TMC Hospice: Honoring Our Veterans

TMC Hospice volunteers Lewis Jones, center, and Dave Falkner honor a veteran and hospice patient for her service to her country.

When Lewis Jones came on for his shift at Peppi’s House, staff let him know that one of the hospice patients was a veteran and had been honored for his military service earlier in his stay. When the man died later that day surrounded by his large extended family, which included active-duty military, Jones joined with another volunteer to drape the unit’s American flag quilt over the body. As the mortuary came to take him away, the pair, themselves veterans, stood silently saluting as the patient was wheeled out of the building.

The family and staff were overwhelmed with emotion seeing such a show of respect and appreciation for this veteran. Jones stayed to comfort some of the family members, giving that special touch he gives all the time that makes him memorable to everyone.

Today, on Veterans Day, the staff, volunteers and supporters of TMC Hospice honor those who have served our country. TMC Hospice provides care for close to 300 U.S. veterans each year. With the need only growing, we partner with We Honor Veterans and the Hospice Veterans Partnership to better care for, reach out to and honor veterans needing end-of-life care.

Earlier this fall, Jones was one of 200 hospice volunteers across the nation nominated for the 2018 Volunteers Are the Foundation of Hospice award by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. While he wasn’t one of the top winners, he’s still a winner at TMC Hospice.

“Out of many volunteers, Jones is the one everyone talks about. His hugs, smiles and greeting help uplift the staff every time he volunteers,” said Krista Durocher, volunteer coordinator for TMC Hospice, noting that November is also Hospice Awareness Month.

Jones has been a TMC Hospice volunteer since 2010, logging nearly 1,100 hours of service in that time. He started out filing medical records and then was recruited to the bereavement team making weekly calls to families. He started helping with quarterly celebrations of life and eventually became the lead volunteer for these events.

In 2016, this versatile volunteer migrated from bereavement calls to the Tuck In program. Each Thursday, Jones gets a list of homecare patients who are still in their homes (vs. a care facility or nursing home) and checks in to make sure they’re OK and have enough supplies to get through the weekend. Not only do the patients appreciate the calls, but the weekend on-call staff appreciates the reduction in urgent calls for supplies, allowing them to better focus on symptom control and other pressing needs.

“When we started its journey with We Honor Veterans a few years back,” Durocher said, “we knew right away that Jones would be an excellent person to help grow this program in our community.” Jones met with various veteran organizations in town and made invaluable connections as his love for honoring veterans began to blossom.

Hospice patients who are veterans are offered the opportunity for an honoring. During this ceremony, a patient is presented with a certificate of appreciation, a lapel pin and a small American flag as small tokens of gratitude for their service.
Jones, being a Vietnam veteran, has a soft spot for other Vietnam veterans and especially loves to conduct those honorings.

“At every one of those honorings,” Durocher said, “he makes a point to say ‘welcome home’ to the veteran and explains to those in the room why it’s especially important to say that to a Vietnam veteran.”

From all of us at TMC Hospice to all our veterans – including Lewis Jones — thank you for your service.

If you’re a veteran interested in helping honor other veterans or are interested in volunteering with TMC Hospice find out more.

It’s LoveLights time!

lovelightsThe TMC Auxiliary hosts the annual lighting of the LoveLights tree on Thursday, Nov. 10, 5-6:30 p.m. next to the Labyrinth at Peppi’s House, 2715 N. Wyatt Dr.

This cherished tradition benefits TMC Hospice through the sale of lights to commemorate our veterans, honor someone special and memorialize lost loved ones.

“Our patients’ families love to reconnect with us and it’s a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season,” said Krista Durocher, TMC Hospice volunteer coordinator.

The event includes food, door prizes and music. Lights are $5 each or three for $10 and are available at the event as well as online by clicking 2016 LoveLights.

Donations are accepted through the remainder of 2016.

Hospice volunteers honor veterans year-round

For Vietnam combat veteran David Powell, it is a privilege and an honor to say a final thank you and give one final salute to fellow veterans who are dying at Tucson Medical Center’s hospice, Peppi’s House, or in hospice care at a home.

