Veterans Voices from The Hub

By John Oppenheim

As a long-time volunteer at the Villages at Cabrillo, working with permanent housing residents, and a senior myself, I have felt that the Long Beach VA should be treating the senior population differently than the younger population.  As a VA patient, I have one or two visits per year with my primary care physician.  I have been a patient at the VA for more than 20 years, and I am treated at my age as I was when I first began my visits there.  

What I mean by that is that it seems I am really not being screened for the kinds of things that affect us as we age.  For instance, my wife visits a doctor who provides a two hour visit once a year and screens for Alzheimer’s and other diseases found in older adults.  Many older adults, especially those without family support close by, can be lonely and isolated. They may suffer from depression, and that is difficult to diagnose with only a couple of questions.

One statistic I found that surprised me was that more than 75% of all Veterans in the United States are over the age of 65.  That means that the majority of patients visiting the VA are seniors.  I was told that at the Long Beach VA there is one gerontologist and two geriatricians.

I would strongly recommend to the VA that they change the annual physical to include more testing for the things mentioned above and perhaps other issues that might affect seniors — again, especially those who live alone (you can be alone in a crowd if you stay in your room). I also believe that any senior, again, especially those in supportive housing and who don’t have a family support system, would benefit from better and more regular screening. 

John Oppenheim is an Air Force Veteran, Co-Founder of CityHeART’s Veterans Council, and COO of CityHeART.

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