Hospice joins 'We Honor Veterans'

5/25/12 — As Memorial Day nears, St. Mary’s Hospice Services is joining forces with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to recognize veterans of the U.S. Armed Services who are receiving care, not just on this special day of remembrance, but every day.

As part of the NHPCO’s Level 1 We Honor Veterans initiative, St. Mary’s Hospice employees and volunteers are receiving education about the special needs of veterans as they near the end of life, and reaching out to veterans to express appreciation for their service to our nation. Tokens of appreciation include personally thanking the veteran for his or her service and presenting the veteran with a certificate and pin. The effort recently expanded to include patients in St. Mary’s Home Health Care program, too.

“More than 37,000 people in our region served our country in the Armed Forces, but the veteran population is often forgotten,” said Karen Joyce, director of St. Mary’s Home Health Care/Hospice Services. “We felt it was important to identify them as veterans when they enter our care and then personally recognize their service to our country. After that, we can individualize their care plan when their military service may impact their recovery or the way they approach the end of life. It all starts with the simple act of saying ‘thank you’.”

That acknowledgement is important to all veterans, said Joseph A. Franco RN, St. Mary’s Home Health Care/Hospice Services Process Improvement Coordinator, a U.S. Coast Guard retired veteran, and one of the leaders of St. Mary’s We Honor Veterans partnership. But it’s especially important for veterans of the Vietnam War, who came home to a bitterly divided nation and whose service too often was ignored.

“These men and women are now reaching an age where they increasingly need home health and hospice services,” Franco said. “They have given much, often at unimaginable personal cost, so that we can enjoy the benefits of freedom. It’s our honor and privilege to be able to serve them and to thank them for their service.”

Joyce noted that many veterans experience significant challenges as a result of their service, from amputations and brain injuries to post traumatic stress disorder. Often, these challenges become more pronounced as the veteran ages and experiences more health problems that require home care, or reach the final stages of life and can benefit from hospice services. The training that St. Mary’s staff receive as part of We Honor Veterans helps the staff recognize and respond to those needs, she said.

“As home care providers, we are in a unique position to work with patients, families and physicians to identify and address issues that impact the veteran’s health and comfort,” she said. “And, as a faith-based provider, we recognize the importance of spiritual and emotional care – care for the whole person and family – not just the patient’s medical condition.”

“All hospices are serving veterans but often aren’t aware of that person’s service in the armed forces,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “Through We Honor Veterans, we are taking a giant step forward in helping hospice and palliative care providers understand and serve veterans.”

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About St. Mary’s Hospice Services
Launched in 1990 at the request of the community, St. Mary’s Hospice Services provides a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care, delivered by a team of health care professionals across a 13-county area of Northeast Georgia. Nurses, social workers, home health aides, pastoral counselors, physicians and volunteers work together to meet the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional needs of the patient and his or her family. In addition, St. Mary’s offers the area’s only inpatient hospice house, located at 1660 Jennings Mill Road, Bogart, on the campus of Highland Hills Village retirement community.

Founded in 1978 as the National Hospice Organization, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is the largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end-of-life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of profoundly enhancing quality of life for people dying in America and their loved ones. With headquarters in Alexandria, Va., the NHPCO advocates for the terminally ill and their families. It also develops public and professional educational programs and materials to enhance understanding and availability of hospice and palliative care; convenes frequent meetings and symposia on emerging issues; provides technical informational resources to its membership; conducts research; monitors Congressional and regulatory activities; and works closely with other organizations that share an interest in end-of-life care.