ALBANY, Ga. -- An area hospice care provider has taken the next step in making sure the community's veterans are taken care of.
Englewood Hospice Care, based in Albany, has joined the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in launching "We Honor Veterans," a campaign aimed at improving the care area veterans receive from hospice and palliative care providers.
"America's veterans have done everything asked of them in their mission to serve our country and we believe it is never too late to give them a hero's welcome home," NHPCO President J. Donald Schumacher said in a statement. "Now it is time that we step up, acquire the necessary skills and fulfill our mission to serve these men and women with the dignity they deserve."
The campaign, announced by officials last week, is designed to recognize the unique needs of veterans facing life-threatening illness as well as raise awareness of the existing hospice care in the region.
"There is a great need to serve veterans at the end of life," said Tony Alligood, spokesman for Englewood. "This empowers hospice facilities, like Englewood, to understand the needs of veterans."
Of the 2.4 million deaths in the United States each year, 680,000 are war veterans. Information from the We Honor Veterans campaign indicates that a vast majority of veterans are not enrolled in VA and may not be aware of end-of-life services and benefits available to them.
Additionally, care for veterans may be unique in that they are more likely to have experienced psychological and physical trauma than their peers.
"It's a national awareness, but it is also for local awareness," Alligood said. "It's to improve care and access. We want veterans to know about access to care.
"The VA and the NHPCO will provide us additional resources to help us with veterans needs."
Englewood's involvement with the campaign requires educating its staff to handle care for veterans, which includes conducting an evaluation to obtain background on a patient's military history.
"Before, with hospice, there were not a lot of real questions (regarding) military history," Alligood said. "By asking these questions, it enables us to give better quality of care."
Alligood added that local VA clinics, including the one in Albany, is also involved in this in that it provides a resource for area veterans -- thereby connecting them to hospice.
"The VA shares a common goal with our nation's hospices, and that is to provide the best possible care specifically tailored for veterans, meeting their goals of care in their preferred setting," said Thomas Edes, VA director of home and community based care, in a statement. "As we focus on working together and unite our service and skills, 'We Honor Veterans' will channel our combined strengths directly to veterans -- wherever they are receiving care."