Helping Veterans Find Peace
CATEGORY: News and Community; Medical and Clinical
PUBLICATION: Clinical Connections
Experiencing military service, especially combat, can have a significant impact on the way veterans face death. Providing specialized end-of-life care is critically important and is an ongoing initiative at Hospice of the Western Reserve. The agency’s Peaceful & Proud program is geared to meeting the unique needs of veterans.
“Veterans who face issues related to their military experiences find meaning in the emotional and spiritual components of hospice care,” said Nate Gradisher, Provider Relations Manager, who chairs the Peaceful and Proud Committee. “Support is even more crucial for those who do not have a strong network of family and friends.”
As death approaches, patients share many common experiences. One of these is engaging in a life review, which allows the dying person to revisit and reflect on significant experiences that have occurred during his or her life. This life review may be much more complex and emotionally charged for many combat veterans, who have been immersed in the violence, trauma and death prevalent in war zones.
“Our paid and volunteer staff are trained to help manage post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychosocial service-related issues impacting veterans, such as remorse, regret, anxiety and substance abuse. Veteran-to-veteran volunteering matches our hospice patients with volunteers who can relate to them as fellow service members,” Gradisher said.
To thank those who have served, Hospice of the Western Reserve also conducts both private and public veterans recognition ceremonies. These range from intimate ceremonies involving a single hospice patient to large community ceremonies where a hundred or more veterans are honored. This year, HWR hosted more than 35 ceremonies honoring approximately 1,000 veterans. Hundreds more were honored privately, in bedside ceremonies for patients and their families.
Pilot Program Aims to Tailor End-of-Life Care for Vietnam Veterans
Hospice of the Western Reserve is playing a leadership role in addressing the needs of Vietnam era veterans. Gradisher said Vietnam veterans have distinctive needs, shaped not only by the type and time of their service, but also by the unique cultural and political climate and social experiences that prevailed during this era.
A pilot program is currently under development. Through a series of meetings and interviews, Vietnam veterans shared their personal insights about special challenges, needs and goals. These learnings will play a valuable role in helping develop tools, resources and best practices to provide a custom program of care for Vietnam veterans and their family caregivers.
“Last fall, we also collaborated with Vietnam veterans, caregivers and clinicians from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Stein Hospice, Hospice of North Central Ohio, elected officials, representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America and other veterans groups at a Vietnam veteran end-of life care meeting at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center,” Gradisher said.
Hospice of the Western Reserve is also a partner in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a Department of Defense program that honors Vietnam veterans and their families.