Homeless Veterans Personal Scorecard was the Key

Michael Williams speaks to new employees

Michael Williams speaks to new employees, shares his story and reminds them of VA’s mission, to take care of our nation’s Veterans.

Michael A. Williams had a bedtime ritual.  Each evening he would go through a mental scorecard, a placeholder for his life.  This was a very personal scorecard, each item a valued life goal: Get my health issues addressed, particularly my pain management. Own my own home. Nurture family and friend relationships, especially with my mom. Get my financial house in order.  Make peace with the Lord. 

Insight, intellect, sensitivity, goal oriented, grounded – Michael has all of the qualities one admires and looks for in trusted friends and employees.  You might be surprised to learn Michael developed all of those outstanding and admirable qualities while living on the streets. 

Homeless for three years, Michael has now checked off every item on his scorecard: Conquer alcoholism.  Check.  Overcome serious health issues. Check.  Regain trust and respect of family and friends.  Check.  Get a job.  Check. Buy a house.  Check.  Come to Jesus.  Check.

“It has been a long ride and I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity.”

Michael is one of thousands of Veterans whose lives have turned around due to VA initiatives for homeless Veterans, particularly the Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program and the Housing First program.  Buried in the back pages of your newspaper and given modest attention by web and social media outlets, the story of VA’s undeniable success in housing homeless Veterans and supporting them in living independent lives is one of our country’s most encouraging societal turnarounds both inside and outside of government.  

Since President Obama’s initiative to end homelessness was launched in 2010, VA and its partners at federal, state and local levels have cut the number of homeless Veterans by half.  And although homeless numbers will always be a moving target, some major cities such as Philadelphia, Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Mobile report they no longer have homeless Veterans sleeping on their streets.  As of December 2015, Connecticut and Virginia have reported an end to Veteran homelessness in their communities.

The impact of VA’s success in reducing drug and alcohol dependency, housing, and re-training Veterans for work [SP1] impacts all of us.  Not only does it heal broken souls and families, it potentially makes our streets safer and lowers taxpayers’ outlays as these Veterans become reemployed and contribute to our economy.  It’s something we are doing right and the fulfillment of an obligation to Veterans we all recognize. 

Overcame a series of health crises

After 12-plus years in the U.S. Marines, a series of health crises led Michael to joblessness, despair and drink.

“As a homeless Veteran I wanted a lot of the things that I thought everyone else had,” he said.  “I mean things like respect, responsibility, happiness, independence, employment and a place to live. I was in search of security and some sort of dignity in my life.”

The VA’s Housing First and CWT programs gave Michael that opportunity.   Housing First is a new philosophy in treating homelessness.  In the past, in order to secure permanent housing, homeless Veterans had to demonstrate they were clean of drugs, psychologically competent, and had some source of income to supplement their housing.  Now, the stable home comes first and the medical treatment and job training follows.  In Michael’s case, after securing a transitional apartment through the Housing First program, he participated in VA’s Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program (SARP) and the CWT employment preparation program at the Washington DC VA Medical Center.

At the VA Medical Center, Michael found himself.  He proved he could get to work on time, manage projects, get along with other staff members and achieve both job and personal goals. His confidence grew and so did his determination to get his scorecard completed. 

On October 9, 2012, Michael was hired by VA as a full-time Program Support Specialist.  Four years later, he moved into his own home, fulfilling a promise to his mother that he would take care of her in her senior years.  “It has been a long ride and I am so happy and grateful for this opportunity,” says Michael.   

If you know a homeless Veteran, or one at risk for homelessness, please visit www.va.gov/homeless to learn about VA programs that could help.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/December/Homeless-Veterans-Personal-Scorecard-was-the-Key.asp

Blood Pressure Study: Vietnam Era Veterans

Veteran getting their blood pressure checked

Study of nearly 4,000 Veterans in the Army Chemical Corps between 1965 and 1973

VA researchers found a link between service-related occupational exposure to herbicides and high blood pressure (hypertension) risk among U.S. Army Chemical Corps (ACC) Veterans, a group of Veterans assigned to do chemical operations during the Vietnam War. Researchers also found an association between military service in Vietnam and hypertension risk among these Veterans.

