Ensuring older veterans are supported with sight and hearing loss

As people get older, sight and hearing may be affected as part of the natural ageing process. Sometimes though an older person will have worse problems with sight or hearing than might otherwise have been the case because of their military service.

Veterans who were exposed to loud noise from small arms fire, artillery, engines, other machinery or explosives are at particular risk of developing hearing loss. Research has found links between sight loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There is a wealth of support available specifically for veterans with sight and hearing loss but unfortunately many are missing out either because they are unaware it is available, or because they don’t realise they count as a veteran.

Anyone aged 65 years and older who has done and received pay for at least one day’s service in the UK Armed Forces is classed as an older veteran. That includes national servicemen, reservists and merchant navy who have supported a military operation.

Age Scotland has combined forces with Action on Hearing Loss and Scottish War Blinded to raise awareness among Scotland’s veterans of the need to act swiftly if they are having problems with their hearing or vision. Getting the right support in placer can make a massive difference to someone’s quality of life.

Isa, age 88, first experienced sight loss problems in her mid-eighties. She said:

“It came on quite quickly. I just couldn’t see. It was as though there was something on my eyes, and I was rubbing them to try and get rid of it.”

A couple of weeks later she visited her GP and was referred to the Royal Alexandria Hospital, which diagnosed macular degeneration. A quick medical referral gave her answers about the causes of her condition, but little else. “After the hospital treatment I didn’t see anyone, and I was left to cope alone.”

The council sensory impairment team visited Isa and referred her to Scottish War Blinded. Over the following year she was visited by an Outreach Worker and benefited from home visits from the charity’s local rehabilitation officer, who provided guidance and a CCTV reader that enabled Isa to continue her hobby of knitting.

isa 3

Then Scottish War Blinded’s Hawkhead Centre opened in Paisley. “At first I thought it wasn’t for me, I told them I was too old. Now the Hawkhead drivers come and pick me up and drop me home again each week, which is great.”

She is involved with “everything”; from yoga, to art and crafts activities, to social music groups. “Around the house I’m fine, but I’m not confident to go outside on my own other than to the shop across the road so I love going to the centre. It’s smashing.”

With support from the centre’s Rehabilitation Officer she has also benefitted from equipment, including cup levels that enable her to make a cup of tea at home, and a talking watch to keep track of the time.

Getting the right support in place can make a huge difference – but sometimes it’s tricky to know where to start. Age Scotland have worked with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and Scottish War Blinded to produce a new publication to help veterans find the support they are entitled to. You can download the guide below or request a free copy be posted to you by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222.

Download ‘Combating Sight and Hearing Loss – Advice for older people with a military service background’.

Age Scotland logo, Scottish War Blinded logo, Action on Hearing Loss logo


Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Hearing Forces project, Age Scotland and Scottish War Blinded are members of the ‘Unforgotten Forces’ Consortium which is a partnership between 15 leading organisations led by Poppyscotland which is delivering a range of new and enhanced services to older veterans.

unforgotten-forces-logo-hi-res

 

 

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland – out now

As we near UK Armed Forces Day (30 June) Age Scotland has launched a free advice guide for older veterans.

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland offers veterans a route map to embracing opportunities and overcoming challenges that later life can bring.  It’s available to download, and postal copies can be requested from the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.  Here’s a flavour of what it offers older veterans, their families and professionals working with and for them.

Being treated fairly

Did you know that each council and health board in Scotland has signed a promise to every veteran?  Known as the Armed Forces Covenant this says you “should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens” and that “special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and bereaved.”

Keeping well

Did you know that veterans are entitled to priority NHS treatment for health problems caused or made worse by military service? That means they should be seen more quickly than someone on the same waiting list who has the same level of clinical need.  There are NHS Veterans Champions you can speak to if you feel this hasn’t happened.

Care

When someone needs to move to a care home their social work department can carry out a financial assessment to see how much financial help they qualify for.  Did you know that if they are a veteran receiving War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments, these payments won’t be counted as income in the financial assessment?  This means they may be eligible for more funding.

