Caring for America’s Veterans is a vitally important part of living up to our foundational mission statement: It’s all about helping more people. Our goal is to provide the Veteran community with support throughout every stage of life – with comfort, care, dignity, and security.
Our agencies have both the experience and the tools to facilitate that support. And if there is a gap in care, our dedicated employees deploy their skills and resources to help fill that gap.
Across the country, each and every day, our team members are supporting and caring for Veterans. Here are three stories that highlight the work they do.
Jessica Ahlers, VA clinician transition liaison for Caretenders, knows what it takes to provide quality support for the Veterans in her team’s care. For almost two years, she has coordinated with her local Veterans Affairs Clinic to provide nutritional boxes for Veterans in need.
The program allows Jessica and her team to educate themselves on each Veteran’s specific needs when it comes to nutrition and access to food. She regularly hand delivers the boxes provided by the local VA Clinic.
Jessica says that the clinical value and service the agency provides improves overall well-being for Veterans throughout the healing process and is an important part of the clinical team’s program of care.
She’s been working with food collection for about a year and a half, after seeing a post from the local VA about food bank opportunities. She makes up to 17 deliveries in one trip, traveling across several counties. Her family is accustomed to her not being home while she is out on deliveries – and the Veterans she serves are always grateful.
One such delivery involved a Veteran who had just moved into an independent living community without any personal belongings. Thanks to her connections in the Veteran community, Jessica was able to call upon an army of helpers to provide the Veteran with supplies that made his new living situation feel just like home – all in the span of two hours.
Now, that level of care and support has expanded to her life outside of work, where she participates in Veteran’s programs through Countryside YMCA. She also participates in other Veteran’s events – including a fun run sponsored in part by LHC Group and Caretenders.
“It’s a great way to increase my knowledge of how to better serve Veterans in my everyday job,” Jessica said. “When I was running in this event, I told myself that as hard as this may be, the Veterans here today went through things far more grueling than what I will ever have to experience – so push yourself and finish for them!”
Commonwealth Hospice of Berwick
Brenda Yaple, bereavement coordinator at Commonwealth Hospice, is focused on taking support of Veterans to new heights – working to expand the level of care her agency provides.
Brenda is a champion for “We Honor Veterans,” an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She coordinates and participates in programs and VA Clinic events. In addition to utilizing existing LHC Group programs, Commonwealth Hospice is also active in the local community – facilitating pinning ceremonies and arranging “thank you” gifts that include patriot bears, certificates, and bracelets.
We Honor Veterans has recognized the agency as a 5-Star program.
Brenda says that no request is too much. She and her staff create personalized ceremonies for Veterans, incorporating each event with music and other things important in the life of that Veteran. She says the work has made an impact.
“We have Veterans who are volunteers… I see an impact and trickle-down in the community,” Brenda said. “We have received volunteers who are Veterans because they have seen us in a facility when we have done a pinning.”
During community events, like a recent senior expo, she is reminded of just how important the agency’s work really is. She recalls speaking to a Veteran who came to them needing help – and being able to quickly jump into action and find the resources they needed.
“Yes, I was wearing my Commonwealth Hospice hat, but I was also wearing my ‘Brenda Yaple American Patriot’ hat and helping a brother in need,” Brenda said. “And that impact is priceless.”
Brenda says that this kind of interaction is common during these public events and demonstrates the impact they have achieved for quality Veteran care in their community.
Following a referral for a local Veteran, she and her team were able to set up an event unlike anything they had ever organized before. Over the summer, Commonwealth Hospice organized a “Welcome Home” party for Vietnam Veterans living at a local shelter. With help from the community, the Veteran residents were celebrated, fed, and entertained.
“As these men are coming in on a hot July afternoon, we’ve got Creedence Clearwater Revival blaring, we’ve got welcome home banners,” Brenda recalled. “Next thing you know, we have guys dancing and clapping, singing the words to the song, and we were cheering them on. On the count of three I said, ‘Guys, if you’ve never had a welcome home party, today is your day!’”
After food and root beer floats, the event ended on a solemn note with quiet prayer by the Veterans and the singing of Amazing Grace.
“It changed everything for those men,” Brenda said. “They knew we loved them and cared about them.”
Brenda’s work in the community and on behalf of Veterans doesn’t stop with her 9-5 workday. She can refer to her community connections, from her time at Commonwealth of Hospice, to help other Veterans in need.
“It has filtered into ongoing support for current victims of PTSD,” she said. “I have a rallying spirit and that has led to impact in the community.”
This Veterans Day, Yaple says her agency will be holding a “Drive-By Luncheon” in support of local Veterans. They will also visit all the Veterans on service for a certificate drop-off.
From Brenda: “For all Veterans, anybody, we love you – we care about you!”
Team members at Access Hospice have their own takeaways from the services they provide for the aging Veterans in their community.
Chaplain Doug Delp explains that part of their work revolves around making connections and helping ease the fear of end-of-life care. Throughout the year, the Ozark team takes part in events including café meetings, flag retirement ceremonies, annual breakfasts, and local VFW-organized gatherings.
“In all these situations, there is a high level of gratitude given and received,” Doug said. “Gratitude realized is among the most significant ways to lift the hearts of those who are experiencing the realities of the end-of-life journey.”
The Level 4 We Honor Veteran’s-status agency provides honorable discharge and Veterans pinning service ceremonies, often attended by family and friends. Doug said these special occasions have led to more meaningful and impactful experiences for their Veterans.
“We have seen Veterans’ families fly across the country to participate in their loved one’s pinning service,” he said. “We have seen a senior center spotlight a Veteran and family within their community, and we have seen regional news organizations celebrate our community at a Veterans pinning ceremony.”
Part of the job includes understanding the people in their care. Doug says that by going a little deeper and making the time together with their patients more personalized, they have been able to connect and share in memorable moments with the Veterans they serve.
“One Veteran expressed frustration with his inability to do anything, grieving his loss of independence,” he said. “On my next visit, I brought a model of the medical vehicle he had spent several months in during active duty, it opened up memories of personal service and accomplishments he had made.”
Chaplain Delp also relayed stories of Veterans sharing their pride in family members who also serve their country, as they once did, and talking about the work they accomplished while in service.
As chaplain, the services that Doug provides have helped him extend his care beyond the agency. At a café meeting held by the agency, Doug was able to assist a retired Veteran who had recently moved to the area and needed some additional support.
“We were able to provide the information to help them get settled with maximum services available in a new community,” he said.
The connections even trickle down to the community’s youth. Public school students are often utilized in providing art and music for venues and events, helping bridge the gap between generations. “[It has] created avenues for young and old to connect – with emotions of gratitude and convictions of legacy and hope,” Doug said.
For more information on the services LHC Group provides for Veterans, please visit our website: https://lhcgroup.com/Veterans/. On each and every Veterans Day, LHC Group remembers and thanks those who stood up to serve their country when they were needed most. We consider it a duty, honor, and privilege to serve our Veterans in their time of greatest need.