Monday, May 21, 2012
Hospice and Palliative Care Veteran Services (Research, Video 4:46)
Nat was my most memorable patient with military service. Keeping a small American flag taped to his bed was his way of honoring those who returned from service in body bags or with physical and mental injuries. Although he had fought in Viet Nam years before we met as hospice volunteer and patient, his stories about his war experiences were as raw and real as any I have heard. He shared these reflections with me one day:
“I’ve seen and done things you couldn’t imagine. Some of them were horrible, I mean really horrible. Don’t ask me to tell you what they were, because I can’t talk about it. They say time heals all wounds, but it’s a lie. I left Viet Nam, but Viet Nam never left me. I carry it with me everywhere I go. All these years later, I still have nightmares like you wouldn’t believe. The doctor says it’s post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. I wake up shaking, gasping for breath with tears in my eyes. In my dreams, I’m always running hard, trying to escape. Sometimes my enemies are close enough for me to touch. I almost stop breathing to keep them from hearing me. I’m constantly thinking I’m not going to make it. Some nights they kill me before I wake up.” (Excerpt from Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes)
The number of veterans receiving hospice care continues to become a major area of expansion for the Veterans Health Administration. Research by the Department of Aging and Mental Health Disparities at the University of South Florida indicates that, of the millions of dollars being spent on veterans in hospice care, most of the funds are spent on younger veterans. Future trends indicate a growing need to allocate more funds for end-of-life care. Support and appreciation for the horrific sacrifices veterans have made are especially important during their death journeys.
This video titled Reaching Out to Those Who Served was produced by the Tennessee Hospice Association as part of a grant through the Veterans Administration and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. It presents a detailed overview of hospice and palliative care services for veterans.
Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.