CommunityBrand SpotlightYour Healthy Family


Your Healthy Family: Hospice and Palliative care for Veterans in our community

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jun 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-21 07:45:11-04

Disclaimer: This is sponsored content. All opinions and views are of Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care and does not reflect the same of KOAA.

As we talked about in our last Your Healthy Family story, thinking about a quality end-of-life experience is something most people generally want to avoid, but it’s something we should all be thinking about. It can be a truly special and memorable time, and it should also be a sacred time for our military veterans.

Patricia Strobridge has been caring for her 90-year-old father Claudy and his wife for several years, and recently her dad had to be hospitalized when his blood pressure spiked. “When my dad was in the hospital there was a decision made that if he were to come home he needs some home care. He didn't want physical therapy, he didn't want occupational therapy, he just really wanted someone who would come and take care of him and ask him what he wants. The doctor recommended that we arrange hospice care and Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care was on the list. When I called them they were really so friendly and helpful.”

At Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, they not only specialize in meeting the needs of those who are nearing the end of life, in many stages, they also specialize in caring for our military veterans.

Dawn Darvalics is the President of Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care. “In Colorado Springs, we are the only Hospice that is a level 5 partner of the We Honor Veterans program which is a partnership between the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Veterans Administration. We want to make sure that our team members are trained extremely well - and on an ongoing basis - to know how to best interact with our veteran patients.”

The commitment at Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care to veterans goes far beyond the We Honor Veterans program. They helped sponsor Colorado’s first ever all-women’s honor flight to Washington DC honoring veterans.

Dawn says, “It was important to us to support the first all-female veteran flight. We wanted to make sure that we were a part of that event because we support all those who served our country. We could go with them to Washington, DC, and really see them be acknowledged. So we were extremely proud and grateful to be able to be a sponsor for that event. Our goal is really to acknowledge veterans even before they need end of life care services, so this Honor Flight was really important for us to be able to celebrate and honor the work that these women had done and at the end of their life, if they need our services we are here as a community resource that is available to them.”

Leading the mission locally to honor these veterans, is Mike Thomas - a veteran himself. “This role has been important for me because I had already learned that in my work as a chaplain, I'm honored to hear sacred stories. I find that I've been in a very intimate relationship with a lot of folks in the final chapter of their life and a lot of those folks have been veterans and I am privileged to hear stories that no one else has heard.”

Not only does Pikes Peak Hospice help these veterans and their families navigate the Veterans Administration system, they also recognize each of them for their service.

Dawn says it’s through, “Simple acts of gratitude between our team members and veterans that we care for. It’s really important that they know that we are grateful for their service. We understand and recognize the sacrifice that they made. We give them time to tell stories that are important to them. We give them time to trust us because sometimes it takes veterans a longer period of time to really share what they've experienced in their life and during their time of serving our country than other patients so we're there for them.”

As the veteran liaison for Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, Mike personally leads these ceremonies. “It's really being welcomed into a sacred space. These are folks who as the patient - always know they're near the end of life and that the end is imminent. The family is getting on board with that idea and so the chance to come in and honor someone for the military service in that space and time and their life is unbelievably rewarding. Many times these folks have lived through a tremendously historical event. For some of them, it may have been one of the greatest chapters of their life, and they get to tell it again. They get to live it again. We present them with a red, white and blue afghan, which is hand crocheted by one of our wonderful volunteers as well as a certificate and a challenge coin commemorating their branch of service.”

While many people may resist hospice care because they only think of its relationship to end-of-life care and dying.

As for Patricia and her father Claudy, she says getting the hospice care available to her dad as a veteran in place has been the best decision her family has made.“When I was looking for hospice care Pikes Peak Hospice took the bull by the horns. They came on a Saturday afternoon and sat down and talked with us and went over everything that Pikes Peak Hospice could offer and that would include the VA liaison to come and honor Dad. It was pretty exciting for him and he was very pleased that someone would recognize that service. The nurses that come in regularly are awesome. They monitor his blood sugar, medications, his blood pressure, and his water retention because he has congestive heart failure. They just do everything for him and it's nice to know that care is out there and available and there are people that are really so kind and caring. They come in here with the whole team and let us know all of the services available to us. It has really made all of our lives better. It just took a lot of the weight off my shoulders caring for Dad, it really has.”

Patricia also says the last thing hospice has been in her experience is some kind of harbinger of death. “It is end-of-life care, but why not go out with every possible comfort and appreciation and everything that is available? We all will get older and we all need help now and then, and it's just nice to know that help is out there for people.”

As for Mike, and the veterans he’s been able to serve in his role at Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, he says, “We see an incredible amount of healing in Hospice. It's not always medical healing. We see emotional healing, and psychological healing. We see families coming together and celebrating the life of the one who they recognize they're going to lose. Death is imminent for all of us, one way or another. We create a sacred time and we do the heavy lifting in that time. We do the heavy lifting of patient care and allow the family to be together, love each other, tell stories, make amends, and be prepared for what's ultimately going to come for all of us.”

Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family