Researchers at VA’s Post Deployment Health Services Epidemiology Program, Office of Patient Care Services, conducted the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-Era Veterans Health Study, a three-phase study of nearly 4,000 Veterans who served in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps between 1965 and 1973. The study included a survey that requested information on these Veterans’ exposure to herbicides, whether they were ever diagnosed with hypertension by a physician, and their health behaviors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol use. To confirm self-reported hypertension, researchers conducted in-home blood pressure measurements and a medical records review for a portion of study participants.  

Hypertension highest among Veterans who distributed or maintained herbicides (sprayers) in Vietnam.

ACC Veterans were studied because of their documented occupational involvement with chemical distribution, storage, and maintenance while in military service.This study follows a request by former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki for VA to conduct research on the association between herbicide exposure and hypertension to learn more about if hypertension is related to military service in Vietnam. The research was originally designed and led by Han Kang, Dr.P.H., former director of VA’s Epidemiology Program (now retired). Yasmin Cypel, Ph.D., M.S., another researcher with VA’s Epidemiology Program, is currently the principal investigator on this study, which extends prior research on these Veterans.

“This study expands our knowledge of the relationship between hypertension risk and both herbicide exposure and service in Vietnam among Veterans who served during the War by focusing on a specific group of Vietnam era Veterans who were occupationally involved in chemical operations,” said Dr. Cypel.     

Self-reported hypertension was the highest among Veterans who distributed or maintained herbicides (sprayers) in Vietnam (81.6%), followed by Veterans who sprayed herbicides and served during the Vietnam War but never in Southeast Asia (non-Vietnam Veterans) (77.4%), Veterans who served in Vietnam but did not spray herbicides (72.2%), and Veterans who did not spray herbicides and were non-Vietnam Veterans (64.6%).

The odds of hypertension among herbicide sprayers were estimated to be 1.74 times the odds among non-sprayers, whereas the odds of hypertension among those who served in Vietnam was 1.26 times the odds among non-Vietnam Veterans.

The researchers would like to extend their thanks to all those Army Chemical Corps Vietnam Era Veterans who participated in this study for their contribution to the research.  Without their input there would be no findings to report and no additions to existing findings on the health consequences of military service during the Vietnam War. 

VA will review the results from this research, along with findings from other similar studies and recommendations from the recent National Academies of Science report on Veterans and Agent Orange, when considering whether to add hypertension as a presumptive service condition for Vietnam Veterans.

To read more about the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-Era Veterans Health Study, go to http://www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/vietnam-army-chemical-corps.asp.  To read the published article containing findings from this study, go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27820763.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/Research-on-Vietnam-Veterans-and-Blood-Pressure.asp

VA Telehealth saves Florida Veteran time, travel

Army Veteran Jeffrey Weinstock meets with Dr. Erica Dombrowsky, audiologist, through Clinical Video Telehealth.

Army Veteran Jeffrey Weinstock meets with Dr. Erica Dombrowsky, audiologist, through Clinical Video Telehealth.

Retired Army Major Jeffrey Weinstock has been wearing hearing aids for nearly 30 years after artillery fire during his service in Vietnam damaged his hearing. After moving to Key West from New York, he was expecting a difficult transition changing VA facilities and replacing his old hearing aids.

During his first visit to the Key West VA Outpatient Clinic, he was surprised. He was able to quickly and seamlessly transfer his VA health care to the Miami VA Healthcare System and even schedule lab and medical appointments. He met with Dr. Douglas Bond to discuss his health.

“I never felt rushed and felt he was really concerned about me and about my health,” Weinstock said.

“I have been so impressed with everyone I met.”

Before making his third visit, Weinstock was worried he might have to make the 300-mile round trip—one that under the best traffic conditions can take three to four hours in one direction—from Key West to the Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center in Miami to receive his audiology care. On Aug. 25, he went to the Key West VA’s Telehealth Audiology Walk-in Clinic and experienced his first Clinical Video Telehealth medical appointment.

Clinical Video Telehealth brings specialists to the Veterans and saves Veterans and their families the cost and inconvenience of traveling by road, rail or air to the nearest VA hospital. The Key West VA Outpatient Clinic is one of 700 VA community-based outpatient clinics nationwide using Telehealth technology to make diagnoses, manage care, perform check-ups, and deliver care to Veterans.

