International research collaboration and knowledge sharing is the key to providing holistic Veteran support that is responsive to the changing needs of ex-service people and their families, the CEO of Australia’s biggest provider of services to Veterans has said.
As Australians come together this year to mark the Centenary of the end of World War I, Bolton Clarke CEO Stephen Muggleton said support services needed to expand and adapt to respond to challenges including a growing proportion of ageing ex-service personnel and a cohort of younger working age Veterans transitioning into the community.
The organisation supports more than 35,000 Veteran clients every year through its At Home Support, retirement living and residential aged care services and has made holistic support for Veterans a focus for its Bolton Clarke Research Institute.
“One of the important things we know is that the experience of service, and the difficult transition back into civilian life, has lasting effects for more than just the individual,” Mr Muggleton said.
“Research also tells us that internationally, the way we are deploying resources to help Veterans is inefficient and for some people, ineffective.
“As we adapt to changing needs, our Bolton Clarke Research Institute has been reviewing mental health support for the ex-service community to develop a resource that will help our teams and the broader Veteran and care community better meet the specific needs of Veteran clients.
“For example, it’s estimated up to 17 per cent of former service men and women will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and recent findings suggest there is a link between PTSD and dementia.
“Service-related mental health issues may not become apparent or not come to a head until later in life, and may be triggered by a life event or stressors.
“The work the Institute has been doing, informed by broad consultation, is around assisting with transitions to ensure people get early intervention support, while also equipping families and aged care workers to deal with the specific care needs of Veteran clients that emerge as they age.”
On a practical level, the organisation’s recent projects to provide social support for Veterans include a series of 10 conversation circles during Anzac week that bring young ex-service personnel from Veteran support not-for-profit Mates for Mates together with clients and residents across the organisation to share stories and experiences.
This is the third year of the collaboration, which aims to provide important social support and build community connections, as well as creating a stronger understanding of Bolton Clarke’s Veteran roots.
The organisation is also a foundation member of the Australasian Services Care Network, an international group collaborating on the provision of holistic veteran care through a whole-of-life continuum.
The Bolton Clarke Research Institute’s new Veteran Family Toolkit will be launched later this year and will support health professionals, families and carers with information on PTSD, accessing help and Veteran and family perspectives.
Bolton Clarke also operates dedicated Veteran and Legacy Navigator services to provide Veterans and war widows with information and guidance through the aged care system.