Goshen Hospice earns We Honor Veterans Level Three recognition

04/02/2018

Goshen Hospice earned its third star in the national We Honor Veterans (WHV) program. Goshen Hospice is the only locally based WHV Level Three partner in Elkhart County.

Level Three recognizes the steps Goshen Hospice has taken to improve the care veterans and their families receive. Their hospice caregivers are specially trained to focus on respectful inquiry, compassionate listening and grateful acknowledgment as they guide veterans toward a peaceful ending.

“Veterans may struggle with challenges at the end of life that relate to their military service or combat experience,” said Brenda Wilkinson, BSN, RN, CHPN. “We want to meet their specific needs in a respectful way and serve them with the dignity they deserve.”

One out of four dying Americans is a veteran. Many who have served in the military struggle with unfinished business at the end of their lives. They have psychosocial symptoms that are different than other hospice patients.

Traditional pain and anti-anxiety medications may not help with their restlessness and pain. They also may face other challenges due to illness, isolation or traumatic life experiences.

More than 30 Goshen Health Colleagues and volunteers have participated in veteran-specific education programs since Goshen Hospice became a WHV partner in 2017. Training includes how to identify hospice patients with military experience and care for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, service-related diseases and other conditions.

A Veteran-to-Veteran Volunteer Program pairs patients with a veteran volunteer who served in the same branch of the military. Currently, Goshen Hospice has three veteran volunteers.

“Our veteran volunteers form a strong relationship with patients,” Wilkinson said. “They share a common language and can relate to stories about military experiences.”

All staff members and volunteers at Goshen Hospice are specially trained in how to listen to veterans’ stories. They have a better understanding about the impact military experiences may have on the lives of patients and family members. Oftentimes, patients are deeply touched by caregivers asking about their military history.

“Patients tell us, ‘no one has ever thanked me’ for their service,” Wilkinson said.

Goshen Hospice uses WHV resources, including military history checklists, to gather information about military service and combat experience. They provide certificates of appreciation that many veterans place by their bedside. Families also receive an American flag to use during burial services and as a keepsake.

Community outreach programs provided by Goshen Hospice help increase access to quality end-of-life care for veterans in the region. Hospice caregivers have presented veteran-specific programs to the community, including service organizations such as Kiwanis and Exchange Clubs. Goshen Hospice also works with nursing homes, including Greencroft Communities and Courtyard Healthcare Center, to share information about care for military veterans at the end of life.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the Department of Veterans Affairs developed the hospice provider awareness program in 2010.

For more information about the We Honor Veterans program or to volunteer, contact Goshen Hospice, (574) 364-2700.

For video footage, please go online to YouTube We Honor Veterans National Hospice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6WpXxvLPEw.