There are more than 18.2 million veterans in our country, and more than half of these are over age 65. Only about five percent of veterans receive hospice care at end of life, even though they have specific needs due to their time in service that hospice teams are specifically trained to address.
Many veterans suffer chronic pain, presumptive disease, and traumatic injuries related to their service. A range of issues and concerns may also exist that may complicate end of life for veterans:
- PTSD (which may not surface until this point in life)
- Traumatic grief
- Survival guilt
- Troubling memories resurface
- Reluctance to seek help for pain of reject hospice care because they feel they need to be stoic and “fight on”
- Anger due to pain, injury, or illness caused by war
- Psychological issues of guilt, shame, or need for forgiveness and understanding due to having participated in war
The hospice interdisciplinary approach to care is well-suited to meet veterans’ specific needs. Veterans are identified at time of admission. Factors such as in which branch of service, war, rank achieved, and whether or not they saw combat, are information hospice care teams are keen on gaining as they can affect aspects of the patient’s care.
Clinical team members can develop an individualized plan of care to meet the veteran’s specific needs and wishes. Knowing any adverse conditions the veteran may have faced during their time in service (combat, capture, imprisonment, torture, etc.) makes them mindful as to how to best use medications and makes them aware of touch issues the patient may have due to things they experienced during their service.
Social workers can help veterans and families navigate VA benefits. They can also provide counseling for the veteran and his or her family as issues may arise concerning the patient’s time in service. Chaplains can assist in resolving issues of guilt, shame, anger, and unworthiness, thereby helping veteran patients find spiritual peace.
Lower Cape Fear LifeCare (formerly Lower Cape Fear Hospice) understands the special needs of veterans at end of life. As a partner in We Honor Veterans, a program of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), our agency is dedicated to meet this population’s unique needs.
Our Vet-to-Vet volunteer program seeks to partner veteran patients with veteran volunteers. Through the special bond that veterans share, patients feel more comfortable discussing topics with fellow service members who share similar experiences and can better understand them. This comradery can help relieve stress and anxiety for veteran patients.
Since many veterans never received the recognition for their service that they deserved, especially Viet Nam War veterans, we seek to honor and respect them through veteran pinning ceremonies. These ceremonies acknowledge and show appreciation for having served our country. They mean a great deal to veterans and their family members.
Our This is Your Life celebrations allow veterans to tell their story. Something they may feel a need to do at this point of their life.
If there comes a point that pain and symptoms cannot be managed at home, our inpatient hospice care centers offer around the clock care and support. At the care centers, patient room doors are marked by a patriotic wreath or hanging to acknowledge veteran patients.
Our veterans answered the call to duty when we needed them. They deserve the best care, comfort and support we can provide them and their families when it matters most.
To learn more about our Vet-to-Vet program and how you can become a hospice veteran volunteer, call 800-733-1476.