We Honor Veterans is a national hospice provider awareness campaign conducted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). NHPCO is actively supporting the campaign and providing resources for hospices to participate because: Of 2.4 million deaths in the United States each year, approximately 680,000 are Veterans. A vast majority of Veterans are not enrolled in the VA and may not be aware of end-of-life services and benefits available to them, including the Medicare Hospice Benefit.
America’s veterans have done everything asked of them in their mission to serve our country. Hospice believes it is never too late to give them a hero’s welcome home. In 2011, Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley began the process of working through the four step partnership program. In order to complete the requirements of the We Honor Veterans program, Hospice staff assembled a committee including representatives from several area veterans organizations, hospitals and nursing homes to discuss the best ways to educate veterans on available benefits, particularly those related to hospice care. Priorities also include opportunities to honor veterans through pinning ceremonies while they are enrolled in hospice care and providing education to staff and other agencies in St. Lawrence County to ensure they have the skills necessary to care for symptoms caused by their service. By August of 2014, Hospice of St. Lawrence Valley earned recognition as a level four partner, the highest level of partnership and the second hospice in New York state to achieve that honor.
Our staff understand the unique needs of veterans and are prepared to meet the specific challenges that veterans and their families may face at the end of life. We have embraced our mission to serve America’s veterans. It’s our way of saying thank you for the sacrifices they have made in serving us.
During the admission process, patients who identify as veterans are offered a pinning ceremony in recognition of their service to our Country. Veteran volunteers don their uniforms to present the patient with a pin, certificate and render a hand salute. Some patients elect to keep the ceremony small with the veteran volunteer, Hospice staff and a few family members. Others have used it as an opportunity for a great celebration with a large gathering of family and friends. As each patient’s experience in the military is different, so is their preference for a pinning ceremony. Large or small, every ceremony is equally moving.
Vet to Vet Volunteers
A very select group of brave individuals, veterans have a unique bond. This program works to pair a veteran volunteer with hospice patients who have military experience. These special volunteers have the unique ability to relate and connect with each patient creating a comfortable environment to share stories many family members may not have heard. Veteran volunteers can participate in the Vet to Vet program in many capacities including performing pinning ceremonies, offering life review, providing companionship and support in various other ways. The camaraderie established with service to our Country has proven to be essential in the care provided to veterans at the end of life.
For more information on the We Honor Veterans program, contact Nancy Vosbrink at 315-265-3105.