By BRADEN LAMMERS
A Jeffersonville hospice organization has joined only 42 organizations throughout the country in achieving the highest level of programing working with veterans.
Amedisys, which provides medical, psychosocial, volunteer and bereavement care, has been participating in a national We Honor Veterans campaign that works to educate and provide hospice care for those who have served the country in the military.
“We understand what it means to give of yourself as a veteran and we want as a hospice to make sure our veterans are cared for at the end of their life,” said Randy Hensley, director of office operations with Amedisys. “Many veterans have been through such traumatic, horrendous situations in war that we want to make sure that they’re cared for in a way that’s honoring to them and that they get the care that they really need. The other big piece that drives us is making sure our veterans know the benefits that are entitled to them.”
Dick Jackson — volunteer coordinator with Amedisys and a 35-year veteran of the U.S. Army who served two tours in Vietnam — said only about one-third of veterans take advantage of the benefits that are available to them through the We Honor Veterans and Veterans Affairs programs.
The program works with the Department of Veterans Affairs to involve area hospice organizations to provide assistance to veterans and their families. The program is designed to build professional and organizational capacity to provide quality care for veterans, develop and/or strengthen partnerships with VA and other veteran organizations, increase access to hospice and palliative care for veterans in the community and network with other hospices across the country to learn about best practice models, according to the group’s website.
Organizations that join the We Honor Veterans program “earn their stars” through five levels of outreach. There is an introductory program, then level one provides veteran-centric education for staff and volunteers, and identify patients with military experience; level two builds organizational capacity to provide quality care for veterans; level three develops and strengthens relationships with VA medical centers and other veteran organizations; and level four increases access and improves quality of care for veterans in the community.
That level four award was given to Amedisys at a ceremony last week.
As part of their outreach work, Hensley said they take the program to nursing facilities and assisted living facilities throughout the region to honor veterans living there. He said the veterans receive individual recognition and work to find out where individuals are in the program and to make sure they know about all of the benefits that are available to them.
Hensley said veterans make up about 10 percent of Amedisys’ patients. Of those veterans the hospice has treated about 2 to 3 percent did not know about benefits they could receive or needed help receiving the benefits, which extended to not only hospice care but additional VA benefits that may have been available to the veteran or their families.
Another major emphasis for Amedisys locally is its connection with Jesus Cares at Exit 0, a group that provides assistance to the homeless in Clark County.
The group works to provide the same care to veterans in the area that may be homeless as those who are not.
For more information, visit wehonorveterans.org or amedisys.com or call 812-284-4630.