Tidewell Hospice is proud to serve a portion of the estimated 109,000 military veterans who reside in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties with a nationally recognized program aptly titled Tidewell Honors Veterans. Though the program already is available to all hospice patients in Tidewell’s four-county area, the addition of the Lakewood Ranch Hospice House will enhance accessibility for veterans who live in East Manatee County.

Tidewell Honors Veterans is a comprehensive program focused on respectfully celebrating veterans and providing care that recognizes the unique challenges that may exist in military families. Tidewell veteran volunteers perform unique pinning ceremonies for each veteran patient. Veterans receive a special certificate of appreciation and a Tidewell Honors Veterans pin. It’s a way to say “thank you” from a grateful nation for a job well done and a life well lived.

Veterans and their families tell us the recognition Tidewell Honors provides is deeply appreciated, and the program has become a model for hospices across the country.

For example, Bob was a World War II Navy pilot who had never married and had no close relatives. His two nieces, both in their 20s, loved him dearly and made it a priority to be at the hospice house for the pinning ceremony, even though at that point Bob was unconscious and it was clear he did not have long to live. The Tidewell chaplain thanked Bob for his service and pinned him with an American flag. As he stepped back, the chaplain clicked his heels smartly, saluted and announced “Bob, you are cleared for takeoff.” The chaplain and nurses exited the room after the ceremony, leaving Bob and his two nieces, along with a volunteer. As they held Bob’s hand, the nieces took turns telling stories about how much they admired their intrepid uncle who lived an exciting life flying around the world. Bob died peacefully a short time later, surely with the recognition of his service and his nieces’ loving thoughts on his mind.

Tidewell care teams have undergone specific training that helps them identify and deal with issues faced by those who have provided military service. For some veterans, the psychological effects of combat remain dormant for years, only to re-emerge when they are facing their own mortality. Others may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Treatment in all of these cases require special sensitivity, and Tidewell’s clinical team of physicians, nurses and social workers are prepared to identify those needs and recommend specific courses of action.

Tidewell Hospice has met strict requirements to reach Partner Level-Four Status with the “We Honor Veterans” campaign, developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For more information on Tidewell Honors Veterans, visit tidewellhospice.org/welcome/services/for-veterans.