Ronald Williams, a VA Augusta outpatient Veteran stops by regularly to talk with his buddy, Mr. G, who resides in the Community Living Center (CLC) at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia.
The two weren’t always friends, but technology and a therapeutic concept called Vet2Vet sparked a common cause – bring outpatient Veterans and long-term care residents together to curb social isolation among Veterans.
"I enjoy it,” said Ronald Williams, who got to know Mr. G over video conferencing before moving toward in-person therapeutic sessions. “It's fruitful and beneficial to him as well as me."
VA Augusta recreational therapists Kylee Colby and Isabel Jones saw patterns of loneliness, anxiety, and stress among their patients during and after the pandemic restrictions were lifted. And according to the U.S. Surgeon General, that lack of social connection is as dangerous as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and can lead to premature mortality.
So, Colby and Jones decided to pursue a solution.
“By connecting Veteran via video conferencing and in-person sessions, we are able to bridge the gap of socialization and wellbeing,” Isabel Jones said. “This is important from a therapeutic perspective as we have seen a greater decrease in feelings of anxiety and loneliness from in-person meetings rather than teleconferencing.”
Now, they’re ready to expand their efforts, applying for support from the Veterans Health Administration’s Spark-Seed-Spread Initiative, which helps fund and develop similar innovations.
If you are a Veteran who wants to be a part of this Vet2Vet project, contact your VA provider who can put in a recreational therapy consult.
If you want to learn how VA supports front-line staff to solve health care problems, visit Innovators Network | VHA Innovation Ecosystem.