Can veterans benefit from hospice care?

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2024
Melisa Haddix
Social Services Supervisor, Hospice of NGMC

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 report, there are approximately 16.2 million living American military veterans. As they near the end of life, many of those veterans can benefit from hospice care.

Veterans of our country’s armed forces have sacrificed so much in defense of the United States. After their military service, veterans often experience physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that can plague them for months and even years.

Still, many veterans go on to live long and full lives. At the end of life, choosing to receive hospice care can help veterans maintain the quality of life they deserve as they live out their days.

How hospice can help

You’ve probably heard about both “palliative care” and “hospice.” While the two types of medical care are often mentioned in conjunction with each other, they are not the same.

Palliative care can be provided to anyone at any stage of a medical condition. It typically focuses on improving quality of life and relieving suffering through a holistic approach to care for individuals living with serious illness.

Hospice care, on the other hand, is a specialized type of care for those with a life expectancy of six months or less. It follows the same holistic model as palliative care, but is designed to ease the transition to the end of life.

When a person begins hospice care, he or she is no longer seeking curative treatment for an advanced illness with a terminal prognosis. Instead, care focuses on easing symptoms, including pain, and providing services that can maintain quality of life.

How can hospice care help? Hospice services encompass a number of different tools and resources to help veterans and their family members navigate the end of life. This can include:

  • Advance care planning
  • Grief counseling to help support patients and their loved ones
  • Medical equipment and supplies
  • Medication management to ease symptoms and offer comfort
  • Medical social work
  • Spiritual care and support
  • Skilled nursing care
  • Supportive therapy services, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy
  • 24/7 on-call services
  • Physician oversight of the plan of care

Research has shown that family members of those who have received hospice care are more satisfied with end-of-life care than those who did not receive hospice services.

The We Honor Veterans project

Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center is a proud partner of We Honor Veterans. This project is a collaboration between the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs—and it is designed to help hospice providers offer appropriate care for veterans in the end stages of life.

According to the We Honor Veterans project, one in four dying Americans is a veteran of our military services. Veterans face unique challenges affecting their physical, mental, and emotional health that can impact their needs at the end of life.

Through our partnership with the We Honor Veterans project, the Hospice of NGMC care team is able to access tools to help provide exceptional care to veteran hospice patients. Hospice employees receive specialized training related to physical and psychological trauma, knowledge of veteran benefits, respectful questioning, compassionate listening, and grateful acknowledgment of veterans’ military service.

While veterans all share the experience of serving in the military, their individual experiences can vary significantly based on a number of factors, including when they served, whether they participated in active combat, and whether they experienced injuries. Because of that, We Honor Veterans also provides an easily navigated library of resources specific to providing care for those who served in specific wars, from World War II to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as guidance related to populations like homeless veterans orfemale veterans.

Employees also have access to information about medical conditions that are prominent among military veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder. The We Honor Veterans partnership supports the skills and tools needed to provide veterans with hospice care that is uniquely matched to their needs and respectful of their service.

Deciding on hospice care

If you are a military veteran wondering whether hospice care is right for you at this stage—or a caregiver for a veteran—there are tools available to help guide the decision, including the Veteran Decision Aid for Care at Home or in the Community.

If a medical provider thinks you may be eligible for hospice care, Hospice of NGMC can assist with determining your eligibility and confirming eligibility for coverage through the VA, Medicare or other payer source.

When you are ready to move forward with exploring hospice care, reach out to our hospice care team and we will walk alongside you every step of the way.

Learn more

Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center partners with you and your family to provide excellent care and enhance your quality of life. Call 770-219-8888 or visit our website for more information about how we can help.