VHA Community Partnership Challenge - National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
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VHA Community Partnership Challenge

Community Partnership Spotlight: Senior Companions help Veterans live independent lives

This is the second in a series of articles about how various VA and VHA offices, initiatives, and programs support social determinants of health—the theme of the 2020 VHA Community Partnership Challenge. This article features a 2020 submission from the Richard VA Roudebush Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, about how senior companions are helping Veterans live independent lives.

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides comprehensive health services to America’s Veterans. VHA, alone, is unable provide every service to every Veteran due to legislative guidance and, at times, limited access to some services within VHA in the local area. Partnerships between VHA and nongovernmental organizations result in more options for Veterans by increasing the available resources and providing services to Veterans, including those not eligible for VHA care.

The VHA Community Partnership Challenge (CPC) is an annual contest that recognizes local and national partnerships serving Veterans. By spreading the word about successful partnerships and encouraging their replication across VHA, the CPC is inspiring more VHA staff members to form local and national partnerships, further expanding the delivery of services.

The theme of the 2020 VHA CPC is the social determinants of health (SDOH). SDOH are conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Examples of SDOH are access to transportation, food security, education, housing, spiritual support, and employment.

In addition to the winners from the 2020 CPC that were recently announced, VHA is highlighting some of the other outstanding partnership submissions from across the country.

Senior Companionship Helps Veterans Live Independent Lives

The partnership between the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center (Roudebush VAMC) and Catholic Charities matches volunteers, called Senior Companions, with Veterans who live independently and can use extra help around the house. The senior companions provide the Veterans with spiritual support, cooking and cleaning assistance, transportation to and from their appointments, and much more. In many ways, these senior companions act as friends to Veterans and bring joy to their everyday lives.

The partnership currently serves 15 Veterans in the Indianapolis area, and each act of service helps improve access to SDOH for these Veterans, including education, food security, housing, and transportation. The partnership also benefits Veteran caregivers, as caregivers are able to take respite while senior companions are with the Veteran. 

The Roudebush VAMC noted that Catholic Charities are driven to care for Veterans in the area.

“The staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities Indianapolis are called by the Gospel to uphold the dignity of all people,” said Catholic Charities. “Guided by Catholic social teaching, we consider it a privilege to deliver compassionate and caring service to help and empower those in need.”

Laura E. Ruzick, medical center director at Roudebush VAMC, added “the partnership between Roudebush VAMC and Catholic Charities has been instrumental in helping Indiana Veterans remain independent in their homes by providing companionship and overall support. By adding this extra layer of assistance, it creates a network of support which is empowering for our Veterans and the communities where they live.”

Catholic Charities currently supports 12 Senior Companion programs across the United States, including programs in Indiana, Washington, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, California, and New York.

“Partnerships like the one between Roudebush VAMC and Catholic Charities are crucial for increasing access to the SDOH for Veterans,” said Dr. Tracy Weistreich, nurse executive for VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE). “Recognizing programs like this one between Roudebush VAMC and Catholic Charities showcases the amazing and creative ways VHA employees amplify their local influence and serves as an inspiration for others to make a positive, lasting impact on Veterans’ health and well-being.”

OCE hosts the CPC each year to highlight outstanding community-level partnerships, and to encourage others to create the same or similar partnerships to benefit Veterans. OCE’s mission is to serve as a trusted resource and a catalyst for the growth of effective partnerships at the national, state, and community level and as a facilitator and access point for public and private entities interested in partnering with VHA to benefit Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

For more information on OCE’s work or to contact OCE for partnership opportunities, please visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.

External Link Disclaimer: This page contains links that will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.

Posted September 09, 2020