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War Wounds Don’t Go Away at the End of Life

Clinical Issues for Veterans

An Important Chapter

The war may be over; your military service may have ended, but the memories and feelings associated with your experiences will always be with you.

Wartime and peacetime service can each result in highly charged emotional experiences that often arise as a veteran nears the end of life. Some veterans tuck their time in the military in the far recesses of their minds, not even speaking about it to family members. But as life comes to a close, feelings and memories about this important chapter in their lives can come out of hiding.

Recounting military experiences can be a pleasant moment between a veteran and their loved ones—a time for the veteran to share stories and achievements. But for others, reliving the horrors of battle can be distressing, for both the veteran and the family. Lasting trauma from sexual abuse during the time they served, whether in wartime or not, is also not uncommon.

Recognizing Veteran-Specific Clinical Issues

Veteran-specific clinical symptoms that may appear at the end of life include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Agitation
  • Hypervigilance
  • Nightmares
  • Traumatic recollections

By identifying veteran patients at admission, the VITAS interdisciplinary team can better understand and recognize any veteran-specific clinical issues that might arise. Each member of the team—physician, nurse, hospice aid, social worker, chaplain and bereavement specialist—is specially trained to address and manage these issues. The team may also include liaisons and volunteers who care only for veteran patients.

Every member of the team communicates with the veteran on an ongoing basis, to monitor symptoms and ensure they’re not exhibiting anything that could interfere with maintaining comfort, dignity and peace of mind.

To learn more about our end-of-life care for veterans, call 866.791.2229.

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