Omega Health Care Honors Veterans…Every Day
From the vintage cuckoo clock on the wall to the Hummel figures in his curio cabinet, Germany is infused into every aspect of Charlie Keady’s life.
Greater Springfield LIVING WELL Magazine
The reason is simple: From 1945 to 1949, Charlie—a former Omega Health Care patient—served in the Army’s 4th Armored Division in Germany, where he met and married his wife of 42 years, Greta. She was a German nurse returning from a prisoner of war camp in Russia after the war when Charlie met her, and what a meeting it was. Charlie actually saved Greta’s life by shooting a Russian soldier who had wounded her and was attempting to kill her.
Their paths crossed again several months later in a nearby town where Greta was recuperating and Charlie was stationed as a medic. They began a long courtship, which culminated in marriage shortly before they returned to the United States in 1949. They started a life in Independence, Missouri, where they raised three children and operated a bakery and candy shop.
It is patient military service stories such as this that Omega Health Care staff and volunteers are hearing more and more these days. That is a direct result of the hospice company’s dedicated efforts to recognize and honor the special sacrifices and needs of patients who have served in the United States military. According to Rick Ochoa, Omega veteran program coordinator, “A lot of people believe that veterans are tied into the Veterans Administration (VA) system,” says Rick. “But, 96% of veteran deaths take place in the community, not in a VA facility, and only about 33% are enrolled in the VA health system. So, there are many opportunities for us to serve them.”
As a result of their interest and efforts, Omega Health Care has been named a partner in the “We Honor Veterans” program, a collaborative effort between the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Omega is among just 240 of the nation’s approximately 5,800 hospice organizations to have achieved Level 1 of the program, with Level 2 soon to be gained. To be part of the program, hospices agree to:
- Develop a professional/organizational capacity to provide quality care for veterans
- Create/strengthen partnerships with veterans’ organizations
- Expand community awareness about the unique care needs of veterans
Omega Health Care now provides four hours of training for each employee about the special needs of veteran patients. And, they attend monthly meetings of the VA-Hospice partnership, designed to educate veterans and their families about specific benefits available through the VA. They have also begun using a military checklist to promote conversations with a veteran patient and help caregivers gain a better understanding of the physical, emotional and spiritual effects of military service.
To recognize and honor their military service, Omega also presents each veteran patient with a certificate of recognition and commemorative coin on Veterans’ Day. For particularly enthusiastic veterans, such as Ernest “Buck” Leonard, an Omega patient in Springfield, there have been other activities. Buck, who began 15 years of military service in 1941 when he was just 18, was treated to a special VIP day last autumn, when Omega Chaplin Major Laird Thompson took him to the U.S. Armory in Springfield. There, Buck—who was stationed in Honolulu right after the Pearl Harbor attack—was escorted around the armory to look at military vehicles and an up-armored Humvee. “After Buck shared a few of his military stories and completed the tour, he came to attention and saluted the Captain, who returned the honor.
Charlie and Buck are just two of the hundreds of amazing veteran patients that Omega Health Care has served—and continues to care for.
Omega Health Care named “We Honor Veterans” partner
Omega Health Care has recently been named a partner in the “We Honor Veterans” program, developed by the NHPCO in collaboration with the VA. As a result, Omega offers hospice patients a variety of services to honor their duty to country:
- Veterans’ Day visits, including commemorative coins and certificates
- Participation in honor flights, armory visits and military funeral honors
- Military history incorporated into patient intake to enhance care, understanding and communication
- Special staff training to heighten awareness of veterans’ issues and health risks
- Community presentations about hospice benefits for veterans
- Serving as hospice liaison between family and the Veterans Administration (VA) to maximize hospice care benefits
- Partnership with Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, VA and National Guard to enhance communication with patients and families
- Efforts to link veteran patients with veteran staff members
If you have a patient who could benefit from this type of personalized hospice care, call us at 417-886-6995, or visit spmo.omega-healthcare.com and click on Veterans Initiative under the Resources drop-down bar.