Hospice is often a time when veterans reflect on their time serving our country and many may still be battling with unaddressed experiences, memories or emotions related to their service, in addition to battling an advanced illness.

As a partner of the We Honor Veterans program, Encompass Health is able to serve those who have served our nation by providing compassionate hospice care that guides veterans and their families to a more peaceful ending.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veteran Affairs created the We Honor Veterans campaign to empower hospice and other healthcare providers across America to meet the unique needs of veterans and their families.

“We currently have 60 hospice branches participating at some level in the We Honor Veterans program, and our goal is to have every hospice branch participating by the end of 2020,” said Tracey Kruse, chief operating officer of Encompass Health – Home Health & Hospice.

Effective hospice care for veterans requires an understanding of the particular physical, emotional and spiritual needs of veterans near the end of life. These needs can be influenced by whether or not they served in combat, were prisoners of war, their branch of service and rank, which war they served in and if they had or have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Knowing the common issues veterans face enables Encompass Health to provide specialized hospice care to each veteran. As part of We Honor Veterans, Encompass Health presents veteran-specific education to hospice staff and volunteers on the unique values and demands of military life that can influence the care they need.

Encompass Health branches participating in the program complete a military history checklist for all veterans upon admission to hospice services. This helps hospice staff identify veterans and create a plan of care that fully supports the challenges they face.

Through the We Honor Veterans program, Encompass Health is also able to honor veterans during their time on hospice through simple acts of gratitude. Branches make special efforts to acknowledge their sacrifices on a personal and community level.

The Encompass Health branch in Gadsden, Alabama, recognizes veterans with a wall of gratitude in its lobby that displays an American flag, an emblem from each branch of service and an honor flag from a World War II veteran.

Pinning ceremonies are another common way of showing appreciation to veterans by presenting them with a pin and framed certificate. These ceremonies give family members and hospice staff an opportunity to come together and honor each veteran.  

“During the pinning, our branch honors them with a flag ceremony and provides a framed copy of the oath specific to their branch of service,” said Shellar Norton, branch director in Gadsden. “Spouses are also honored for their sacrifices and support during their loved one’s years of service.”

“We honor each veteran and their families individually by holding the pinning ceremony in their homes,” said Tina Luker, branch director in Greenville, Alabama. “We make it a big deal and take lots of pictures. It is fun for everyone involved and makes the veteran feel extra special.”

Branches also commonly partner with other veteran organizations in the community to recognize all local veterans. The Gadsden branch partners with local organizations to hold Veteran’s Day celebrations that include a presentation of arms and flag ceremony. They also partake in Veteran’s Day parades.

“When you see these men and women tear up from a simple ‘thank you’ and a hug, it warms your heart,” Norton said.

Encompass Health is proud to celebrate our nation’s heroes every day and prove that it is never too late to give veterans a hero’s welcome home.

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