There is evidence that shows that Veterans can in fact have different experiences at the end of life. A person who’s seen death in a very intimate manner or who has actually been a part of it in some way, whether they have been in a shoot-out, or have shot somebody, or had a good friend pass in the military. Those patients do experience higher rates of PTSD, brain fog, or battle fatigue at higher rates and there are reasons for that. Oftentimes they suppress those memories and those thoughts and feelings, but when patients approach the end of life, those thoughts kind of come crashing down really quickly. They can come right back to the forefront of things that they need to manage. It’s harder for them to keep buried deep down inside of them. As a hospice agency, we’ve seen this first hand and we knew that we needed to further educate ourselves in order to serve these individuals better.
We Honor Veterans
One of the programs that was developed in cooperation with the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization and the Veterans Administration is a program called We Honor Veterans. I was fortunate enough, back in 2008 or so, to be one of the people who helped bring We Honor Veterans to Heart ‘n Home.
One of the places that I turned to when I was learning about Veterans at end of life was a reference that I would recommend to you, it’s a book titled “Peace At Last” written by Deborah Grassman. We were fortunate enough to have her come to Boise, Idaho from Florida, and have her give a wonderful day-long education symposium around Veterans at end of life.
Shortly after, I moved on and went to medical school and Heart ‘n Home has really taken the Program and adopted it wholeheartedly and are doing amazing and meaningful things with Veterans. Things such as providing each Veteran with a certificate of appreciation for their service, pinning them with an American Flag pin, and doing anything and everything that we can to honor them (and their military family members). We also honor patients’ wishes such as arranging for them to be taking from their home draped under a flag.
Heart ‘n Home also honors Veterans by providing education to the community and educating ourselves about how to manage Veteran patients. Each Heart ‘n Home staff member receives multiple hours of ongoing training every year in an effort to recognize and address the unique experiences that a Veteran might have at the end of their life.
Really at the end of the day, it’s about thinking, “Has this patient had some experiences or somethings that just really needs to be talked about.” Or do they need to hear, “I’m sorry.” Or do they need to say, “I’m sorry” for something they have done. It really can run the gammet and I encourage everyone to be mindful of the unique needs that a Veteran may face.
At Heart ‘n Home we have some educational material that’s available for those who are interested. You can contact us today and we’d be happy to get you some more information on how we honor Veterans. And again, the book “Peace At Last” is a fantastic resource as well.