In hospice care we support our patients as they reflect on their lives and seek healing within. Our spiritual care can help them find reconciliation and resolution to experience peaceful transitions.
Veterans may have unique spiritual care needs taking into account their life in the military, including times of war and other service.
“Veterans often think about their relationships, roles, families, events, and brothers and sisters who didn’t make it home. They often call into question what they did and if it was worth the price,” said Michael “Mike” Fauser, Psy.D, Th.M during his recent course to staff and volunteers at Empath Health.
Mike serves as a Suncoast Hospice | Empath Health spiritual care coordinator and veteran representative for his care team. He presented some of the many spiritual and other interventions our care teams can use to help veterans who are dealing with feelings of guilt, normalcy, love or symptoms of PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder also referred to as PTS).
The guilt some veterans encounter can come in the form of deed, detachment or surviving.
“Being in the military is a bond that’s very difficult to break. Servicemen and women feel they have each other’s backs and would step up and die for each other. Sometimes, they don’t know what home is when they return and transition. They look to start new identities and jobs and reinterpret it all,” Mike said.
He added, “Survivor’s guilt is one of the strongest types of guilt you’ll find in the veteran community because of the strong bond. They may think, ‘Why did this happen? Why was it him/her and not me?’”.
Showing veterans the value and blessing of their life lessons and their opportunities to teach others can be comforting. Connecting them to their spiritual belief systems can be another beneficial intervention, says Mike.
“Some examples may be songs, scriptures and sacraments, which can be an important part of what they know and grew up with. We held a baptism for one of our veteran patients. Afterwards, he talked and sat on his porch more and died a short time later. It helped make a difference in his life.”
Some veterans live with PTS, including those who have served in different roles and situations, combat and non-combat related. Their symptoms may include hyper vigilance, anxiety, isolation and second guessing.
Mike used a journaling intervention for one POW veteran patient who was sleep-deprived as a result of his PTS.
“He couldn’t sleep because he was having dreams. I talked with him about his childhood, faith and blessings. He repeated the 23rd Psalm a lot. And he kept a journal of his dreams, going through and repeating the sounds and smells, and then it had less of an impact on him and he started sleeping. He got back a sense of normalcy.
Fostering senses of faith, purpose and meaning also can lead to normalcy for veterans.
“Faith allows them to see beyond the present moment and step outside the chaos of life. At the end of life, it enables them to see something more – that their lives are special and they’re not alone. A lot of times veterans ask, ‘Did my life have meaning? Was it worth the sacrifices made?’”.
The creation of a Lifetime Legacies video by our teen volunteers improved life for one Marine veteran patient. “He talked more about his military experiences and said, ‘My life did have purpose and meaning. I can share these stories with my grandkids.’ Afterwards, he wasn’t as depressed and got better,” Mike said.
Other Interventions for Veterans:
- Free mobile apps – PTSD Coach and Breathe2Relax
- Music therapy
- Visits with Suncoast Hospice Veterans Serving Veterans volunteers (if in our care)
We’re here to serve all veterans and their families in our community. If you need help caring for your loved one who’s a veteran, give us a call at 727-467-7423 or request services online.