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Spiritual Care

Chapel prepared for memorial service

The chapel prepared for a memorial service.

The chapel prepared for a memorial service.

At the New Hampshire Veterans Home, we don't just treat disease; we treat people. So making sure that residents' spiritual needs are met as they near the end of life is one of the most important components of our holistic philosophy of care.

We deliver excellent medical care, but we don't stop there. We care for the body, mind, soul, and spirit of our residents. Our Nursing, Social Services, Therapeutic Recreation, and Spiritual Care programs all contribute to enhancing their quality of life.

Our goal is to help our residents enjoy whatever time they have left and to have a peaceful death. We work with families and try to smooth and strengthen relationships.

We also work with staff when they mourn the loss of a resident. An average of 60 people a year die at the Home, since NHVH is a nursing home where people come towards the end of their lives because they need 24-hour care.

Resident receiving Spiritual Care Healing
Resident receiving Spiritual Care

The NHVH Spiritual Care Program, open to all, brings together an array of services to meet residents' needs. Seven or eight different denominations -- Catholic, Protestant, Baptist and several others -- are usually represented in the NHVH population, and the Home's chaplain coordinates with numerous local clergy members to minister to them.

The Home's wheelchair-friendly chapel hosts all sorts of services, from Catholic Mass and Communion Services and recitation of the Rosary to Baptist services and Bible-reading groups. Some of the clergy lead worship services; others do visitation. There's a weekly non-denominational service, a monthly memorial service honoring those who passed away in that month, and an annual remembrance service that honors the roll call of names who have died in the past year.

Caring for staff is also a very important part of the Spiritual Care mission. Veterans Home staff often get to know the residents well, and when they pass it's like losing a close friend or a family member. Helping staff through the grieving process is essential.

We also help family members understand the dying process, helping them communicate even when their loved one cannot talk or is unresponsive.

There's a unique practice at the New Hampshire Veterans Home to assist residents in grieving the loss of one of their own: The Final Salute.

folded american flag
The Final Salute

It's a simple ceremony that developed after resident complaints about the once-common practice of having a funeral home representative remove the deceased's body to the hearse using a back door without giving fellow residents and staff the opportunity to say good-bye. Several years ago, after a resident asked to be draped in an American flag for his last journey, the Home realized more could be done.

Now when a resident passes away at the Home, the funeral home representative is escorted to the resident's room and the body is draped with an American flag.

The Final Salute is announced on the public address system and residents and staff wishing to honor the deceased gather around the lobby of the home's main entrance elevator.

The funeral home representative and the NHVH Security Team, and family members if they are present, escort the deceased to the main elevator. The President of the Resident Council calls the group to attention, and reads the Final Salute: "(Resident's Name) is now leaving the Veterans Home on his/her heavenly departure. May (Resident's Name) rest in peace. We thank you for your honorable service to your country in its time of need." After a "present arms" command, salutes are snapped and Taps is played.

The flag-draped body of the deceased is then taken downstairs, through the lobby, to the waiting hearse.

We believe this is a wonderful culture change. The Final Salute helps us honor our residents by giving them the dignity of leaving the Home through the same doors they came in. It also publicly recognizes our sincere appreciation for their military service and the sacrifices they made for all of us.

Following a resident's death, the Spiritual Care Coordinator sends the family a sympathy card and if funeral services are held in the state, a representative from the Home attends.

Our Spiritual Care Program plays a very important role in helping people come to terms with the challenges and issues at the end of life. We are a community of people who care for and nurture each other.

New Hampshire Veterans Home
139 Winter Street  |  Tilton, NH 03276-5415  |  
(p) 603-527-4400  |  (f) 603-286-4242