[This piece was written by Joseph Zanchelli, LMSW (Sergeant, USMC, Ret.), bereavement counselor with the Community Hospice of Columbia/Greene.]
When I was visiting a veteran in a nursing home, he wouldn’t say much until he found out I was in the Marines. Then he started ripping out stories about World War II. He told stories he had never told anyone else before. He broke down and cried.
It was good to get it out of his system. I do believe he died more peacefully than if I hadn’t been there.
The story illustrates how important it is for caregivers and all of us to realize that veterans need to face their special end-of-life issues with dignity, honor and respect.
Because of the aging population, we’re facing this situation increasingly. As of 2014, there were more than 21.8 million military veterans in the United States; of those, 9.4 million are 65 and older.
Because of the warrior culture, veterans often tend to deny their pain and suffering. They seem to fight harder, not only in life, but also death.
In addition, they all have a story to tell, perhaps something so powerful that they’ve never shared it with anyone. If they don’t get these out before they pass away, it’s difficult to consider.
Caregivers need special training because vets have their own verbal and non-verbal languages.
Finally, many veterans want to die with dignity at home. Community Hospice can provide services in any setting. Fortunately, there are good partnerships between the Department of Veterans Affairs and local hospices throughout the country.
As a Marine veteran myself, I understand the importance of having people around that you can count on when you need them the most. Vets need to know we’ve got their backs. It’s a way of honoring the people who have served their country.
When the quantity of life is limited, the highly-regarded Community Hospice teams care for patients in their own homes, in local nursing homes and in area hospitals, helping ease their pain so they can embrace life and live every day to its fullest.
To find out how we help people of all ages, facing any disease, please call (518) 724-0242 or 1-800-678-0711, or visit www.communityhospice.org/