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Chaplains honor veterans

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By John Barnhart

    Bedford Memorial Hospital’s volunteer chaplains chose Veteran’s Day to hear from the Rev. Mark Flores, Carilion’s Hospice chaplain. The Rev. Flores is also Major Flores. He’s a chaplain in the Air Force Reserve.

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    Flores spoke about hospice in general, and the need for volunteers—particularly veterans—to work with veterans in hospice. There are veterans from a number of America’s wars over the last 70 years in hospice. Flores mentioned statistics on World War II veterans in particular. He said there are 1 million WWII veterans still alive, but veterans of that war are dying at the rate of between 600 and 1,000 a day.
    Flores first described hospice, stating the word “hospice” comes from the Latin word “hospitium.” which means “hospitality.” The idea is to give hospitality to “people who are on their final journey in life.”
    Hospice began in England in 1963. It was first introduced in the United States in 1974.
    “Hospice is about life,” the Rev. Flores said.
    However, death ultimately comes to everyone and Flores said hospice accepts death as the final stage of life.
    He said the philosophy of hospice is to neither hasten or postpone death. Its goal is symptom and pain relief and the service is tailored to each individual. Hospice is for people who are terminally ill. They have reached the point where medical treatments have been exhausted or where the burden of treatment outweighs the benefits. Candidates for hospice are people who are expected to live less than six months and whose condition continues to decline.
    Flores said that people often rally after going into hospice. Occasionally they even become stable. He said they recently had a man who “graduated” from hospice after four years because his condition had been stable for a long time.
    According to the Rev. Flores, hospice uses a team approach. There are nurses and certified nursing assistants to help with the medical side. There are social workers. There’s Flores, the chaplain, and there is a bereavement specialist. The bereavement specialist is there because hospice follows up with the patient’s family for a year after the patient’s death. Patients receive scheduled visits and the family has 24-hour a day on-call support. Families also receive guidance on how to care for the patient.
    One hospice program is called “We Honor Veterans.” The goal is to provide the best possible care for terminally ill military veterans.
    Military veterans can bring a varied set of issues to terminal illness that differ from those of people who were not in the military and differ among veterans according to their circumstances — whether they were combat veterans, whether they were in command positions and what war they fought in.
    Flores said Bedford Hospice Care is looking for volunteers to work with veterans. They are particularly looking for veterans to volunteer because people with similar life experiences can build trust. Volunteers can provide service ranging from companionship to providing care-givers with a break.
    People wishing to volunteer may contact the Rev. Flores at (540) 587-6592 or by sending an e-mail to mflores@carilionclinic.org.
    Flores is a Baptist pastor and has been the hospice chaplain for nine years.
    Prior to  the Rev. Flores’ talk, Denise Edwards, the hospital’s volunteer coordinator, presented checks for money raised by the volunteer chaplains to the Bedford Adult Day Care Center and the Just For Me mammography program. The Adult Day Care Center received $700 and Just for me received $300.