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Veteran to Veteran Volunteers

To meet the unique needs of end-of-life care for Veterans, Hospice of Cincinnati is participating in the We Honor Veterans initiative, which is a collaboration between the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

At Hospice of Cincinnati, one important facet of the We Honor Veterans program is veterans serving veterans. Volunteers who were veterans themselves provide support to patients who served in the military. They visit patients, share stories when appropriate and assist with recognition ceremonies.

“My first thought when I started getting involved with hospice patients was ‘I don’t really know if I can handle this,’” said volunteer Paul Carlson, who served in the Navy from 1962 to 1966. “But now, it’s a labor of love. If my life were to start over again, I think I’d do the same thing.”

Many times, veterans will open up to other veterans about their war experiences even if they haven’t shared them with close family members. This gives them a chance to let go, or process long-held stories and trauma.

“I think I can relate a little bit and probe without being nosy, and if they don’t want to talk about it, I drop it,” said Fred Kleiser, an Army veteran who served from 1961 to 1964.

He usually builds rapport by finding some common ground, such as talking about careers, sports or other similarities like military service. “There’s comfort when they know that I can relate to having been in the service.”

In the face of a pandemic and restricted access to inpatient care centers, veteran volunteers are now helping deliver “Forget Me Not” care packages to home-care and long-term care patients experiencing isolation.

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