Housing

Did you know that specialist housing for veterans is provided by a number of charitable organisations in Scotland – from single rooms to adapted family homes?  The guide includes a list of providers you can apply for housing with.

Money matters

The guide introduces the main benefits relevant to older veterans.  Benefits rules are complex and the guide will not give you all the answers.  It will however help you to ask the right questions, which you can then put to the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222.  In the first half of 2018, the helpline identified around £25,000 of unclaimed benefits for our veteran callers and their dependents.

Out and about

Did you know that veterans and their families can get discounts for many goods and services through the Defence Discount Service, the official MOD discount service for the UK’s armed forces and veterans?

Download the guide here or get a copy posted out for free by calling the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.

632x305_veterans-guide

Tackling isolation among older veterans

Loneliness and isolation can affect older people generally, but there can be additional challenges tackling it for veterans.  Often they miss social contact with other veterans, who understand their experiences, and with whom they can enjoy the bond of military comradeship.  Doug Anthoney from the Age Scotland Veterans’ Project visited a project in Motherwell that offers veterans just that.


A cold Friday morning and my taxi awaits by Glasgow Queen Street Station.  “Get in,” says the driver, “I got you a coffee.” If that doesn’t sound like an ordinary taxi, that’s because it isn’t.  David Gibson is both co-ordinator and a driver for Fares4Free: a charity that arranges taxis for veterans who are isolated and unable to get to important services, and one of Age Scotland’s partners in the Unforgotten Forces consortium.  Today we’re off to the Veterans’ Café at Kings Church in Motherwell: VC@KC for short.

On the way we pick up Rosie, a nurse who supports veterans with health issues to attend the café for their first few weeks.  Today she’s off-duty however, and going because she’s a veteran herself.  We also collect a veteran who has been isolated and is going to the café for the first time.  As we drive it becomes clear that David’s service goes far beyond transport: he is a listening ear, information source and problem solver for veterans.  “Sometimes veterans wont’ share their problems for a long time,” he says.  “It’s only after you’ve been driving them for months, even years, that you’ll have built up the trust for them to tell you.”

DavidF4F March 2018

More than just transport; David offers a transport: listening ear, is a source of helpful information and a problem solver for veterans.

We arrive at the Café, and it’s buzzing.  There are over 40 veterans; some young, but most older.  I talk to one who did national service.  “I feel a bit guilty, not really a veteran like the others,” he says.  Julie Muir, who co-founded the café in 2015, says this is not uncommon.  “We had a man here who had served in military air traffic control; and he didn’t feel entitled.  We persuaded him that of course he was a veteran, and helped him get his service medal.  He and his family were so chuffed.”

Julie and her husband Scott left military service in 2002, but found resettlement hard and support structures inadequate.  “We thought, if we struggled with no debt, no kids, and no health problems, then how much harder will it be for veterans who face such problems.”

The café had a slow start.  “Initially there were more volunteers than veterans,” says Julie.  Attendance really picked up when they learned about veterans’ housing that was being built.  “We got a list of the houses and popped round with hampers for the veterans.  Now we have around 20 regulars, and there are about ten for whom it’s the only thing they go to.”

So why does it work? “We’ve learned that a military-style environment is the last thing you need,” says Julie.  “Some served for a few days, some for 22 years.  No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”  It also helps that it’s a café. “For some of the guys, they really don’t want to go near a bar!”

VC@KC March 2018.jpg

“No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”

The café is a hub for veterans’ services, including Unforgotten Forces partners such as the Armed Services Advice Project and Defence Medical Welfare Service.  It’s also about helping veterans’ families, including in some instances respite time for veterans’ carers.  “We’ve got new funding and plans to expand,” says Julie.  We want to offer more activities such as gardening and cooking.  Many of our veterans feel they’ve got a lot, now they would like to give back.”


To find out what the Veterans’ Project can do for older veterans, and for clubs, groups and services that would like to work with them, visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans.

Integrated logo for email updates.jpg