Many veterans in the Dubuque area are used to doing things that can feel a little scary, so hospice care can sometimes be seen as just one more challenge for them to approach with bravery.
Of course, just like the military experiences many of them went through, there may be uncertain, even scary moments at present along with an unknown future ahead. So any encouragement and support that can be offered is welcome.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice work closely with many patients who are veterans along with their families.
We enjoy getting to know them, their lives and their families. Not all of them want to share their personal stories, whether they served in wartime or peacetime, but many of them remain honorable and proud of what they experienced and how they had a role in making the world safer for the rest of us.
Whatever their role, members of the military, active, reserve, discharged or retired, have been able to offer a degree of sacrifice for the greater good.
A helping hand
If you have friends, family, co-workers, colleagues or even neighbors who are veterans receiving hospice care there’s something easy everyone can do to help them at this difficult challenge in their lives: pay them a visit.
Entering hospice can be a frightening experience no matter your faith or spirituality. A patient’s body may be not working as well as it used to, but their mind remains sharp. Or the opposite may happen as well: their brain may be declining due to a dementia such as Alzheimer’ s but their bodies are going strong.
It’s always nice to visit someone you know who is now in hospice but visiting a veteran is especially beneficial to him, her or their family. And you might get something out valuable out of the experience as well.
If you plan on looking for opportunities for a positive visit for both of you, keep these strategies in mind.
- Start by saying thanks. Even if you’ve said it before, and they’ve heard it from others, they still may treasure someone saying ‘thank you’ for their service, whether they served in recent years or decades before. Depending on where, when or how they served, they may or may not think their efforts were as significant as some of their colleagues who had more active roles, but they still know they played a part in the bigger picture. These days, it’s also more common to offer thanks and appreciation for the efforts of anyone in the military regardless of politics or foreign policy, but in the past, military members sometimes received negative attention for their service even if they were following orders. More awareness of the role of the military in unpleasant or unpopular situations can make it easier to appreciate the sacrifices and challenges that were and are experienced.
- Let them share what’s on their mind. The hospice experience often makes people think about life — and death – in new and different ways. They may be interested in discussing what they’ve discovered and are researching with a new audience, especially if their family or caregivers have already heard this conversation. This type of conversation can also involve reflection into their past and whether it might have a bearing on their present or future. For instance, even if they haven’t talked much about their military experiences, they may be thinking of the good and bad moments.
- Arrange and share any gifts. Most people who served remain patriotic so they might be touched with a patriotic item, such as a flag or note of appreciation from a leader. Many members of Congress and their staff enjoy writing general “thank you for your service” notes to their constituents – but they may only do it if they find out about a veteran living in their community. So a friend or loved one could alert these leaders and see if they would be willing to contribute something.
- Don’t say anything, or at least not too much. Sometimes just one’s presence can help someone feel comfortable. The patient may be in pain or overly fatigued and may not have much energy for detailed conversation. But they may appreciate that you’re there at this challenging time for them.
- Compare military stories. If you’ve served, they may enjoy hearing what you saw and did. The same is likely true if you have had family members or close friends who have served. Members of the military have their own traditions, rivalries an loyalties, so someone who may have served decades ago may still like swapping stories with some more recent military members.
There is never a bad time to pay someone a visit, especially if they’re presently receiving hospice care. But a perfect time to do so is approaching.
Veterans Day takes place Nov. 11 this year and is an excellent opportunity to reach out to veterans in your community, whether you know them well or not.