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Hospice Care for Veterans

Twenty-five percent of those who die every year in the U.S. are veterans. The nation is seeing many of the veterans who served in World War II and Korea pass away, and the number of deaths of Vietnam veterans is beginning to rise.

To help provide care and support that reflect the important contributions made by these men and women, Hospice Austin has become a national partner of We Honor Veterans, a pioneering campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As a We Honor Veterans partner, Hospice Austin has implemented ongoing veteran-centered education for staff and volunteers to help improve the care they provide to veterans.

By recognizing the unique needs of our nation’s veterans who are facing a life-limiting illness, Hospice Austin is better able to accompany and guide veterans and their families toward a more peaceful death. Often veterans tend to be stoic, so it can be challenging to ascertain their physical, emotional, or spiritual pain; they may have unresolved issues about the deaths of friends; navigating the VA system can be overwhelming; patients with dementia gravitate towards earlier memories; and different wars may generate different issues, both physical and emotional.

The resources of We Honor Veterans focus on respectful inquiry, compassionate listening, and grateful acknowledgment, coupled with education and training for staff caring for veterans. Training staff and volunteers to recognize issues and opportunities and matching veterans with volunteers who are veterans can make a big difference.

Hospice Austin volunteer and veteran Jerry Adams recalled visiting with a patient at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House who was a veteran. The next time Jerry saw him, he brought him a lapel pin of a soldier carrying another fellow on his back.

“When I gave him the pin, his eyes got a little moist,” Jerry said. “It meant a lot, to both of us.”

Here are a few ways that we provide extra care for veterans:

  • Help for veterans and their families to ensure they can access all of their veteran’s benefits
  • Collaboration with the VA Medical Center and Regional Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of our patients who are veterans
  • Continuing education for our staff and volunteers to enhance care of our patients who are veterans
  • A Certificate of Appreciation and pinning ceremony awarded to our hospice patients who are veterans, if they would like to be recognized
  • Matching hospice patients and volunteers who are both veterans, when possible

The National Council for Aging Care has a simple guide on Military Veteran Benefits on their website which might also be helpful: http://www.aging.com/complete-guide-for-veteran-seniors/