My husband lives in the Idaho State Veterans Home in Boise. He has vascular dementia probably related to diabetes. He has diabetes as a result of exposure to Agent Orange back in the ’60s, in Vietnam. For more than six months, I have witnessed the professional, respectful, dignified and loving care my husband has received from his caregivers, even as they must attend to his most personal and basic needs.
When I hear politicians criticize the VA, claiming they are uncaring and inefficient bureaucrats, it angers me. In the past few years I’ve had a great deal of interaction with the VA, especially in receiving guidance for working through the system in order to find the nursing care my husband requires — the VA has contracts with other care facilities throughout Idaho, not just the Veterans Home. I can’t begin to say how helpful everyone was and continues to be, at the VA and the VA home alike.
Most of the residents of the Veterans Home are Vietnam-era vets, though there are some from the Korean War and a few from World War II. Most are men. That will be changing over time, as there are more women in the service today, doing the jobs that used to be restricted to men. And there will be more young men, including those who’ve fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, as things we have no idea about today — such as Agent Orange — wait a decade or two to inflict their damage.
I overheard a new resident of the Veterans Home explain that he’d been in an assisted living place but couldn’t afford the cost, so he left and rented a motel room. “But I found I couldn’t take care of myself.” Thank goodness someone helped him find the right place. I do have to ask, though — how are we to take care of our aging population? How can people afford the care they need? Instead of bashing the VA, politicians need to figure out how to control the cost of every aspect of health care, for veterans and civilians alike.
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Toni Morgan is a writer and an artist. She and her husband, a Marine Corps veteran, have been married 56 years. See more at authortonimorgan.com.