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.

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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.

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Squaddie banter and a cuppa – support for Veterans in Falkirk

Just turned two, Falkirk Veterans is already making a big difference for veterans in Forth Valley, many of them older. In her guest blog Falkirk Veterans Chair Maggie Brown tells us more about this important service.


Falkirk Veterans aims to enable veterans, and often also currently service personnel, in getting together to ‘return to the tribe’ and become stronger, together. We have a Drop-In (the only one in Forth Valley) for anyone who feels isolated, needs some confidential help or just some squaddie banter and giggles with a cuppa and light bites. We now regularly FalkirkVetslogohave around 25 to 30 veterans, and a few family members, who attend every week. We also have a Breakfast Club, where former and serving military can enjoy an amazing breakfast and share memories and laughs. Businesses locally pitch in, with generously weekly donations from Asda, Greggs, Malcolm Allan, Thomas Johnson, Marshalls Bakers and Patricks of Camelon. We are also registered as referees for our local food bank and often make up food parcels for our more vulnerable veterans.

We are developing a Garden Club in the walled garden in Callander Park, which very soon will provide a safe, quiet space for relaxation and pottering around planting flowers or vegetables. This is particularly relevant for veterans who have suffered trauma related injuries. We grow and pick vegetables and give out food bags to our more vulnerable veterans.

There’s a social club with occasional free days out for families and a few other events during the year. In August, 19 veterans and their carers went to the Edinburgh Tattoo, thanks to a grant from the Not Forgotten Association. One said it was “the first time he had been out of his house and had gone to an event in 15 years.” A recent Hawaiian night was a great success with more bonding, fun and a break away from their normal lives.

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Welfare and signposting is the more serious part. Setting up support agencies and services, and expecting veterans to go to them, has long been the normal practice. But when individuals have been trained and conditioned to persevere and succeed under all circumstances and despite all adversities, as they are in the Armed Forces, it makes it very difficult for many veterans to accept, or even admit that they need help in the first place! This is why drop-ins like ours are so important. We build up the confidence and self-esteem of the individual to accept the help that is on offer to them. We have helped several veterans with welfare advice, counselling, housing and furniture: we have part of a storage container held at the Royal British Legion Grangemouth where we store furniture and furnishings donated from the public

Want to know more about what we do, or think you could support us? Pop over to our Drop-In, sample a cuppa and a hot filled roll and see for yourself what we do and what we offer.

  • The Drop-In is on Thursdays 11am-2pm at Royal British Legion, Grangemouth.
  • The Breakfast Club is second Sunday and last Saturday of every month, 10am in the Graeme Hotel, Falkirk

Falkirk Veterans is one of a growing number of organisations offering a ‘veterans’ warm welcome’ listed by Age Scotland’s Community Connecting service. To find out what is available in your area, call the Age Scotland Helpline for free on 0800 12 44 222 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm).

 

 

Hearing Forces: a new service for Scotland’s Veterans

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s new Scotland wide Hearing Forces service is part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium, which offers advice and support to veterans aged 65 or over, their families and carers with hearing loss or tinnitus.


Hearing loss is a common health issue in the armed forces. Many veterans have been exposed to loud noise from gun fire, engines and other machinery, and explosives. The 2014 ‘Lost Voices’ report, collated by the Royal British Legion with support from Action on Hearing Loss, found that veterans under the age of 75 are around three and a half times more likely to experience hearing loss than the general population.

ACTION ON HEARING LOSS SCOTLAND LAUNCH HEARING FORCES 1

Veterans William Smith and Elizabeth Mitchell 

Through the Hearing Forces service, we can offer a service regardless of where veterans are in their hearing loss journey. This can include:

• Hearing checks and screening
• hearing aid maintenance and support on using your aids
• advice on useful equipment to improve every day life (e.g. amplified
• telephones, personal listeners)
• support both before and after hearing aids have been fitted.

We are currently delivering the service in a variety of settings across Scotland, (in particular with Unforgotten Forces partner’s venues) including Scottish War Blinded centres, Erskine, Poppy Scotland welfare centres, British Legions, ex service clubs and many more! We can also visit veterans in their own homes if they struggle to get out or we can see them at a local location convenient to them.

We are also currently recruiting for volunteers to help us deliver the service, across the whole of the country – if this is something of interest to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

To contact us, to make a referral or if you would like us to visit your group or venue, get in touch using the dteails below:

Tel: 07388 227407
Email: hearing.forces@hearingloss.org.uk