Michelle August was recently given the Christen Award for her work with We Honor Veterans, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization focused on addressing the needs of veterans and their families.
August, who established the Rhode Island Hospice-Veterans Partnership, began working for hospice in 2006. She currently serves as area director for Amedisys Home Health and Beacon Hospice in R.I. and Conn. She is also an advocate of the national Spirit of 45 campaign, which honors the legacy of men and women of the World War II generation.
Born and raised in Rhode Island, August has an A.S. degree from the Community College of Rhode Island Newport Hospital School of Nursing.
PBN: When did you first realize the need for a veteran-centric approach to hospice?
AUGUST: My work with the We Honor Veterans Program really began in the spring of 2012 after a meeting with the [Providence VA Medical Center]. They felt that participation in this program and the education it provides was an important component of being able to care for our veterans at end of life. We at Beacon Hospice agreed and began to pursue moving up the different “levels” within the program. This resulted in my forming The Rhode Island Hospice Veterans Partnership, a nonprofit comprised of local hospices, VA staff, health care professionals and community members. Our goal is to honor and recognize those who have served and to educate the health care professionals who care for them.
PBN: How does hospice care differ between veterans and nonveterans? How do the different approaches impact the outcome of the patient?
AUGUST: The care of veterans at end of life can differ from the care of nonveterans due to their military training and combat experience. Many have been involved in combat, experienced traumatic events, or were exposed to chemical warfare. They have been trained to be stoic and may struggle with different spiritual, emotional and physical issues at end of life as they try to make peace with their lives and prepare for their death.
PBN: Tell me about the Spirit of 45 campaign and why it resonates so much with you.
AUGUST: Our WWII veterans are quickly slipping away. Beacon Hospice and the Rhode Island Hospice Veterans Partnership felt a need to honor these veterans by celebrating Spirit of 45 Day here in Rhode Island. This past August, [we hosted] an event at the beautiful WWII Memorial in downtown Providence. It was an amazing day that included a wreath-laying, a re-enactment of “The Kiss,” playing of taps and readings of poems by a veteran poet. We had many WWII veterans in attendance. •