Hospice services for Military Veterans

Posted on

Dec 15, 2014

Book/Edition

Idaho - Boise and the Treasure Valley

The need for hospice services for military veterans has never been greater, but often those who were the first to answer our nations call for help are among the last to seek help when they need it. Today, more than 37 percent of the veteran population is 65 years or older. More than 1,800 veterans die every day, but most veterans still die in their communities only 4% occur in Veterans Administration facilities. There are many reasons why veterans do not seek end-of-life care. A culture of stoicism might prevent veterans from admitting to being in pain, or from asking for pain medication. Some may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms that can include social isolation, alcohol abuse, and anxieties. However, much of avoided care comes down to education. The benefits of hospice care can meet the special needs these brave men and women have at the end of life. VA and hospice programs have learned a critical lesson in caring for dying veterans: A patients military service history is highly relevant to providing the most appropriate, personalized end-of-life care. Although hospices routinely ask and record their patients age, family make-up, racial/ethnic group and religion at the time of enrollment, far too few ask about service status. But they should. There may be health coverage and benefit issues, if the veteran is enrolled at a local VAMC or would like to be, along with burial and other benefits. When seeking hospice care for a veteran, it is important to ask about services that will meet his or her specific needs based upon the timeframe of service. Some hospices have developed care programs specifically designed for the conflict the veteran served in, such as World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Some also have specially trained volunteers, many of whom are veterans themselves, to assist with care and comfort. This gives the patients a level of comfort knowing that those who are taking care of them have been through many of the same things they have. For some veterans, the effect of combat experience may remain buried for years, emerging only when they are very sick and dying. Finding the right end-of-life care can make all the difference. Hospice is a choice to live life to its fullest, empowering patients and their families to redefine hope in the last months of life. Finding a hospice that has made it its goal to care for veterans is another way to honor their sacrifice. -Devin Limb is Executive Director of United Hospice in Meridian.

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