Joyce Zandieh is a new resident at Homeland, but since moving into her personal care suite, people can see a difference.
“My friends say they can feel a change in me since I came here,” she said. “I always had to figure out who would cut my grass. Will the kids do this forever? Yesterday was the first snow in my adult life when I didn’t have to worry about who was going to shovel the snow. It’s like freedom, finally.”
Joyce brings a lifetime of activism and advocacy to Homeland. As a career nurse, she always found a way to speak up for others and help them overcome barriers.
On the day Joyce was born in Harrisburg, her father was in England, preparing to cross the English Channel with General George S. Patton’s 3rd Armored Division in the wake of D-Day. She grew up in Lemoyne before the family moved to the Mechanicsburg area.
After graduating from Cumberland Valley High School, she joined friends attending nursing school at Polyclinic Hospital in Harrisburg. In her last year, she found she enjoyed working in psychiatric care and providing care during labor and delivery. When she graduated, Joyce won an award for outstanding ability in obstetrical nursing.
“The miracle of seeing somebody being born was amazing,” she said. “I just loved it.”
Graduation launched a 45-year career in nursing, including time in her beloved labor and delivery. When she worked at Holy Spirit Hospital, she and a nurse who shared her interest in obstetrics and psychiatry co-founded the Maternal Assistance Program for pregnant women battling drug addiction.
Through the program, case managers helped women and babies get to doctors’ appointments and find whatever help they needed.
Joyce, who has a son and daughter from her first marriage, was single for 14 years after her divorce until she met Mehrdad Zandieh in 1985. A member of the Bahá’í faith, he fled his native Iran during the Iranian Revolution to escape persecution.
Making his way to the U.S., he met Joyce, a fellow Bahá’í drawn to the faith by its themes of one God, religion, and mankind. They married in 1990 and enjoyed movies, picnics, Bahá’í activities, and holy days. (For a good primer on Bahá’í, Joyce recommends www.bahaifaith.org).
They also shared a love of Broadway shows, counting “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Misérables” as their favorites. Joyce remembers her first Broadway experience when she was about 13. The family was driving home from a shore vacation when she and her sister urged their parents to follow signs to New York City.
“And they went!” Joyce marvels. They saw Ethel Merman in “Gypsy.” “She never used a microphone. That hooked me on Broadway shows.”
Joyce is a lifetime NAACP member who believes passionately in equality and fairness.
As a member and later chair of the Harrisburg Human Relations Commission, she and a Latino woman once separately answered the same rental ads, busting the landlords whose blatantly inequitable treatment of the two violated fair housing policies.
“I’ve always been an advocate for people,” Joyce said. “I never wanted anybody to be mistreated.”
Joyce’s ties to Homeland go back many years, knowing its sterling reputation from her mother’s time as a resident to the support from Homeland HomeHealth nurses after knee and hip replacements.
When Mehrdad, a cancer survivor, was diagnosed with a new tumor early in the COVID pandemic, Joyce cared for him at home. In his last few weeks, Homeland Hospice sent a nurse to help with the medical care and an aide to take care of Mehrdad’s personal needs.
“I felt relief because I could be the wife again,” she said.
Mehrdad died in May 2020. Joyce grieved deeply but continued living in her Harrisburg home, still doing favorite things like renting a limo to take her daughter and daughter-in-law to see Hugh Jackman in “The Music Man.”
However, looking back on the last year, Joyce realizes that she was building up towards the move to Homeland, having her house cleaned and giving family and friends her beautiful Persian rugs from Mehrdad’s native Iran.
An avid fan of Freddy Mercury and Elvis Presley, Joyce brought a Freddy Mercury doll crocheted by her daughter to her bright Homeland suite. As she settles in, Joyce looks forward to starting a new jigsaw puzzle featuring the album covers of Queen. She loves playing bingo and enjoys the musicians who entertain the residents.
“Sometimes, an older gentleman will get up and dance with some of the aides, and it’s so sweet,” she said. “I don’t have to cook. I don’t have to do housework. I don’t have to clean. I’m really happy to be here.”