and environmental and staff changes to make veterans’ lives
as comfortable as possible. For instance, Dillon might create a
“pleasant events” schedule that involves supplying a veteran with
relaxing music, arranging daily times for him or her to have
conversations with staff, or even ensuring that favorite foods are
a regular part of meals. With a veteran who is acting aggressively
because of PTSD or dementia, she might discuss with staff the
possibility of cutting down on the number of staff hovering
around the patient or moving him or her to a quieter room.
In partnership with a social worker, Dillon also runs
anticipatory grief and bereavement support groups for families
and staff. And she oversees informal memorial services that
allow staff to process their feelings about clients who have died
in hospice — approximately 80 veterans in the 14 months since
the unit opened in 2014.
Besides such structured activities, Dillon spends a lot of time
fielding behavioral and psychological crises as they arise.
“I’m constantly on call,” says Dillon, who also provides
psychological services at several palliative care centers on the
hospital campus. “I’ll get a call from a physician or nurse in the
hospice unit or one of the centers saying, ‘This person is dying,
can you come and be with their family?’”
Given the importance of teamwork with
this population, one of her most important
jobs is fostering relationships with and between
team members, Dillon adds. In the beginning
of her time at the hospital, for instance, she
hung out in the nurses’ station to learn about
their rhythms, strengths and needs. Staff
debriefings and memorial services for veterans
who have died have also proven wonderful
bonding opportunities, she has found.
Such activities are good for staff and especially good for
those they serve, says Dillon.
“You’re going to be working so closely together that you have
to rely on each other,” she says. “The only way to get a holistic
view of the person, to have the greatest continuity of care, is
to have everyone involved in discussing his or her needs and
treatment. Our whole aim is to support veterans in having the
best quality of life they can have at this time.” n
“Our whole aim is to support veterans
in having the best quality of life they
can have at this time.”
Kristen Dillon, PhD
Civilian Psychology Careers
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