Sometimes it seems I’m surrounded by veterans, including my son, my brothers, my late father and uncles – even my former husband – veterans all. Each night when I watch the news, I see returning veterans and veterans in action. What is being done for all of these men and women, after they leave the military?

In November, Windham Veterans Center held an annual commemoration ceremony for area vets, and I was able to talk with a lot of veterans I have known all my life including relatives and former schoolmates, as well as many others, young and old.

Every week, as I prepare the obituaries for this paper, I’ve noticed an increase in them for veterans from World War II and lately, a number of Vietnam veterans.

Right now, November 2006, more than 50,000 military veterans die each month, 28 percent of all deaths in America, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. That figure, nearly a third of all deaths, is not going to decrease over the next few years.

Many people have little information about services available here in Maine for veterans and their dependents.

Indeed, the need for information about veterans’ services is so much in demand in our area, that a veterans advocate comes to Windham each month to respond to questions about many services available. (He used to be here twice a week, but state budget cuts because of the cost of traveling have impacted this service)

A lot of information can be found through various Web sites, but the service with which I am most familiar is that of the Maine Veterans’ Homes.

A few years ago when my late father was being discharged from a Portland hospital, and we (his children) were told that he needed to go to a nursing home, we were totally unprepared. It had never entered our minds.

Even though he was in his mid-80s, he had been a Windham teacher and businessman, always extremely independent, and the idea of a nursing home was overwhelming. And this was a decision he was in no condition to make, so it was up to us.

Immediate availability of nursing home space is rare, and we didn’t know where to turn. A good friend of my father and our family, Dave Tobin, mentioned the Veterans’ Home in Scarborough, since our dad was a World War II veteran.

We were very lucky that there was a room available there, and in just a few hours after leaving the hospital, my dad was settled in a room at Maine Veterans’ Home. And although it wasn’t the same as home, we knew he was safe and as comfortable as possible and would get the medical care he needed.

My father was fortunate to spend his last months close by. We visited daily, and I can vouch for the care and attention he received. In my mind, the staff members who work with our beloved veterans never have received the attention they deserve.

Maine has veterans’ homes in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough and South Paris.

All the support and resources needed to manage the many challenges of aging are available at Maine Veterans’ Homes. The full continuum of care means you or your loved one will never have to leave new friends or nearby family in search of increased care at another facility.

Every Maine Veterans’ Home has the capability and personnel to handle all your changing needs including rehabilitation and skilled nursing, long-term care, residential care, dementia care and end-of-life care.

According to Maine Veterans’ Homes, the three most important things people look for in a care facility are modern facilities, progressive programs and compassionate staff. Ask any resident or their family members and they’ll tell you that they’ve found all these features and a whole lot more, at Maine Veterans’ Homes.

The camaraderie of military service among Maine Veterans’ Homes residents, along with their sincere respect for that service, makes any of their facilities a truly pleasant place to call home.

While at Scarborough, my father was served delicious meals; in fact, I thought he was being “spoiled” as they would ask if he’d like a milk shake or ice cream, even if they were not part of the menu. Meals were brought right in where we were visiting him, and a table set up. He wasn’t confined to his room, but enjoyed the pleasant surroundings of a large room with lots of others. Programs were available for those residents who were able to join in, either games or entertainment.

Whenever he needed a medical treatment not available there, transportation and attendants would be provided to and from the lab or doctor’s office. There was round-the-clock medical attention.

To qualify for admission, the applicant must be an honorably discharged veteran who served on active duty in the United States Armed Forces for no less than 180 days. Eligible veterans must either be residents of Maine at the time of application, or have resided in Maine at the time of entry into the United States Armed Forces.

Spouses, widows, widowers and Gold Star parents of eligible veterans may also be eligible for admission. Gold Star parents are parents of a son or a daughter killed in the line of duty.

At Maine Veterans’ Homes, the staff understands that the decision to seek out professional support and care is a difficult one with a dizzying array of options. Admission coordinators are registered nurses who are qualified to answer your toughest questions. They will be happy to schedule a personal tour, or visit with you in your home if you prefer.

For more information about Maine Veterans’ Homes, e-mail Central Office Marketing or to apply for admission, call the facility nearest you and ask to speak with an admissions coordinator. In this area, call Maine Veterans’ Homes in Scarborough at 1-888-684-4667.

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