Many of the veterans find it hard to fathom that they would be honored by the We Honor Vets program: They were just doing their duty, they insist.

Veteran Ceremony

David Powell presents a flag to veteran Thomas Elliott while D.A. Falkner looks on. Elliott served in the U.S. Army. He passed away four days after this ceremony.

Others, some of whom did not come home to a thank you, particularly returning from Vietnam or the so-called “forgotten war” in Korea, are moved to tears. Some of them haven’t even shared details of their service with family – but when they see another coming in uniform, to hang a flag and express their gratitude, it opens doors. Here’s someone who understands.

“For me, it’s part of a spiritual journey to be with them at this time,” said Powell, who had cared for veterans as a volunteer chaplain when he learned about TMC’s program, which will honor an estimated 300 veterans this year. We Honor Veterans is an awareness campaign, designed to recognize that veterans often have different medical and spiritual challenges, and developed in collaboration with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Veterans are honored with certificates of appreciation, lapel pins, American flags and other tokens of gratitude, such as pillowcases or quilts in patriotic design.

Lt. Col. D.A. Falkner, a former Air Force veteran, said while it is important to fly a flag on Veterans Day and Memorial Day to commemorate those who have served, he is grateful for the opportunity to forge more personal connections. “I just appreciate being able to thank them directly for their patriotism and service to their country,” he said.

Falkner said there are many ways to show appreciation to veterans:

  • Active duty military members in particular are needed to perform final honor presentations to veterans in hospice
  • Identify your local veteran organizations and see if there are ways to donate or volunteer
  • Attend community events that commemorate service
  • Mobilize church and school groups to write thank you letters to members currently serving
  • Thank a veteran close to you
  • Thank a veteran you see in the community

Program volunteers are considering an extension of the program to honor veterans in care homes, before they need hospice services. “This is where my heart is,” said Powell. “It is such a powerful program, that we wanted to be able to advance its reach into the community to honor veterans before they reach the end of their lives.”

Go to Sharing Memories to download a TMC Hospice Life Story Book, where you can create a family treasure of memories and experiences of your loved ones. You can also use the form to sign up for our quarterly newsletter or get more information about volunteering.

Making a difference for our veterans – one stitch at a time

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Last month, a special delivery hit TMC Hospice.

The Flying Needles, a local handicrafts group, donated 11 valor quilts and 34 patriotic pillowcases for TMC Hospice’s Veterans Program.

“We are so grateful for the Flying Needles donation of these beautiful, patriotic quilts and pillowcases. You can tell they are made with love and full appreciation of our veterans,” said Krista Durocher, volunteer coordinator for TMC Hospice.

From 10-2 on any given Thursday, anywhere between 15 and 25 ladies show up to the small meeting room in the Geasa-Marana Community Library. Each lady with the Flying Needles brings her own project to sew, crochet or embroider. During their time together, they set aside time to show and tell about their individual projects.

“One day a week we meet with friends, share fellowship, forget worries, laugh and enjoy each other’s company,” said Pam Owens, who is one of the founding members of the group. “We share techniques and enthusiasm for projects. We encourage each other and enjoy a day away from our normal routine.”

Some of the Needlers make the quilts and pillowcases that benefit TMC Hospice. It took about two weeks to make the pillow cases, Owens said, adding that the quilts are made at people’s convenience throughout the year as supplies and motivation are available.

“When a veteran patient is presented with one of these, the reaction is so heartwarming,” Durocher said. “You can tell it touches them deeply that someone took time to make this for them.”

The Flying Needles encourages participants to sew for local charities and has supported a variety of organizations over the years. Three years ago, the Flying Needles were approached by TMC Hospice to make valor quilts. A number of folks decided to sew lap quilts and then, later, began making pillowcases.

“We have the belief that the needs of people in Tucson and the world are great,” Owens said. “We feel that if we can help one person that person may be motivated to help another person and so on and so on and people will give and accept help. We like to imagine a chain of people helping others in need.”