At the walk-in clinic, Weinstock met with Dr. Erica Dombrowsky, audiologist, and Lilith Brodsky, audiology resident, who were in Miami, through Clinical Video Telehealth.

He received a comprehensive hearing exam and ordered a new set of hearing aids the same day. Even though he had just met with a doctor who was more than 160 miles away, Weinstein said he didn’t notice a difference from an in-person audiology appointment and could tell Dombrowsky and Key West Telehealth Clinical Technician Pattianne Miller, really cared about him and his concerns.

“I have been so impressed with everyone I met, from the frontline administrative staff to my providers,” he said.

Jeffrey Weinstock and his wife, Elizabeth, both grateful for the                                             support they received at the Key West VA Outpatient Clinic

His wife, Elizabeth, remembers his reaction when he returned from the clinic later that day.

“He came home so happy,” she said. “He had such wonderful things to say about everyone he encountered and worked with.”

Weinstock returned with his wife to the clinic and was fitted with the new hearing aids. Neither of them could believe everything had been accomplished in just three weeks. He was extremely pleased with the sound quality of the new devices and his ability to hear on his cell phone, something he had never been able to do with his older hearing aids.

“This is truly life-changing, and I couldn’t be more delighted with this experience. We are so grateful.”

To learn more about how VA is using Clinical Video Telehealth nationwide to care for America’s Veterans, visit www.telehealth.va.gov.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/VA-Telehealth-saves-Florida-Veteran-time-travel.asp

Veterans Deal with Diabetes at Unique Camp

Veterans sitting around a camp fire.

Veterans share their stories at Diabetes Camp in the woods of Wisconsin

Steve Biever was slowly dying and nobody knew why. There were blinding headaches, loss of vision and unexplainable pains. Getting out of bed was a chore. Deep depression set in.

Then he met Carole Cole, a nurse and certified diabetic educator at the Appleton VA Clinic. “Have you ever had an A1c?” she asked.

A1c is a diabetic test to see how well your body controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Normal levels are between 4 and 5.6 percent. Biever’s were over 11 percent — far into the danger zone on the glucose scale, with a high risk of severe complications, including organ failure. He was only 43, but his body was attacking itself and shutting down.

“Carole saved my life, no question about it,” Biever said. “She said, ‘Oh my Lord, this should have been tested three years ago!’ But damn it, I never complained. I had all the symptoms — going to the bathroom 10 times a night, shakes, blurry vision, and the first thing I thought was,

‘I’m an Army guy. I can handle this.’ But then I couldn’t handle it.”

Out-of-control blood sugar can lead to blindness, kidney failure, loss of circulation, heart disease, stroke and dementia.

“I can’t take all the credit,” VA’s Cole said. “Steve was pretty sick and had multiple health problems, plus other issues that weren’t diagnosed yet. At first, he was treated for individual symptoms, but the more we start talking and the more he started telling me about all the symptoms, it seemed obvious.”

Biever is more to the point: “She’s my guardian angel. I’m here today because of her.”

Doctors immediately put Biever on Metformin, a drug to help regulate his blood sugars. Cole told him about the first-ever Diabetes Camp that was scheduled a couple weeks later at Camp American Legion. That was 2012. The camp was the brainchild of Diane Kesler, also a certified diabetic educator and nurse at the clinic, who each year brings Cole and other nurses and staff to manage the program, all on their own time.

Biever has since lost 56 pounds and is an ongoing success story at the annual Diabetes Camp to help Veterans learn about and manage their disease.

He was at Camp American Legion in Lake Tomahawk, Wis., this past September, along with 26 other Veterans from the Appleton area who were learning how to understand and manage their diabetes.

“I was still so sick and I don’t know how she talked me into it. I came up that first year, and couldn’t even get out of bed for the first part of it,” Biever said. “That’s how sick I was. I couldn’t even make it to some of the events. I was near death.”

Army Veteran Steve Biever with VA nurse and diabetic educator Carol Cole

Army Veteran Steve Biever with VA nurse and diabetic educator Carol Cole

Biever, who spent three years in the Army and another 10 in the National Guard and Reserve, wasn’t always that way. He built a successful DJ company and depended on his energy as part of his career.

