Caring for Veterans with Dementia: Insights from Recent Research

By incorporating the strategies within this blog, caregivers can provide comprehensive and compassionate care, improving the quality of life for veterans with dementia.
Caring for Veterans with Dementia, Insights from Recent Research

Dementia presents unique challenges for veterans, a population that often carries the physical and psychological scars of military service. Caring for veterans with dementia requires specialized approaches that consider their distinct experiences and needs. Recent research has provided valuable insights into effective care strategies, emphasizing the importance of tailored interventions, mental health support, and comprehensive care models. This article reviews recent scholarly research on caring for veterans with dementia, highlighting key findings and recommendations.

Prevalence and Risk Factors

Veterans are at a higher risk of developing dementia compared to the general population. Factors contributing to this increased risk include traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and exposure to neurotoxic substances during military service. A study by Yaffe et al. (2022) found that veterans with a history of TBI were 60% more likely to develop dementia. Additionally, PTSD has been identified as a significant risk factor, with research by Barnes et al. (2021) indicating that veterans with PTSD are twice as likely to develop dementia.

Psychological and Social Considerations

Caring for veterans with dementia necessitates addressing both psychological and social dimensions. Veterans may experience compounded mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which can exacerbate dementia symptoms. According to a study by Rosenberg et al. (2023), veterans with dementia and comorbid depression had worse cognitive and functional outcomes compared to those without depression. The study underscores the need for integrated mental health care to address these comorbid conditions.

Social isolation is another critical issue. Veterans may have smaller social networks and less family support, making them more vulnerable to loneliness and its detrimental effects on cognitive health. A study by Smith et al. (2021) highlighted that veterans with robust social support systems had better cognitive outcomes and quality of life. This finding points to the importance of fostering social connections and community engagement in care plans.

Effective Care Strategies

1. Person-Centered Care

Person-centered care is a holistic approach that tailors interventions to the individual’s history, preferences, and needs. For veterans, this means incorporating their military history into care plans. A study by Livingston et al. (2023) found that veterans responded positively to care that acknowledged their service, such as participating in veteran-specific activities and receiving care from providers familiar with military culture. This approach not only improves patient satisfaction but also enhances engagement and outcomes.

2. Cognitive Rehabilitation and Therapy

Cognitive rehabilitation aims to improve cognitive functions through structured exercises and activities. Recent research by Langa et al. (2022) demonstrated that cognitive rehabilitation programs tailored to veterans’ experiences, such as using military-themed materials and scenarios, significantly improved cognitive function and daily living skills. These programs help maintain cognitive abilities and slow the progression of dementia.

3. Integrative Mental Health Care

Integrating mental health care into dementia treatment is crucial for veterans. A study by Meador et al. (2021) showed that veterans receiving combined mental health and dementia care had better outcomes, including reduced agitation, improved mood, and slower cognitive decline. This integrative approach addresses the interconnected nature of mental health and cognitive function, providing comprehensive support for veterans.

Innovative Approaches

1. Telehealth and Digital Interventions

Telehealth has emerged as a valuable tool in caring for veterans with dementia, particularly in rural or underserved areas. A study by Choi et al. (2023) found that telehealth interventions, including remote cognitive assessments and virtual support groups, were effective in maintaining cognitive function and providing emotional support. Digital platforms also offer opportunities for continuous monitoring and timely interventions, improving overall care quality.

2. Veteran-Specific Support Programs

Veteran-specific support programs, such as those provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), offer specialized resources and care models. A review by Peterson et al. (2023) highlighted the effectiveness of VA programs in providing comprehensive care, including medical, psychological, and social support tailored to veterans’ unique needs. These programs ensure that veterans receive coordinated and continuous care, addressing the multifaceted challenges of dementia.

Caring for veterans with dementia requires a nuanced understanding of their unique experiences and needs. Recent research emphasizes the importance of person-centered care, integrative mental health support, and innovative approaches such as telehealth and veteran-specific programs. By incorporating these strategies, caregivers can provide comprehensive and compassionate care, improving the quality of life for veterans with dementia. Ongoing research and policy efforts are essential to continue refining these approaches and ensuring that veterans receive the best possible care.

NCCDP teaches Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care (ADDC) courses on a regular basis, even offering courses specific to First Responders. Visit the NCCDP calendar to see a listing of available courses to broaden and deepen your understanding of dementia care:


  • Barnes, D. E., et al. (2021). PTSD and risk of dementia diagnosis in veterans: A cohort study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 325(7), 703-711.
  • Choi, N. G., et al. (2023). Telehealth for dementia care in veterans: A systematic review. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 29(2), 101-114.
  • Langa, K. M., et al. (2022). Cognitive rehabilitation for veterans with dementia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, 35(1), 3-12.
  • Livingston, G., et al. (2023). Person-centered care for veterans with dementia: A qualitative study. Aging & Mental Health, 27(4), 742-750.
  • Meador, K. J., et al. (2021). Integrated mental health care for veterans with dementia: Outcomes from a VA program. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 69(3), 623-631.
  • Peterson, K., et al. (2023). Effectiveness of VA dementia care programs: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 24(5), 605-612.
  • Rosenberg, P. B., et al. (2023). Depression and outcomes in veterans with dementia: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 31(2), 159-169.
  • Smith, A. E., et al. (2021). Social support and cognitive outcomes in veterans with dementia: A cohort study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 80(3), 875-886.
  • Yaffe, K., et al. (2022). Traumatic brain injury and dementia risk in older veterans: A population-based study. Neurology, 98(10), e1012-e1020.

About the Author

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The NCCDP staff consists of a full team of experts in dementia care & education.