Caring for older veterans

In the FOX 7 Care Force, we're taking a closer look at taking care of older vets who are near the end of their lives.

To give you some context, half a million vets will be needing end-of-life care each year for the next five years. Only four percent of vets die in a VA hospice facility.

Because of that the VA and the National Hospice Care Organization have created a program called "we honor vets", and hospices around the country are adopting it, including Hospice Austin.

Class is in session at the Hospice Austin main offices.

All their field staff and volunteers, nearly 100 people are learning the "We Honor Vets" program.

"The program is aimed at identifying vets and educating staff on how to work with them and how to honor the services they've provided our county."

They're learning about specific physical issues with certain vets, for example many soldiers in Korea experienced frostbite which can be an issue in older age. But Hospice Austin employees are learning better ways to engage vets as well.

"It's also educating staff that the vet community is diverse...not all want to talk about it...so our education is helping staff be savvy with that and not launch into "tell me your war stories"."

That's something Chaplain Pamela Broker has learned firsthand with patients.

"but soldiers ah....especially who've experienced PTSD...ah...they live with that and when they're in the end of life it doesn't change...it's there and they remember the faces of the people who hadn't survived."

She also says the program can help through acknowledging a vets service and sacrifice.

One thing "We Honor Vets" endorses is a formal recognition of service like a pinning ceremony or a certificate of thanks where family, friends and staff attend.

At some of Hospice Austin's locations employees are vets like Ron Patterson.

"When I go in with a family and it's a vet family and the patient is a vet...it gives me an in...and we can talk about what we did."

The training is to arm the staff with that extra awareness that many older vets can carry that extra burden of combat and loss.

A burden these people hope to try and ease near the end.

"I'm really surprised by how much feedback we've gotten...our volunteers are fantastic...we have lots of vets and people wanting to help out and care for our vets...so yeah, it's been a really good program."


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