Nonagenarian Bob Albietz and his younger brother Don moved to Vero Beach from the West Coast of Florida for one reason: to fish in the ocean. “The water’s too shallow on the West Coast,” said Don. Unfortunately, the brothers, who are Veterans, never had a chance because only a few weeks after calling Vero Beach their home, Bob began having severe breathing problems and went to see a doctor. “It didn’t take long. The doctor was with Bob about an hour and said, ‘There’s something wrong,’ and that’s when we found out he had throat cancer,” said Don.

The cancer turned out to be terminal, and Bob spent the next few months in the hospital until he was strong enough to return home. Before discharge, the doctor recommended hospice, and Bob chose the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA). VNA Hospice care focuses on quality of life, with an emphasis on pain management, support for the patient and their family, and counseling, in addition to many other services, such as music therapy and pet therapy.

While Bob was pleased with VNA’s services, he was also frustrated because he thought he’d never fish again. But when his VNA Hospice Counselor learned about this, she enlisted the help of VNA’s Volunteer Department, and under the auspices of a VNA & Hospice Foundation supported program, Project Wish, was able to make Bob and Don’s dream come true. Through careful planning, the Project Wish team coordinated with Wounded Waters, a local nonprofit that takes Veterans out fishing free of charge, and a couple of weeks later Bob and Don spent a lovely afternoon doing just that.

The outing included a VNA Hospice volunteer presenting Bob with a handmade American flag blanket, part of the We Honor Veterans program that VNA Hospice is a proud Level 4 partner of. We Honor Veterans was developed by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veteran Affairs that addresses the unique needs Veterans have when it comes to end-of-life care.

Don was happy his brother received the patriotic blanket and grateful for the delightful afternoon spent together. “We didn’t catch any fish, but it was a great day anyway,” said Don.

The day was also made possible thanks to the excellent care by Bob’s hospice nurse, Mary Brown, who identified a change in medication that could help reduce swelling he had been experiencing in his ankles that confined him to a wheelchair. Once the swelling abated, he could use a walker, allowing him to be mobile enough – and confident enough – to participate in the fishing trip. “I was really excited about the walker because he really wants to be independent,” said Mary.

As for their part, Bob and Don had a blast. “They treated us like kings,” said Don. “Yeah, that’s quite an outfit…these visiting nurses are great!” added Bob.

Providing quality care like the kind Bob received is the VNA’s norm and part of its mission to recognize the extra attention that is due to Veterans. It is the reason why VNA Private Care coordinated with Veterans Affairs (VA) on a relatively new initiative, Non-Institutional care, that ensures Veterans age safely in place at little to no cost to themselves. It does this by contracting with companies that offer private care, in this case the VNA.

The VNA’s commitment to ensuring optimal care for Veterans is also made possible through the generosity of our donors, who support programs like Project Wish that help provide these men and women who have given so much to our country the best end-of-life care possible.

A big shout-out to Veterans – we thank and salute you! And a round of applause for our benefactors – we couldn’t do it without you!