Northeast Times

Good to be home

When a vet­er­an dies at the Delaware Val­ley Vet­er­ans Home on Southamp­ton Road, the death is marked with a mil­it­ary ce­re­mony — and dig­nity. 

“Mil­it­ary hon­ors are per­formed by the res­id­ents,” said Jack O’Don­nell, pres­id­ent of Vet­er­ans for a Delaware Val­ley Nurs­ing Home, a vo­lun­teer or­gan­iz­a­tion. A vet’s body is draped with a flag and es­cor­ted through the halls by an hon­or guard as Taps is played. 

“All the res­id­ents line up in the hall­ways, and, with the pres­id­ent of the res­id­ents coun­cil in front, we all march with the cas­ket,” said dir­ect­or of nurs­ing Mur­i­el Tilley-Boggs.

“Some stand up who can hardly stand up,” ad­ded De­borah Olivieri, as­sist­ant dir­ect­or of nurs­ing. “It’s very touch­ing.”

That farewell is a tra­di­tion that star­ted at the Phil­adelphia fa­cil­ity, said the com­mand­ant, A. Peter Ojeda, and is now part of the rites at all six of the state’s vet­er­ans homes.

It was one of the Phil­adelphia home’s res­id­ents, Le­onard Rosen­feldt, who sug­ges­ted the ce­re­mony, Ojeda said.

Pre­vi­ously, when a vet passed away, his room was closed off and his body was quietly re­moved. Giv­en all the ser­vices the vets get at the home, Rosen­feldt, who has since passed away, said he thought a death should be marked with more dig­nity.

THE MIS­SION IS NOBLE

Ideals of ser­vice and dig­nity are what the staff of the vet­er­ans home as­pire to, Ojeda said.

The fa­cil­ity, at 2701 Southamp­ton Road, was ded­ic­ated in Novem­ber 2002 and today has 171 res­id­ents who are provided with meals, com­plete med­ic­al care, ther­apies and oth­er ser­vices. It is at its max­im­um ca­pa­city right now and there is a wait­ing list that is one to two years’ long.

There are three kinds of care — treat­ment for Alzheimer’s dis­ease, skilled nurs­ing care and per­son­al care, he said.

De­men­tia pa­tients live in a ward de­signed to of­fer them the most at­ten­tion. Skilled nurs­ing care is provided to vets who have vari­ous med­ic­al con­di­tions.  

“Per­son­al care” is very in­de­pend­ent liv­ing, said Ojeda, who also is a nurse. Many of the cars parked on the home’s lot be­long to the vet­er­ans who live there. Those vets may con­tin­ue to use out­side doc­tors, too, Ojeda ex­plained.

“We’ll even take you to your ap­point­ment,” he ad­ded.

There are so­cial events like the spring dance and the com­mand­ant’s ball, O’Don­nell said. 

But, most im­port­ant, “It is a home,” Ojeda said.

PRAISE FROM THE VETS

Liv­ing at the vet­er­ans home “was a ter­rif­ic choice for me,” said 94-year-old My­er Kur­gan. The World War II U.S. Army vet from Ox­ford Circle has been there for about two years. “They do so much for us it’s un­be­liev­able,” he said.

“They do al­most everything for me,” said dis­abled Navy vet John Vander­s­lice, who died a few days after an Oct. 28 in­ter­view for this story. “There is a very lim­ited range of things I can do my­self.”

The vet­er­ans home has a 250-mem­ber staff. Kur­gan and Gene Fried­ant, pres­id­ent of the res­id­ents coun­cil, talked about the qual­ity of ser­vice and how spot­lessly clean the home is kept.

“When my wife vis­its me, she can’t get over how clean this place is,” said Fried­ant, 86, also a WWII Army vet.

Fre­d­er­ick De­Josie, 55, an Air Force vet­er­an from Vir­gin­ia, said he likes the free­dom. He’s learned about com­puters since he’s been liv­ing at the fa­cil­ity and has one in his room. The food is good and the staff is pleas­ant, he said. He had been in an­oth­er nurs­ing home be­fore he moved to Southamp­ton Road eight years ago. The homes are not alike.

“It was like mov­ing from Jed Clam­pett’s shed to his man­sion,” he said, in­vok­ing a little Beverly Hill­bil­lies hu­mor.

Vi­et­nam vet­er­an Robert F. Smith, 68, of Roxbor­ough, offered per­haps the most glow­ing trib­ute.

ldquo;I worked for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and I used to in­vest­ig­ate nurs­ing homes,” he said. “This is the best!” 

ELI­GIB­IL­ITY

To be eli­gible for res­id­ency, a vet must have been hon­or­ably dis­charged, said Ojeda. There is no age lim­it — and spouses are eli­gible, too. One of the vets liv­ing at the home is in his 40s, and there are four couples now in res­id­ence, Tilley-Boggs said.

And Scott Bon­ner, a vet­er­ans ser­vice of­ficer, can help vets de­term­ine eli­gib­il­ity for any num­ber of be­ne­fits, in­clud­ing monthly cash sti­pends.

“Lots of vets don’t know what’s avail­able,” he said.

O’Don­nell said vo­lun­teers, who rep­res­ent sev­er­al vet­er­ans or­gan­iz­a­tions at the home, get a lot of co­oper­a­tion and sup­port from the fa­cil­ity’s man­age­ment. “They listen,” he said.

“Our res­id­ents can come to us when they have any prob­lems,” Olivieri ad­ded, “and they’re not shy.” ••

For in­form­a­tion about the Delaware Val­ley Vet­er­ans Home, ad­mis­sion, tours and vo­lun­teer op­por­tun­it­ies, call 215-965-5900. Vis­it the Web site at ht­tp://www.dvvh.state.pa.us

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

comments powered by Disqus