“It really did sneak up, and nobody expects that,” he said. “At first you say you don’t feel good, and then it gets worse. I couldn’t figure it out. I don’t get the flu. I don’t get colds. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. And it’s really weird because I just lost a friend to diabetes and still didn’t realize.

“But they call diabetes a silent killer,” Biever added. “It’s very slow, it’s very painful. You lose a toe. Then you lose half a foot. Then you lose a leg. I love life. I’m an actor, or at least I’m trying to be. I run my company, and can’t afford to be sick. If you’re a fisherman, you don’t go fishing for trout in the toilet. You have to get to events like this and get educated.”

After staying in bed all day that first Friday, Biever made it out of his cabin Saturday and Sunday to eat and socialize with some of the other Vets.

“It was almost like an AA meeting, where people start sharing their stories and you find out you aren’t alone and there might be some hope,” he said. “But there is no magic wand. I was told you aren’t gonna get better unless you want to make it better. And if you want to make it better, you gotta exercise and eat right. You have to talk to the dietitian.”

Biever changed his diet. He walks and works out on the cardio equipment at his local gym. And slowly, ever so slowly, the weight dropped and he felt better. He went from 228 to 170 pounds. “Every day you feel a little better, but when you’re so sick you don’t realize it. It took me two years before I felt like I got my life back.”

Cole said those who are newly diagnosed have the hardest time working on a diet.

“You tell them to go to a dietitian and they will say, ‘I’m not going to listen to some skinny person tell me how to eat.’ They stay in denial and think it won’t matter until they get too sick and then it can be like putting scrambled eggs back together in the shell. The sooner people accept it and work at it, the better their chances.”

Even though Cole is retired, she said the Diabetes Camp is one of her favorite times of the year and she never misses it. For Cole, this fight is personal. “My dad died at 65 from diabetes. If he had something like this and if somebody talked to him, maybe he would have listened. Diabetes is the number one cause of heart disease. It’s the number one cause of non-traumatic amputations. It’s the number one cause of retinopathy blindness.”

“When you get sick and tired of being sick, then you meet with a dietitian,” Biever said. “Too many people are hard-headed. Look at the group photos we take every year. You can see people who came once and didn’t come back. You can see how many have died. That could be me.”

While he tells his story, a group of Veterans a few tables away learn how to make homemade soap. Earlier in the day, they took tai chi. There was also a fly fishing lure lesson and a chance to go fishing on the pontoon. “They don’t do that just for fun, they do it to show these guys they need to get their butts off the couch if they want to live,” Biever said.

And Biever said he wants to live, so he does what he can, encourages others and still looks forward to that one weekend a year at Camp American Legion.

“I can’t tell you how much it does for me, as a nurse, to see someone like Steve succeed,” Cole said. “This will always be one of my wonderful moments in my career.”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/Veterans-Deal-with-Diabetes-at-Unique-Camp.asp

“What Veterans Day Means to Me”

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/What_Veterans_Day_Means_to_Me_by_our_Veterans.asp

Honoring those who care for our Veterans

People Walking

Holistic approach to promote stress reduction includes spending time in nature

Take Care to Give Care

In November, VA, along with the entire country, celebrates National Family Caregivers Month. This is a time to honor and celebrate caregivers who selflessly provide care to ill, injured, or disabled Veterans. The theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month is “Take Care to Give Care.”

According to multiple reports released by AARP in June 2015, an estimated 40 million family caregivers in the U.S. provide an estimated 37 billion hours of care valued at approximately $470 billion. This report also noted that caregivers spend an average of about 18 hours a week providing care. Four in ten caregivers who provide care to someone 50 or older say their caregiving situation is highly stressful. An additional 26 percent report moderate stress.

When asked about the impact that caregiving has had on their health, 22 percent feel their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving. According to a 2014 RAND study, family caregivers of post 9/11 Veterans report poorer levels of physical health than non-caregivers, an elevated risk for depression and low-quality relationships with care recipients.

The Importance of a Holistic Approach:

A holistic approach to personal well-being involves taking care of one’s mind-body-spirit and the social, cultural and environmental connection one has to their community. Integrative therapies are healing practices that facilitate and support the body’s natural ability to heal. For example, a moving meditation such as yoga, t’ai chi chih or qigong focuses on moving energy within the body to promote self-healing and balancing of mind-body-spirit. By combining physical movements with a connection to the breath, one can experience improved immune function, sleep quality, physical balance, strength and flexibility.

