Deep connections form with veterans in hospice care

Nov. 7, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Avera.

It happens all too often in workplaces. A new program or approach is implemented, and it seems all well and good, but employees don’t really engage. They are, after all, already busy.

But that’s not the case when it comes to veterans and end-of-life care. Avera@Home Hospice began a partnership with the We Honor Veterans program three years ago. It immediately took off, and those who implement it have not looked back.

“Not a single person said no. Everyone was excited for the program, took the training seriously and continues to make it an important part of the services we provide  every day,” said Megan Enfield, lead social worker with Avera@Home. “It’s a priority with our leaders as well. It’s been really enjoyable to see the program thrive.”

How it works

The program’s goals, while straightforward, require a collaboration between hospice professionals, various leaders and workers in veterans’ care, as well as families.

“Formal training for our staff was just a starting point. We’ve dedicated time to reach out and incorporate perspectives from communities, churches and other entities that serve veterans,” Enfield said. “We can explain our services and what they mean, how they work. We answer questions so family members of veterans are aware of the programs we offer and veterans’ services available in their adjoining communities.”

One of the ceremonies the Avera@Home teams provide is called a pinning. In it, hospice clinicians, a family member or a fellow veteran will read a short dedication to the veteran and present him or her with a small American flag pin. Other less-formal gestures take place as well.

“Now that we have achieved the steps needed to reach the level four certification of the We Honor Veterans program, we’re really seeing the connections deepen between our Avera@Home teams and the veterans’ service officers in many counties,” said Nathel Cody, an agency manager with Avera@Home in Mitchell. “They are more comfortable with us, and they see the interactions and how they help the men and women who have served. The more knowledge we possess means the service for the vets will be better.”

Cody served in the Army for 10 years before working with Avera@Home. She has seen the changes occur and finds them rewarding.

“It’s really amazing to see the connections and to experience that sense of gratitude we experience with vets and with their loved ones,” she said. “It takes our entire team, as well as the Veterans Affairs staff, to ensure the success of these programs. The veterans are at the center of what we do.”

Learning the little things

The Department of Veterans Affairs, in collaboration with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, makes the program possible, along with agencies that wish to participate.

Avera@Home Hospice covers a wide geographic area, and the services it provides occur in many settings.

“While we serve our largest numbers of hospice patients in the Sioux Falls and Yankton regions, all hospice teams across the Avera@Home footprint are critical in achieving and ongoing implementation of the level four certification. Hospice teams are located all across the Avera footprint. Hospice care can be provided in all settings: a veteran’s home, a long-term care facility or rural hospital,” Enfield explained. “Whenever a physician recommends hospice care, we are there as a team to provide it. When we are providing it for a veteran, we now know how to make the experience more personal and relevant to the specific need of the veteran and family.”

Small differences in the veteran’s experience are now common knowledge for the Avera teams.

“Our teams continue to learn so much about our nation’s veterans and how to honor them based upon their personal connections to their service,” Enfield said. “It is our responsibility to ensure we are providing the honor and respect they’ve earned. We owe this to veterans at all times, especially at end of life.”

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Deep connections form with veterans in hospice care

Call it a final salute. It’s a special, touching way Avera has partnered to honor veterans in hospice care.

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