St. Bernards Hospice has become a partner in the We Honor Veterans campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Approved as a recruit level partner, St. Bernards hospice will implement ongoing veteran-centered education for staff and volunteers, with the goal of meeting unique end-of-life needs of veterans who have suffered physical or psychological trauma as a result of military service.
The deaths of veterans represent nearly one quarter of all deaths in the United States, and a generation of World War II and Korean War combat veterans are facing end-of-life care decisions. They will be followed quickly by Vietnam War veterans. The We Honor Veterans campaign recognizes unique needs of our nation’s veterans. Consequently a specific curriculum has been developed to help nurses and other caregivers meet those needs. The curriculum provides an overview of palliative care within the Department of Veterans Affairs and throughout the U.S. and includes pain and symptom management, communication, culture, ethics, loss/grief/bereavement and care in the final days and hours of a veteran’s life.
The We Honor Veterans campaign provides tiered recognition to organizations that demonstrate systematic commitment to improving care for veterans. Partners can assess their current ability to serve veterans and can use campaign resources, integrating best practices as they care for veterans who face life-limiting illness.
National goals of the campaign include helping caregiving organizations build professional and organizational capacity to provide quality care for veterans, developing and strengthening partnerships with VA and other veterans’ organizations, increasing access to hospice and palliative care for veterans living in their communities and networking with other hospices to learn about best practice models.
“All hospices are serving veterans,” says J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and chief executive officer, “but they often are not aware of that person’s service in the armed forces. Through We Honor Veterans, we are taking a giant step forward in helping hospice and palliative care providers understand and serve veterans at the end of life while working more effectively with the VA medical facilities in their area.
“VA shares a common goal with our nation’s hospices,” he continues. “And that is to provide the best possible care specifically tailored for veterans, meeting their goals of care in their preferred settings.”
The resources of We Honor Veterans focus on respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment coupled with veteran-centric education of healthcare providers.
Tammy Hawkins, director of St. Bernards Hospice, said she was astounded to learn recently about statistics related to veterans, especially the fact that one fourth of all deaths in this country are deaths of veterans.
“We also have learned that only a few of those veterans receive services from the VA. And that means most veterans may not be aware of end-of-life services and benefits available to them, including the Medicare hospice benefit and VA-paid hospice care.
“Our veterans have done everything asked of them in terms of serving this country,” Hawkins continues. “And we believe it is not too late to honor them and give them a hero’s welcome home.
“That’s why St. Bernards Hospice is taking part in the We Honor Veterans program – to serve our veterans whether they desire to remain at home or to reside at the Flo & Phil Jones Hospice House at St. Bernards.”
St. Bernards Hospice is one of 500 hospice programs participating in the campaign.