Moving meditations will also promote stress reduction and facilitate feelings of peace and compassion. Additional integrative healing therapies that have similar benefits include: Mindfulness meditation (which can be anything from working in the garden to a more formal practice), spending time in nature, and creative expression such as journaling, art or dance.

Take Care to Give Care – Practical Applications:

What are some practical ways for caregivers to implement daily self-care strategies? Available time, feelings of guilt and limited social support are only a few of the factors to consider. A few basic self-care strategies include: Keeping a water bottle within reach to support hydration, eating nutritious meals (i.e. obtaining food from the farmer’s market, ordering through an on-line grocery store if getting to the store is a challenge), attempting to sleep/wake at the same time each day and taking time for personal doctor and dental visits.

Finding time to successfully integrate strategies throughout the day can be challenging. Start by spending five minutes at the beginning of the day listening to a guided meditation, journaling and/or sipping coffee while sitting outdoors. Developing a daily routine that includes short increments of relaxation or meaningful self-care experiences can make such a difference. Whether it’s spending time with a friend, listening to music, taking a walk outdoors or reading something that makes you laugh, self-care looks different for everyone, but is essential to recharging and improving one’s well-being.

VA Opportunities for Caregiver Self-Care and Personal Well-Being:

VA has a variety of supportive opportunities available to caregivers to support personal self-care. Building Better Caregivers™ is a six-week online interactive workshop for caregivers who are caring for someone with dementia, memory problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, a serious brain injury, or any other serious injury or illness. It helps caregivers in two key ways: it offers training in how to provide better care, and it also helps caregivers learn how to manage their own emotions, stress and physical health. 

Peer Support Mentoring Program matches caregivers with mentors who provide experience about thriving as a caregiver.

The VA Monthly Caregiver Support Line Education Calls focus on strategies to enhance resilience and restore balance. The calls are facilitated by the VA Caregiver Support Line. Typically one topic is offered each month at different times. The VA Peer Support Mentoring Program is a program that matches caregivers with peer mentors, who can provide personalized support, guidance and friendship, experience and knowledge, and wisdom and skills about thriving as a caregiver. In addition, local VA support groups focused on caregiver self-care and written resources are also available. Please utilize respite services and reach-out for help. Go to www.caregiver.va.gov  to learn about supports available to you.

How Can Caregivers Get Help?

Caregiver support services can be accessed in a number of ways at each VA Medical Center. Caregivers can contact their local Caregiver Support Coordinator for assistance with connecting to these services. For more information on the Caregiver Support Program and to locate your Caregiver Support Coordinator call the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or visit the VA Caregiver Support website.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/Honoring_those_who_care_for_America_s_Veterans.asp

“What Veterans Day Means to Me” by our Veterans

Veterans Day banner, with U.S. Flag as Background

Celebrating our Veterans

Hi Veterans. I’d like to share with you “What Veterans Day Means to Me.” 

First of all, I’d like to thank each Veteran for having served in some capacity in the military for the Greatest Nation in history. 

From the heart, when I see a Veteran, I see a person who has patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  Meaning simply, someone who, at some point in life, wrote a check to the United States of America for an amount up to and including his or her life.  No other commitment matches this great value given to our country. 

“No other commitment matches this great value made to our country.” 

I am proud of my military service I gave and I would do it without hesitation all over again.  RIP for all Veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice and I am wishing all Veterans a Happy Veteran’s Day and may it hold solace to you in your own way…because you deserve it, Veteran.

A SEAL for 30 Years

John Sanabia is a retired SEAL Chief Warrant Officer Five with 30 years of Special Operations experience across all geographic regions, from the tactical to strategic level theatre operational tours in Iraq, Bahrain, and eight other worldwide deployments.  He is experienced in human resourcing, training, equipping, and facilitating operational command, execution, and control functions at the National and Combined Joint Task Force level.

As a Project Manager for ADVENT LADEN operations, he served as Commander, Special Operations Troop and Commander, Regional Task Force- Gulf Cooperation Council.

