Palliative care needs with complex health issues

An Australian Veteran is a person (or deceased person) who has:

  • rendered eligible war service, or
  • is a member of the defence forces who on or after 31 July 1962 was outside Australia, but not on operational service, who was killed or injured by the action of hostile forces.

In relation to service pension eligibility, 'veterans' includes those that are a commonwealth veteran, an allied veteran or an allied mariner. While veterans are uniquely positioned in that they have funded access to many health care services depending on their ‘white’ or ‘gold’ card status, they still experience complex health issues that have an effect on their access to palliative care.

Why palliative care matters

Although less likely than the general Australian population to have cancer and chronic conditions, veterans are also affected. Importantly, rates of these conditions can vary depending on deployment history e.g. Vietnam war veterans have higher rates of some cancers and neurological conditions compared to the Australian general population.  Trauma associated with being a veteran can also influence access to palliative care. This may include social and mental health issues such as PTSD as well as physical injuries that have occurred in service.

Common barriers and outcomes

Barriers to accessing palliative care services may arise due to the complex nature of their trauma. Further complexities may arise when a veteran identifies with other oppressed groups. This overlapping may cause unique barriers leading to more complex issues.

Overcoming the barriers

  • Understanding the trauma that may have been caused through the Veteran’s lived experience may help to reduce the likelihood of potential triggers. Examples of triggers that may generate a negative response include being tapped on the shoulder to be woken from sleep or the use of torches at night time.
  • Creating opportunities to communicate their needs could be helpful as there is a strong culture of independence and survival which may lead to being too proud to ask for help.

Learn more

To find out more about Veterans and palliative care visit the ELDAC website and the Australian Government Department of Health Exploratory Analysis of Barriers to Palliative Care - Issues Report on Veterans.

This information was drawn from the following resources:

Last updated 02 August 2021