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Honoring New Ulm area veterans at the end of life
Donnie Peterson of New Ulm and Marlowe Frederickson of Hanska experienced some special caring and connections with fellow military veterans during their final weeks of life last winter. The acts of kindness provided to them by vet volunteers were possible because their hospice provider knew the two men were veterans.
The unique needs of veterans who are enrolled in hospice care are being addressed, thanks to New Ulm Home Care and Hospice’s participation in a program called We Honor Veterans. It is an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“Our staff has been trained in the specific needs and health issues of veterans from each war era and service branch. Examples include PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), health risks associated with Agent Orange among Vietnam veterans and the significant traumatic injuries of our Iraq war veterans,” said Mavis Pautz, RN, manager, New Ulm Home Care and Hospice. “We are strengthening our relationship with our local Veteran’s Service Officers and speaking to veterans groups in our hospice service area. We are on our way to full partnership in the We Honor Veterans program.”
The program provides a military checklist that is used to identify hospice patients and family members who are veterans, the war era served and questions to help converse with them about their experience. The hospice staff can help enroll patients who don’t already have VA benefits, including Medicare and hospice coverage.
The task of finding veteran volunteers to spend time with the hospice veterans falls to Micki Ouren, a long-time New Ulm hospice volunteer. Ouren’s husband was a Vietnam veteran and her two sons are in the Navy.
“The We Honor Veterans education has made us more aware of the situations our veterans have seen and experienced,” Ouren said. “You can ask them open-ended questions and let them know you are there. It’s important for them to get their experiences out at the end of life, and I think it makes our veteran volunteers feel so good to come in for a vet in need.”
Army veteran Marlowe Frederickson was an 89-year-old widower. He had sold his house and moved to an apartment in Hanska. His daughter, Darla Colebanks, then moved him to the Sleepy Eye Care Center, where he passed away late in February after suffering a severe stroke.
“The veterans had brought him a quilt and he was really proud of it,” said Frederickson’s daughter, Darla Colebanks. “It was wonderful to have them come, if nothing else just for company. I can’t stress enough how good that hospice team was.”
Donnie Peterson, who passed away last Feb. 5, was a Navy veteran who had lived on his own for nearly a decade following his wife’s death. He was blind but stayed independent with the help of a seeing-eye dog. During the summer of 2011, he underwent surgery for cancer. By November, he needed home hospice services and he moved to Oak Hills Living Center later that month. Peterson was pleased to receive an afghan from the Disabled American Veterans and several visitors who were veterans and Lion’s Club members.
“The hospice folks and New Ulm veterans were beyond wonderful,” said Kathy Blank, Peterson’s sister-in-law. “The vets with the hospice volunteer program were able to ‘be there’ for their fellow veteran. We hope many veterans will become a part of this very special way of continuing to serve their country.”
If you are a veteran who is interested in volunteering with the We Honor Veterans program, please contact Micki Ouren at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about New Ulm Home Care and Hospice, part of Allina Health, please view our new video at allinahealth.org/hospice or call 507-217-5555.