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Hospice care can help improve end-of-life care for veterans

Hospice care can help improve end-of-life care for veterans

While Memorial Day pays tribute to veterans who have died, next Monday, on Veterans Day, we honor those who served or are serving in the military. Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their service and their sacrifices.

The United States has 22 million veterans. More than 1,800 veterans die each day. Of those Americans who need end-of-life care, one out of four, is a veteran.

In 2010, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs created a national hospice provider awareness campaign called We Honor Veterans. It focuses on “respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment” to provide better end-of-life care to our nation’s veterans. Almost 2,000 hospices across the United States, including RiverStone Health Hospice Services, have enrolled in We Honor Veterans and have benefited from the partnership.

Hospice care emphasizes quality of life and alleviating pain. It focuses on social, emotional and spiritual support for the terminally ill and their families.

The ultimate goal of any hospice is to guide the patient and their families toward a peaceful ending through various means of support and quality patient-centered care.

We Honor Veterans provides educational tools and resources for hospices to promote veteran-centric activities and address the individual needs of our nation’s veterans. Hospice staff promotes unique care plans for those veterans who may have suffered physical or psychological trauma. Simple acts of gratitude at the end-of-life can be especially comforting to those veterans who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service.

We Honor Veterans encourages hospice staff to let veterans tell their stories, to respect their feelings and to thank veterans for their service to our country. It also focuses on making sure they are recognized for their military service at the end of their lives. One way hospices offer this recognition, in a heartfelt way, is by encouraging other veterans to volunteer their time to visit hospice patients and personally thank them for their service. “Pinning Ceremonies” are used to publicly acknowledge the military service and sacrifices of the patient and allow each veteran to share part of his or her story.

You can find out more about the valuable partnership of hospices and veterans, gather resources on veteran end-of-life care, and learn more about caring for veterans, at www.WeHonorVeterans.org or by emailing veterans@nhpco.org.

Veterans who wish to help other veterans at the end of their lives, can volunteer to participate in Pinning Ceremonies. To volunteer, contact RiverStone Health Hospice Services at 651-6500.

November is a time to honor veterans and a time of thanksgiving. RiverStone Health would like to extend its thanks and gratitude to veterans for their sacrifices, courage and commitment to serve our country. Their endurance of hardships, and willingness to risk their lives to maintain our nation’s freedom, should not and will not be forgotten.

Becky Meisenheimer, the community relations coordinator with RiverStone Health Home Care and Hospice Services, can be reached at becky.mei@riverstonehealth.org or 651-6516.

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