Veterans Administration hospitals have mobilized lately to provide services for vets who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, they face a new challenge with a familiar clientele: Vietnam-era vets are hitting retirement age.
The majority of vets seeking services at Philadelphia’s VA hospital fought in Vietnam; most are in their mid-to-late sixties now. With that age come different issues, says Dr. David Oslin, who heads behavioral health services for the hospital in University City.
“They are starting to reach the age where they are more vulnerable to dementia, and need skilled nursing home care.”
Oslin adds that age could exacerbate service-related illnesses and disabilities. He’s also concerned that many Vietnam veterans have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress disorder for decades. “There is some literature suggesting that PTSD makes one more vulnerable to demential and cognitive effects in later life, and we’ll have to manage that.”
Oslin says the Philadelphia VA has six psychiatrists specializing in geriatric care, and is already focusing research efforts on better understanding the needs of this group.