Today, all of us at ACL join our nation in honoring those who have served in the military and recognizing the vital role they play in preserving our freedom.
As a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, it is an honor to work alongside so many at ACL who have served in the armed forces. Over the last few years, we've introduced some of them through our Facebook album, and we’ve added a few more faces this year – I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out!
It also is a great honor to be able to serve older veterans and veterans with disabilities through many of our programs.
For example, with funding from a grant from ACL, Michigan State University Extension offers a Tai Chi program to help older veterans maintain balance and prevent falls. The program is one of many evidence-based falls prevention programs ACL funds around the country that have been proven to reduce falls, the fear of falling, and fall-related injuries in older adults.
Like so many ACL grantees, Michigan State is offering virtual programming in order to help participants stay safe. One veteran said doing Tai Chi at home was "perfect," noting that the format was especially helpful for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder during the pandemic.
"We have good days and not so good days," the veteran wrote. "Yet, with the online courses, we can ‘shelter in place’ and still participate and interact, or not, with the other participants."
Another ACL grantee, the University of Illinois at Chicago, hosted a series of online classes on health and wellness for older women veterans this summer. The peer support classes used the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®) approach, which includes identifying wellness tools and habits, recognizing early warning signs, and developing crisis and post-crisis plans. Participants used the approach to address anxiety, trouble sleeping, COVID-19 social restrictions, and unhealthy eating.
UIC is one of ACL’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Education (CDSME) grantees. CDSME programs provide older adults and adults with disabilities with education and tools to help better manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain, and depression.
ACL also partners with the Veterans Health Administration on another innovative program to help veterans stay healthy and live independently in the community. The Veteran Directed Care program provides veterans of all ages who are eligible for nursing home care the opportunity to direct their own long-term services and supports in the community. The veterans decide for themselves what mix of goods and services best meet their needs, manage their own flexible budgets, and hire and supervise their own workers.
In Colorado Springs, CO the program is helping a 69-year-old retired veteran living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) receive around-the-clock care at home. He started the program, run by his VA Medical Center and the Independence Center (a center for independent living), last year after a three-month hospital stay for severe respiratory distress. He employs 8-10 people, including family members, who provide daily support and care, with a registered nurse providing weekly support and health monitoring. The program has made it possible for him to live at home where he is surrounded by family, and a part of his grandchildren's lives.
The program’s flexibility and veteran-centered approach have been particularly critical during the COVID-19 pandemic as the ability to compensate family members for the work of caregiving has allowed many veterans in the program to reduce the number of people with whom they come into close contact. The Independence Center has enrolled 48 additional veterans into the program since the start of the pandemic and 61% of caregivers employed through the program are family members.
The participants of these three programs are just a few of the many veterans ACL and our networks have the honor of serving. As I have said before, we believe that helping veterans preserve their independence is one of the best ways we can honor the sacrifices they made to preserve our nation's independence.
To all those who have served this country, thank you!
White House Proclamation: America’s veterans have fought to defend our country, its values, and its interests since the first days of our founding. They have defeated tyrants, eliminated terrorists, and secured freedom at home and abroad. Their courage and fortitude in the face of adversity serve as an example for all Americans. On Veterans Day, we pause to pay tribute to all who have proudly worn our Nation’s uniform. These Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen selflessly placed lives, well‑being, and security of others before their own. We enjoy the privileges of peace, prosperity, and freedom because of our veterans, and we are forever indebted to them beyond measure.