians struggle to understand the severity of the pain and balance the use of drugs with possible addiction.
Soldiers who suffer from depression or PTSD in addition to chronic pain were more than twice as likely to take narcotic painkillers. Not only are the meds addictive, they cause side effects that may place additional stress on the body.
I learned while I worked for hospice that narcotics and other medications used to treat chronic pain were not addictive for the individual who really has chronic pain. When taken by someone who is hurting badly, the drugs to not affect the pleasure zones in the brain, but are absorbed by the body to prevent pain. If the pain is chronic, then narcotics are an option for controlling the pain.
There are other options too. Alternative therapies include acupuncture, acupressure, hydrotherapy, diversion, and massage. There are times that the individual’s perception of their wartime experiences can influence the depth of their pain, and holding in the trauma may make pain much worse. Art therapy, music therapy, yoga, tai chi and even physical therapy or counseling may help.
While many veterans are using opiates to treat their chronic pain, there are alternatives available that perhaps should be tried first. When chronic pain can’t be controlled, narcotic pain medications may be needed. We want to use drugs appropriately rather than avoiding them because we’re afraid of addiction