Owen added that “one person cannot help everyone, but everyone can help one person.”

TMC Hospice is always accepting donations of patriotic quilts and patriotic fabric. Hospice patients who are veterans are presented with a patriotic quilt or pillowcase during an honoring by one of TMC Hospice’s veteran volunteers and sometimes active military from the community. During this honoring, the veteran is also presented with an appreciation plaque, military branch pin and a flag. The goal is make sure veterans know their service was not in vain and that they are appreciated.

For details on how you can help, contact Durocher, (520) 324-2433 or Krista.Durocher@tmcaz.com. Click to read more about TMC Hospice Veterans Program.

Veterans invited to free health screen Dec. 7 at Pima Air & Space Museum

Tucson Medical Center and TMC Senior Services will offer free health screenings for local veterans at the Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road, on Pearl Harbor Day, Friday, Dec. 7, from 9 a.m. to noon. Veterans will be offered free admission to the museum during the 9-to-noon screening hours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMerri Miller, a TMC nurse practitioner with a focus on geriatric medicine, helped coordinate the partnership between the museum and Senior Services to provide the health screenings.

“As both a daughter and a mother of servicemen, I feel a strong connection with the United States Armed Forces,” she said. “This is one way we can serve those who have served our country. I am very proud to be affiliated with this project and TMC, and we are thankful for this opportunity to partner with Pima Air and Space Museum.”

Health screenings will include glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure tests, available free to museum attendees.  Several information booths also will be available, with a focus on veteran’s issues. TMC Hospice will have information on its partnership with WE HONOR VETERANS, a national campaign developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA also will have information on benefits programs.

TMC is dedicated to supporting Tucson’s veterans through programs at TMC Senior Services, TMC Hospice and TMC Geriatrics.

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TMC Hospice: We Honor Veterans Every Day

November 11 is the day set aside each year in our country to honor and remember the brave service men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend our country and our freedoms.

For the staff at TMC Hospice, though, any day can be a veteran’s day.

Mary Anne Burr was proud of her service as a flight nurse during World War II. Mary Anne, who was at Peppi’s House this past May, had cared for many wounded servicemen and cradled more than one in their final moments. In this photo, TMC Hospice staff gratefully acknowledges Mary Anne’s service.

This set of photos show Mary Anne during her service years.

TMC Hospice provides care for more than 225 U.S. veterans each year, and the need is only growing. The average age is 61 of the country’s more than 22.6 million veterans, more than half of whom served during wartime. Some 54,000 veterans are dying each month. The need for compassionate, evidenced-based end-of-life care will only grow for this population.This need is why TMC Hospice joined with national partners We Honor Veterans and the Hospice Veterans Partnership to better care for, reach out and honor veterans needing end-of-life care.

Hospice care needs to address veterans’ unique medical challenges that come with histories of wounds, frostbite and cold injuries, nuclear and chemical weapon exposure, mental health and substance abuse, and more.

These men and women are our warriors, trained by the military in a culture of stoicism. As a group, they under-report symptoms. They have trust issues. They have an inability to stop ‘fighting’ and allow a natural relationship with death.

In addition to easing veterans’ physical journey, this is last opportunity to ensure veterans know their service was not in vain, and that they are appreciated.

TMC Hospice is proud to have recently reached Level 2 with the We Honor Veterans program. The aim is to achieve Level 4 within the next two years.

Part of this effort means that TMC Hospice is working with different veteran organizations to make sure veterans know that they have a hospice benefit, and that, in fact, a majority of hospice care is provided by community-based facilities and not necessarily by the VA medical system.

Veterans and families sacrificed to serve our country. It is TMC Hospice’s great honor to serve our veterans in their time of need.

Learn more about We Honor Veterans at www.wehonorveterans.org. For more information on TMC Hospice or becoming a Veteran to Veteran volunteer, please call TMC Hospice, (520) 324-2438.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461