New guidance has been published with the aim of helping care homes provide better support for the hundreds of thousands of ex-service men and women living in nursing homes in the UK.
The guide provides five practical steps to help care home managers, staff and local authority commissioners to understand more about how to support veterans living in residential care.
“This guide offers practical support and advice to care homes across the country about how a growing population of veterans2
These include identifying “your veterans”, exploring their sense of identity – such as former service rank and regiment – and using the information to shape care plans and activities.
It draws on best practice and offers tips and resources to make it easier to deliver bespoke care, said those behind the initiative.
They said the guide was designed for care home managers and staff, to help support military veterans of all ages who may be living in residential or nursing care, or those on a respite stay.
“The message is clear: do your homework, and shape support plans to fit”
They highlighted that it had been written in partnership with a group of care homes that specialises in providing residential care for veterans of different ages.
“We wanted to share practical tips and advice, based on good practice that has been developed over many years, so that managers and staff in non-military specialist homes can be helped to provide more personalised support for their own veteran-residents,” stated the guide.
It covers residents who have served in the armed forces for any length of time – from young people injured in recent wars to older people who served in World War II and all conflicts in between.
They said the 16-page document, titled Supporting Military Veterans in Residential Care – a practical guide, was needed to fill a gap in tailored care for those with armed forces backgrounds.
Polly Mackenzie, director of Demos, which led the project, said: “We created this guide in response to our 2015 report Under-Served.
“The report found that veterans can face a range of challenges while living in residential care, yet managers and staff lack the information and resources they needed to know how best to support them,” she said. “The aim of the guide is to fill that gap.”
“The report found that veterans can face a range of challenges while living in residential care”
The think-tank noted that there was no official register of armed forces veterans in the UK, or any way of knowing precisely how many live in residential care settings.
However, it estimated that there were around 2.8 million veterans in the UK, with up to around 300,000 living in “community settings”, including residential care.
“Although we don’t know exactly how many veterans live in care homes, it is very likely that residents over 70 will include a large proportion of those who were called to National Service and, therefore, have a military background and first-hand service experience,” it said.
Ray Lock, chief executive of the Forces in Mind Trust, said: “’Dignity’ and ‘respect’ should be the watch words when it comes to the care of those who served in the armed forces. For many, it is central to their identity.
“Getting it right for veterans means being aware of the service they served in, their rank and the sort of service and deployments they saw,” he said. “The message is clear: do your homework, and shape support plans to fit.”
Andy Cole, chair of Cobseo’s care network, added: “By the end of the decade, a quarter of a million veterans and their dependents will need residential or nursing care, with over 40,000 veterans living with dementia.
“This guide offers practical support and advice to care homes across the country about how a growing population of veterans can be even better supported,” he said.
Five practical steps for veterans care
Step 1: Identify your veterans – Remember there is no national register for veterans in care, but due to long periods of National Service it is likely very many older people you support will have a military background.
Step 2: Explore their sense of identity – Discuss service, rank, deployments, memories, friendship groups. Talk to the veterans you support about how their service influences their identity, interests and friendships, and how this might influence the support you provide.
Step 3: Shape support plans – Use this information on identity, including forms of address, preferred activities, interests, routines, anniversaries and celebrations to guide the support you offer. Be sensitive to possible bereavement and trauma in veterans’ past experiences, and how this may affect mental wellbeing.
Step 4: Do your research – Identify important dates and events, including remembrance services, museums, air shows, etc. to help guide conversation and organise trips out. Learn more about the different services to better understand individual veterans’ needs and how you can help them.
Step 5: Reach out for help and advice – Make use of the many veterans’ charities and associations (some listed in this guide) to help organise volunteers to buddy or visit the veterans you support, arrange social trips out and remembrance services, to get in touch with the wider veterans community, or to access additional resources and equipment.