John was accountable for the leadership, tactical guidance and operational control of deployed Special Operations Forces (SOF) and technical personnel in support of USSOCOM liaison programs for specified GWOT High Priority Countries.  John has also been instrumental in formulating and implementing successful SOF training programs. 

Serving as the Officer-in-Charge & Training Officer for SEAL Qualification Training, Naval Special Warfare Center, he mentored and supervised 24 Special Operations Instructors and 11 Civilians in the education and training of over 250 aspiring patriots each year with the end goal of graduating the 31-week SEAL NEC-awarding course. 

Retired SEAL John Sanabia with Warrant and Spike
Retired SEAL John Sanabia with Warrant and Spike

John now lives in Millington, Tenn., with his wife, Michelle, an active duty Navy nurse, and their two German Shepherd dogs, Warrant (his service dog) and Spike.  John is an avid golfer and enjoys playing the game because it keeps him humble and helps him cope with his service-connected disabilities.  

John volunteers as the Military Spokesman and Logistics Coordinator for “Fairways for Freedom,” a program that strives to help U.S. Injured Veterans assimilate back into society through holistic initiatives and through the game of golf.  Playing in a peaceful and welcoming environment such as Ireland and Scotland—and striving to improve at a physically and mentally challenging game—provides a positive experience and helps in overcoming their injuries. 

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/What_Veterans_Day_Means_to_Me_by_our_Veterans.asp

Honoring those who care for America’s Veterans

People Walking

Holistic approach to promote stress reduction includes spending time in nature

Take Care to Give Care

In November, VA, along with the entire country, celebrates National Family Caregivers Month. This is a time to honor and celebrate caregivers who selflessly provide care to ill, injured, or disabled Veterans. The theme of this year’s National Family Caregivers Month is “Take Care to Give Care.”

According to multiple reports released by AARP in June 2015, an estimated 40 million family caregivers in the U.S. provide an estimated 37 billion hours of care valued at approximately $470 billion. This report also noted that caregivers spend an average of about 18 hours a week providing care. Four in ten caregivers who provide care to someone 50 or older say their caregiving situation is highly stressful. An additional 26 percent report moderate stress.

When asked about the impact that caregiving has had on their health, 22 percent feel their health has gotten worse as a result of caregiving. According to a 2014 RAND study, family caregivers of post 9/11 Veterans report poorer levels of physical health than non-caregivers, an elevated risk for depression and low-quality relationships with care recipients.

The Importance of a Holistic Approach:

A holistic approach to personal well-being involves taking care of one’s mind-body-spirit and the social, cultural and environmental connection one has to their community. Integrative therapies are healing practices that facilitate and support the body’s natural ability to heal. For example, a moving meditation such as yoga, t’ai chi chih or qigong focuses on moving energy within the body to promote self-healing and balancing of mind-body-spirit. By combining physical movements with a connection to the breath, one can experience improved immune function, sleep quality, physical balance, strength and flexibility.

Moving meditations will also promote stress reduction and facilitate feelings of peace and compassion. Additional integrative healing therapies that have similar benefits include: Mindfulness meditation (which can be anything from working in the garden to a more formal practice), spending time in nature, and creative expression such as journaling, art or dance.

Take Care to Give Care – Practical Applications:

What are some practical ways for caregivers to implement daily self-care strategies? Available time, feelings of guilt and limited social support are only a few of the factors to consider. A few basic self-care strategies include: Keeping a water bottle within reach to support hydration, eating nutritious meals (i.e. obtaining food from the farmer’s market, ordering through an on-line grocery store if getting to the store is a challenge), attempting to sleep/wake at the same time each day and taking time for personal doctor and dental visits.

Finding time to successfully integrate strategies throughout the day can be challenging. Start by spending five minutes at the beginning of the day listening to a guided meditation, journaling and/or sipping coffee while sitting outdoors. Developing a daily routine that includes short increments of relaxation or meaningful self-care experiences can make such a difference. Whether it’s spending time with a friend, listening to music, taking a walk outdoors or reading something that makes you laugh, self-care looks different for everyone, but is essential to recharging and improving one’s well-being.

