~ Volunteer Service Since 1980 ~
Hospice Volunteers of Hancock County
14 McKenzie Avenue Ellsworth, ME 04605
207-667-2531 · 1-888-266-8035 · fax 667-9406
 
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Veteran Services

Volunteers: An Essential Ingredient in Caring for Veterans at the EOL

Why is it important to improve our knowledge and understanding of Veterans’ needs?

  1. Better match for patients and volunteers – common life experience builds trust; trust can be a challenge for folks with PTSD.

Adapted from the NHPCO We Honor Veterans Power Point Presentation

  1. Why is it important to improve our knowledge and understanding of Veterans’ needs?
    1. Better match for patients and volunteers – common life experience builds trust; trust can be a challenge for folks with PTSD.
    2. Volunteers specially trained in veterans’ issues may be better able to create a safe, emotional environment for veterans who maintain a culturally-imbued stoicism / “code of conduct,” honor
    3. Sharing supports life review and healing.
  2. Advising on how to proceed in forming veterans-sensitive programs: We are doing a lot of the recommended actions: Committee of committed members, including volunteers and veterans; connecting with community veterans organizations, gaining understanding of veterans’ issues, defined goals.

  3. Recommend Recruitment of Veteran Volunteers – the committee’s efforts are already doing many of the recommended steps. Others include:
    1. Recruitment fliers around region, online, ask for veteran volunteers at community events, PSAs
    2. Screening of veteran volunteers: gathering of veterans’ experience – specifically “Have you served in the military” not “Are you a Veteran,” branch, service dates, combat, own PTSD, -- lots of specific questions to gauge veteran volunteers’ preparedness for serving veterans at e-o-l
    3. Acknowledge non-veterans may want to serve veterans at e-o-l as well, for various reasons – no specific additional recommendations in terms of non-veteran volunteer trainings
    4. Cautions about veteran volunteers: may experience their own troublesome symptoms, need self-examination and awareness in terms of preparedness.
  4. Training of Veteran and non-Veteran Volunteers: The efforts of this committee are doing exactly what is recommended in terms of gathering knowledge about veterans’ issues and needs and incorporating them into all that we do. Reminder: volunteers should be ready to consult with their coordinators about veteran patients they are serving (as well as any patients they are serving) with special needs.
  5. Facts about Veterans and E-O-L, including types of response to war trauma: See sheets copied from WHV program
  6. For veterans with Integrated Response to their traumatic experiences:
    1. Listen carefully, Invite them to tell their stories, Express appreciation for their service and celebrate their accomplishments, Affirm the wisdom they have gained and let it impact your life.
  7. Incomplete Integration of Trauma indications:
    1. PTSD: Alcohol/Drug abuse, Social isolation, Anxieties, Anger outbursts, Difficulty concentrating, Guilt/shame
    2. Estranged relationships
    3. Unfulfilled longings
    4. Suspicion/lack of trust
    5. Anxiety, agitation, nightmares, staying “on guard”
    6. How to respond to veterans with Incomplete Integration:
      1. Remember that their behavior is related to trauma
      2. Invite their sharing with statements like “Some Veterans tell me they experienced some horrific things in war. Did anything like that happen with you?” Be willing to sit quietly while waiting for the person’s response to questions; medications may help; ask before touching; realize that certain (including “noxious”) stimuli can re-stimulate trauma (example of full bladder and acting out); assess for environmental triggers
  8. Apparent Integration of Trauma indications:
    1. Acting out behaviors
    2. Workaholic or other addictive behaviors
    3. “White Knuckle Syndrome” - Veteran appears hollow or aloof
    4. These Veterans should receive the same interventions and care as for Veterans with Incomplete Integrated Trauma.
  9. Volunteers’ service:
    1. Keep focus on patient, not own experience
    2. Open the door, but don’t push
    3. Assist in replacing lost medals by contacting agencies in charge of this
    4. Connecting with appropriate VA service personnel
    5. Responding to stoicism: Create safe emotional space for tears and fears by validating feelings (It’s only normal that you might feel sad right now. Most veterans tell me they feel a little afraid at a time like this.)
    6. Responding to Guilt: Forgiveness – listen for feelings of guilt and seeking Forgiveness – don’t dismiss with platitudes
    7. Assist Veterans in reminiscing/telling life stories: listen, record/videotape, produce Memory Book or CD/DVD; Assist Veteran in connecting with the Veteran History Project at www.loc.gov/vets/
    8. Participate in Veterans’ – focused activities in the community, such as Veterans Day Events
    9. Distribute certificates for Veterans service, or have children make cards for Veterans and distribute them.
    10. Honor our own veteran volunteers with recognition, and being aware of their needs related to serving a veteran patient or family.

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