EveryStep Hospice: Honoring Veteran Patients

Rob Paulus served in the Army National Guard for 21 years, serving on two deployments.
Today, he is the team director for EveryStep's Kavanagh House on 56th Street, a hospice house in the heart of Des Moines. While his two paths may seem light-years apart, they mesh together in a way that ensure the respected care of patients, especially veterans.
"It translates to knowing and having experiences of what those soldiers have gone through in the time of their deployments and activations," Paulus said. Find a full interview with Rob, here. 
EveryStep, recognized as a Level 4 partner in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ national “We Honor Veterans” collaboration, recognizes the unique needs of veterans and their families.
"As far as organizations go, of those I've been in as a nurse and leader, EveryStep supports veterans like no other I've been a part of," he said.
Each veteran patient at Kavanagh House receives a flag mounted outside their door. Staff and volunteers prepare themselves to care for these unique patients by learning their rank and the branch they served.
Above all, EveryStep works diligently to provide patients with compassionate care during their time in hospice.
For veterans, that means giving the time, space and understanding when it comes to their service and unique experiences.
"I think sometimes these veterans are holding onto their stories," Paulus said. "There's a lot of existential suffering going on with them because they've held on to their stories for so long."
When many veterans arrive at EveryStep, they aren't ready to open up about their experiences. And that's okay.
"One of the big things is knowing what they have gone through and knowing that many of them don't like to talk about their experiences," Paulus said.
Still, EveryStep staff and volunteers are there with open ears and open hearts should patients choose to share their stories.
"If they are willing, that's a big load to get off of them, to talk about their experiences," Paulus said. "We want to allow them the time and space to open up about anything they want to talk about. We're not rushing them, not pressing them about their experience or story, but allowing them the time and space to do that on their own."
Making veterans feel more comfortable discussing their service with others who have served. That's where EveryStep's Veteran-to-Veteran Volunteer program comes in. The program pairs patients who have served our country with veterans who are trained volunteers.
"A lot of times they will open up a little bit more," Paulus said of the veteran interactions. "You can just see the weight come off their shoulders."
In addition to providing veterans with a place to share, EveryStep wants patients to feel recognized for their service.
Honorary veteran “pinning” ceremonies are just one way the organization does that. EveryStep volunteer coordinators discuss the recognition ceremonies with patients and their families when they begin receiving care from the organization.  
Veteran pinning ceremonies provide honor, dignity and recognition to veterans at the end of their lives. Family members and friends are often on hand with EveryStep staff and volunteers during the celebratory events.  The ceremonies include the Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer of thanks, the awarding of a veteran service flag pin, the singing of “God Bless America,” a reading of "What is a Veteran," and the presentation of a certificate of recognition.
"It's a beautiful moment," Paulus said of the ceremonies. "We've had veterans saluting and signing with us."
Paulus said he's met a number of appreciative vets and families who have been impacted by EveryStep.
"Veterans can tell if you really mean it or you don't," he said. "I've yet to meet a vet that wasn't appreciative of what we are doing. It comes from the heart, it comes from our drive to continue to support out veterans in whatever way we can."
"It's pretty special at EveryStep," Paulus said.
To learn about EveryStep’s many volunteering opportunities, including the Veteran-to-Veteran program, visit https://www.everystep.org/volunteer. For more information about EveryStep Hospice’s services, including its hospice houses in Des Moines and Creston, please visit https://www.everystep.org/services/hospice.  


Honoring Our Senior Companion Veteran Volunteers 

EveryStep's Senior Companion program would like to recognize the selfless work and dedication of our veteran volunteers this Veteran's Day. 

Pictured from left to right, Mike Bingaman, Larry Jensen and Randall Brown each served our country and now serve their fellow community members as part of EveryStep's Senior Companion program. 

EveryStep's Senior Companion program provides support to adults through regular home visits. Trained Senior Companions help their clients maintain happy, healthy lives. Senior Companions must be a resident of Polk, Warren, Marion, Lucas, or Pottawattamie Counties, be age 55 or older, and meet income guidelines.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Senior Companions continue to serve their clients safely through teleservice Companionship, Pen Pal services, and no contact deliveries of essential items.

The Senior Companion Program continues to recruit new volunteers! Please contact seniorcomp@everystep.org or call 515.558.9957 for more information.