By Stan Schwartz
BOWLING GREEN – The Pike County Health Center and Hospice is looking for a few good men and women. Well, maybe more than a few.
In order to better care for local veterans, Pike County Hospice initiated a program to match up veterans with those veterans in hospice.
“The idea was already in place when I started working here,” said Cori Sheppard, a registered nurse and the hospice program clinical manager. At that time, the program was only at level one. There are four levels of certification for this hospice program with level four being the highest.
When they initiated level two about two months ago, Sheppard said she reached out to the local veterans in Bowling Green and Louisiana, and then reached out to the ones in Clarksville, to be part of the volunteer program.
“The program is working well,” she said. They recently partnered with the local VFW in Bowling Green and the American Legion in Louisiana.
“They have been a huge help in getting the information out” about the program, Sheppard said.
Whenever PCHC does in service calls at nursing homes and with various chambers of commerce, the PCHC provides information on the Veterans to Veterans program.
“It’s our way of giving back to the veterans and honoring them for their service to the U.S.,” she said.
Each veteran in the program receives a certificate, thanking them for their servicew, and they are also given a challenge coin that says thank you for your service.
Volunteer veterans travel with the Pike County Hospice staff to help honor the veterans and their families. It’s important to note that the families left behind when the service member goes off to war should be honored for their sacrifices, as well.
Having the support of the local VFW and the American Legion has made all the difference in helping to honor those who served and are now in the last stages of their lives.
“Last year we started doing a service during Veterans Day for veterans at each of the local nursing homes,” Sheppard said. The service was also for the wives of veterans, whether the veteran was living or deceased.
The time a veteran stays on the hospice program varies from person to person, she noted. Sometimes a patient can be on hospice for a few weeks to just a few days.
PCHC is always looking for more volunteers to help with the program.
Sheppard said, the idea is to match up the volunteer veterans to the veteran on hospice by the war they fought. That means World War II veterans with World War II veterans; Vietnam era veterans with Vietnam era veterans, etc. The more volunteers they have, the better they will be able to match them up where needed.
“What we’re finding is that the veteran we have on hospice gets a lot out of having someone who served in a similar situation, someone who they can interact with,” she said.
She is about to submit the paperwork to bring the program up to level three.
“And what’s exciting,” she added, “is that we have everything done for level four, as well. I’m just finishing up our Veteran to Veteran Volunteer Program manual.”
The manual outlines the volunteers’ orientation. It includes information on hospice and what it means and how veterans can qualify for the program.
If you are a veteran and are interested in volunteering for this program, contact Sheppard at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-324-2111 ext. 130. She will guide you through the training necessary to be involved with helping other veterans in need.
She is also putting together a flyer that local businesses can put in their windows to help draw more volunteers to the program.
“This program is bigger than us,” she said. “For us to work alongside the veterans in our own communities, it’s something that the veteran appreciates, as well as the veteran’s family. It’s a blessing we receive for doing this for the veterans in our communities.”