In the Spotlight
Spiritual Practice at Home of the Brave
Contributed by Karen Reed
Chaplain, South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Kerrville Division
I have shared spiritual ministry with residents living with dementia for several years. Our VA Community Living Center called Home of the Brave helps Veterans with dementia. It also helps family members find their way through dementia with a Veteran. When Veterans and their families reach our doors, they understand memory loss. They know the effect it has had on them.
One Veteran's son shared that faith was his main source of strength in dealing with his Dad's illness. He says, "I was raised in a believing home, and my parents instilled into their three sons a strong faith. My family was blessed to have the wonderful folks at the Kerrville Veterans Affairs Hospital provide the very best care for my father during his lengthy illness with Dementia." (Guy Overby)
Increase Overall Comfort Using Things the Veteran Enjoyed in Life
Most Veterans want to feel included in the events of everyday life. Here, families bring in pictures. They fill the Veteran's room with things that are familiar and comfortable. When family members visit, they go to the Veteran's very own room. Families bring the Veteran home cooked food. The staff provides both indoor and outdoor space where the family can gather for meals or just to talk.
As we grow older, boredom and loneliness can keep us from a more fulfilling life. Some Veterans have outlived their family. Some families live far away. To keep the Veteran active, staff and volunteers engage him or her in daily activities. These can include choir concerts, outings and visitation with children. Special meals for all the Veterans bring the smell of good food to keep traditions alive. The Center provides a special movie night among other activities.
Worship at the Chapel is a favorite among many. One verse of a song is all many remember, so that is what they sing. Residents are encouraged to lead the readings and say prayers for others. Gathering one-on-one and in small groups is additionally important. Chaplains and Veterans meet to read, sing familiar songs, and pray together.
Staff Assist Veterans and Family with Big Changes in Life
A chronic disease can mean a big change in the Veteran's life. It can also affect the life of his/her family. Sometimes unexpected life decisions have to be made. When that happens, family conflicts that have been private may come out in the open. Therefore, Chaplains are there not only for the Veteran patient, but also for family members and caregivers.
At Home of the Brave, staff brings dignity to the Veteran residents by encouraging quality of life. Staff meets with families at least quarterly. They talk about how things are going with the Veteran. This support helps families and caregivers through the process. As trust and respect grows, many family members ask questions about the disease process, which helps reduce their distress.
Families can find solace in this painful experience. Chaplains follow the Veteran's wishes for end of life care; often communicating between family and medical staff. The Chaplain becomes another key support person that the family can lean upon.
Updated/Reviewed: March 1, 2011