These days there are less and less veterans of World War II and those that are alive now would have been very young and not necessarily taken part in active combat. But that does not mean that living through a war did not affect them either way. And even if they did not live through the war, people in their 40s and upwards were raised by people who lived through the war.
If they or their parents saw active combat, it will impact on their day to day living, as even though “shell shock” was known since World War I, the full extent of the presentation of PTSD was not known, to not only might the person have an aversion to loud sudden noises, they might also not like the sight of blood. It can be hard to understand as a child why your parent can put a plaster on your cut, all you know as an 8 year old is that the graze on your finger hurts and you want help from your parent.
Rationing was a big issue for everyone during the war period, I was certainly raised by parents who lived through rationing and was taught that food should never be wasted.
People with dementia now therefore will either have lived through some form of alteration of how life was or may be a combat veteran or at the least are likely to have been raised by people who lived through this.
PTSD when it interacts with dementia can become unpredictable, the person fears something that they cannot rationalise and treatment is very difficult. I had a client a few years ago who had his best friend blown up in front of him, they joined up together. He was also marched across Europe for 600 miles in mid winter and with little clothing, many of his fellow marchers died. He could be erratic, sometimes he would cower under furniture, other times he would throw it across the room.
I was raised on not wasting good food, it should only be thrown out if it is obviously gone off and even a bit of mould could be cut off the and rest used. Rationing had a lasting impact on how people thought about food and food waste. There are modern ideas about food waste, which is why we get “wonky fruit and veg”, but the experience of rationing is different and the fridge is likely to have partially eaten meals, that are “saved for later”, which might no longer be safe to eat, even if the mould is not visible!
It is helpful to be supportive of the ideas of not wasting food, even if some of it ends up being thrown away, but discretion on its disposal is probably helpful to the situation.
Over the years that I have worked with older people I have heard lots of interesting war time stories, both from serving combat forces, the nursing staff that were nearby and people who stayed at home, but still had stories to tell. I’ve met early SAS veterans, when the SAS was in the process of being formed, I’ve met paratroopers who were accidentally parachuted the wrong side of enemy lines. I also met one of the nurses who were brought rapidly to the concentration camp when it was liberated and the armed forces realised that they would need medical assistance for those who were imprisoned there. Their stories are amazing and I am deeply grateful that they have been shared with me. These people and their children will have lived throughout their lives with the consequences of combat and the privations that the war caused to the rest of the country as well as to the veterans.
And now that those people need help and support at the end of their lives, they deserve respectful help and understanding, their lives will have their own story, which is part of them.
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