After two months of physical distancing, mask-wearing and the virtual shut-down of large segments of the economy, all 50 states have begun to ease some of their most restrictive coronavirus regulations. The tentative steps come just in time for Memorial Day—the unofficial start of summer—lending hope to those eager to return to some sort of normalcy, from going to the beach to going to the barbershop to going back to work.

Yet for many of the nation’s military veterans—the very people whose sacrifices we acknowledge on May 25—little about daily life will improve.

Pandemic or not, advanced illness, age, or disability already confines untold numbers of former members of the armed forces to their home, day in and day out. Many suffer from service-related illnesses such as cancer and Parkinson’s, the result of exposure to radiation and the chemical Agent Orange. Others develop severe chronic conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, often showing symptoms a full decade before they appear in the general population.

COVID-19 has only worsened their plight, as many vets are in the high-risk group for contracting the virus. As such, visits from friends, relatives and even healthcare workers are curtailed, leading to increased isolation at a time when they most need companionship. And now, many seriously ill and vulnerable veterans who live alone also face a new threat to their health: hunger.

Capital Caring Health is doing what we can to help.

As the largest nonprofit hospice and advanced care provider in the mid-Atlantic, we have a long history of serving former members of the military, dating back to our founding. Over the years, we’ve brought our full suite of care and services directly to veterans—all in the comfort of their own home or wherever they live. We’ve conducted recognition ceremonies, created programs to match veteran patients with volunteer veterans, and helped veterans get the benefits they’ve earned.

In this current crisis, we’re doing even more.

Through a special new program, Prescription Home Meals for Veterans, we’re assuring that housebound veterans—who can no longer even have friends or relatives safely deliver food—get the health-and life-sustaining nutrition they need, on a regular basis.

With the support of a generous supplier, CCH is providing appropriate meals tailored to meet the specific dietary needs of aged and ill veterans. For instance, those suffering from PTSD require a diet featuring serotonin, tyrosine, Omega-3 fatty acids and folic acids. Patients with heart disease must limit sodium; diabetes calls for a low-carb diet.

The meals are prepared to meet the unique needs of each veteran, from one special meal per day to a complete diet of three meals daily. Meals are then delivered by CCH’s dedicated team of volunteers, outfitted in appropriate personal protection equipment and maintaining physical distancing to protect patients from exposure.

Another new initiative born out of COVID-19 involves the purchase and installation of telehealth monitoring services for particularly vulnerable patients, including veterans.

For the time being, CCH is only making in-person visits for urgent needs, with all other assessments conducted virtually or by phone. But with the new, easy-to-use telehealth tablets, staff can remotely monitor such vital signs as blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse, weight and more, as well as conduct virtual check-ups with real-time access and support. In fact, one of the first tablets CCH installed was at the home of an elderly veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

These are only the most recent examples of how CCH is working to create new services and support to meet the unanticipated patient needs emerging in COVID-19’s wake. And how we’re striving to help the hundreds of aging and ill former military members in our care, regardless of ability to pay.

You can help, too.

From special diets for vets to meals for food-insecure patients to telehealth tablets for remote monitoring and more, CCH has created a special emergency fund for the ever-increasing unbudgeted, unexpected expenses related to COVID-19. To learn more about what we’re doing, and how you can be part of this effort, visit capitalcaring.org .  

Together, we can help our veterans live their best possible lives…this Memorial Day and every day.