Marietta Home Health & Hospice is looking for a few good men and women to train as volunteers for its Vet2Vet program-vets helping other veterans who are facing the end of life and just need someone to spend a little time with them.
"Patients who are veterans seem to relate and feel more comfortable with another veteran. And my experience has been that there may be issues veteran patients have not dealt with from their time in service, and those issues often come back as they're facing the end of life," said Bob Sinnett, Jr., chaplain with Marietta Home Health & Hospice at Marietta Memorial Hospital.
A career veteran of the U.S. Army himself, Sinnett said one example was a 90-year-old World War II veteran he had counseled.
"This gentleman asked if I thought God could forgive him for the things he had to do during the war," he said. "He was a longtime member of a local church, but had never opened up about this with anyone before."
Sinnett said WWII vets often have stories to tell regarding their military service that they haven't shared with their families, but they'll open up when a fellow veteran is listening.
"I met with one man-I'll call him Uncle Charlie-who was wearing a POW cap, and when I asked about it he began to talk about his time as a prisoner of war for 350 days during WWII," he said. "His family knew the man had been a POW, but they had never heard him tell that story."
Vet2Vet volunteers needed
Marietta Home Health & Hospice is seeking veterans to become trained volunteers and be a caring presence with other veterans in the Vet2Vet program.
Vet2Vet volunteers provide compassionate companionship to patients and their families and can be an empathetic listener to another veteran in need.
A fundamental task in which Vet2Vet volunteers may be involved is assisting veterans who are patients in reminiscing and telling their life stories.
Veteran volunteers should also be willing to visit the veteran patient regularly, but each volunteer is free to choose how much time he or she would like to give. Most volunteer from one to two hours a week.
For information contact Taylor Daugherty, Marietta Memorial Hospice volunteer coordinator, at 374-9100.
Source: Marietta Home Health & Hospice
Taylor Daugherty, volunteer coordinator for Marietta Home Health & Hospice, said at this time there are no volunteer veterans in the Vet2Vet program, although there are currently seven veteran patients in hospice that could benefit from the service.
"This is a wonderful program that's being used throughout the country," she said. "We're really trying to advertise our need, especially for male veterans who are sometimes harder to recruit, although we need both male and female vets to volunteer."
Daugherty said some volunteers may only be able to give an hour a month to the program, but that can be valuable time to a veteran patient who has six months or less to live. She added that patients may want to talk about their feelings, but don't want to place more burdens on their families.
"They've had a terminal diagnosis and there's a lot for families to deal with," Daugherty explained. "So the patient may feel the family is already carrying enough of a burden and the veteran doesn't share his or her feelings."
She said veteran patients who are males have an especially difficult time opening up about how they feel, and that's why the program needs male veterans to volunteer.
"Many of our current regular hospice volunteers average about two hours a week with patients, but we would welcome whatever time a veteran volunteer could provide, and we'll work around their schedules," Daugherty said.
She said volunteers are not expected to be professionals, and their main focus would be to visit veterans, usually at their homes or in nursing and assisted living facilities, and lend an empathetic ear as they review their life experiences or talk about their military service.
Sinnett said every volunteer is provided with training when he or she enters the Vet2Vet program, and the training time can also be arranged to accommodate the volunteer's schedule.
He said a call to Daugherty is the best way to learn about the program.
"A phone call is not a commitment," Sinnett said. "But anyone interested can find out a lot about the program by calling the hospice office."