The Veteran population is rapidly aging with 9.2 million veterans who are 65 years of age and older. 1.4 million Veterans are “old-old” i.e. 85 years or older. Like the late Mr. Martin Wise (US Coast Guard Veteran) shown in the video, most of the illness burdens borne by Veterans are due to chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, stroke and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Due to exposure to toxins like Agent Orange, Veterans are at high risk for diseases like ALS and Prostate Cancer.
In additional to the cultural needs based on ethnic background, there are specific behaviors more common in Veterans due to the training and experiences related to serving in the armed forces which can manifest with specific behaviors like battlemind, for example.
When faced with physical threats due to serious illness, Veterans often work hard to meet the illness related challenges with courage and stoicism. Data show that Veterans, as a cultural group, are at a higher risk for post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and substance abuse. The cluster of these experiences will likely influence how pain, illness and end of life issues are experienced and interpreted.