VA Opportunities for Caregiver Self-Care and Personal Well-Being:

VA has a variety of supportive opportunities available to caregivers to support personal self-care. Building Better Caregivers™ is a six-week online interactive workshop for caregivers who are caring for someone with dementia, memory problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, a serious brain injury, or any other serious injury or illness. It helps caregivers in two key ways: it offers training in how to provide better care, and it also helps caregivers learn how to manage their own emotions, stress and physical health. 

Peer Support Mentoring Program matches caregivers with mentors who provide experience about thriving as a caregiver.

The VA Monthly Caregiver Support Line Education Calls focus on strategies to enhance resilience and restore balance. The calls are facilitated by the VA Caregiver Support Line. Typically one topic is offered each month at different times. The VA Peer Support Mentoring Program is a program that matches caregivers with peer mentors, who can provide personalized support, guidance and friendship, experience and knowledge, and wisdom and skills about thriving as a caregiver. In addition, local VA support groups focused on caregiver self-care and written resources are also available. Please utilize respite services and reach-out for help. Go to www.caregiver.va.gov  to learn about supports available to you.

How Can Caregivers Get Help?

Caregiver support services can be accessed in a number of ways at each VA Medical Center. Caregivers can contact their local Caregiver Support Coordinator for assistance with connecting to these services. For more information on the Caregiver Support Program and to locate your Caregiver Support Coordinator call the VA Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 or visit the VA Caregiver Support website.

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/November/Honoring_those_who_care_for_America_s_Veterans.asp

Are You Ready to Make Your Choices?

Elderly men, sitting at a table enjoying a cup of coffee while talking to one another

Having a conversation about Advance Care Planning is important for everyone


Advance Care Planning

You know the kinds of foods you like, so when you go to a restaurant, you can usually make your choices without much difficulty. However, when it comes to making choices related to future health care, it can be more challenging.  You may not be sick now or even want to think or talk about what you’d want if you do get sick and are unable to make decisions. But, just like it’s helpful to know what’s on the menu, there are benefits to becoming informed and thinking in advance about your future health care.

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning is the process of clarifying your values and your preferences for future health care, and identifying who you would like to speak for you – your “Health Care Agent” – if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. An Advance Directive is the legal document that you should use to tell others what your preferences are and who you have chosen to be your Health Care Agent.

The Advance Directive

In the future, if something happens to you and you can’t make decisions for yourself – maybe you’re unconscious or too ill – your health care team will use your Advance Directive to contact your Health Care Agent and together, look to your preferences on the Advance Directive as a guide to decisions about your care. Have you thought about what is important to you and what kind of medical care or mental health care you might want in the future? Have you thought about who you would want to be your Health Care Agent?  Are you ready to make your choices? If so, it’s time for you to complete VA’s Advance Directive form.

Facing a Serious Illness Now?

If you are facing a serious illness right now, you may want to choose from a different menu – one that addresses your current health care goals. Talk with your health care team about what is important to you now. Your doctors can help you decide which treatments and services would best help you reach your current health care goals. Based on this conversation, they can write medical orders to ensure that the treatment plan designed for you is based on your goals.  

Need More Time to Read the Menu?

There are many Advance Care Planning resources for Veterans and their loved ones. VA’s website for older Veterans, www.va.gov/Geriatrics, has an entire section on Advance Care Planning with links to the VA Advance Directive form, and podcasts for you to listen to on advance care planning, choosing a Health Care Agent, how to be a Health Care Agent, and setting health care goals.  This information about Advance Directives, choosing a Health Care Agent, and how to have a conversation about Advance Care Planning with your loved ones is of value to EVERYONE, Veterans and civilians, regardless of age or health status.

VA doctors can help you decide the treatments to help you reach your health care goals.

If you want help considering what matters to you, take a look at this Values Worksheet and for more information talk with your VA social worker.  If you are facing a serious illness, and want more information, you can review Setting Health Care Goals: A Guide for People with Health Problems.

Make Your Choices NOW!

So, you can make your choices now. If your preferences and priorities change over time or as your health status changes, it’s okay to change your mind and make different decisions. You can complete a new Advance Directive whenever you want, just let us know. We are here to serve you!

 

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/October/Are-You-Ready-to-Make-Your-Choices.asp

Heather Frank – One of VA’s Top Nurses

Source Article from http://www.va.gov/HEALTH/NewsFeatures/2016/October/Heather-Frank-One-of-VA-Top-Nurses.asp


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