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Telling the Story of One’s Life: Homeland Hospice Launches My Life, My Legacy Program

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homeland helps their patients tell their storiesWe all have a story to tell filled with memories and experiences of our life. Like a good book, our story is cataloged into chapters, with recollections of our childhood, youthful dreams, careers and families of our own. These memories can fade quickly with the passage of time. To honor and preserve the story of one’s life, Homeland Hospice has launched the My Life, My Legacy program for hospice patients and their families. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Through the My Life, My Legacy program a hospice volunteer meets personally with the each patient and their family to ask questions about the patient’s life. Over a series of visits, the volunteer records the responses and allows the family to add their thoughts and recollections, as well as photographs. The end result is a printed book for the patient to help him/her find peace, and pride in his/her life story. The book also helps families preserve memories after their loved one dies.

“Each story is distinctive based on the patient,” says Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice. “We focus on the topics that interest them most.”

The concept for the program originated with an existing component of a patient’s end-of-life journey. Each patient goes through an informal “life review” with a volunteer, which helps the Homeland team best serve a patient’s individual needs.

Homeland Hospice volunteers and staff believed the life review process could be enhanced to better tell a patient’s story.

“Our volunteers guided the creation of the program,” Laurie adds. “Their insight has been invaluable.”

For Carol Wambach and her family, the My Life, My Legacy program has provided insight into her father’s life, especially his childhood memories. Carol’s father, James Pagano, receives care from Homeland Hospice for Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and heart failure. While James struggles with short-term memory loss, he vividly remembers his parents, family and friends growing up in Rutherford Heights on the outskirts of Harrisburg.

In his book, James also shares fond memories of his wife of 73 years and his four children, as well as his passion for gardening.

“My siblings and I helped with the book,” Carol says. “We added some questions around topics important to our father.”

With James’ book completed, Carol has made copies for her sibling and the grandchildren in the family.

“Memories can fade over time, but we will always have this book about our father,” Carol adds. “It has brought our entire family comfort.”

When Sharon Reed’s mother was approached about the program, she eagerly accepted and looked forward to her time with Glen Dunbar, the volunteer from Homeland.

“My mother greatly enjoyed her time with Mr. Dunbar from Homeland Hospice. His questions and life legacy topics provided wonderful memories and even insightful information to us,” Sharon says.

Sharon’s mother was fortunate to have full control of her faculties up until the last few days before her death. Her vivid memory provided wonderful content for her book, which was completed and delivered the day she died.

“We displayed the book at my mother’s funeral,” Sharon adds. “It was a lovely way that day to share such special information and photos. We still turn to Mr. Dunbar’s book as a happy remembrance of my Mom.”

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Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

For more information about the My Life, My Legacy program, call Laurie Murry at (717) 221-7890.

Finding Creative Methods for Channeling Grief: Meet Amy Zecha

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amy zecha with a pillow she sewedWith a stitch of a needle or stroke of a paintbrush, Amy Zecha of Harrisburg is finding creative methods for channeling her grief following the death of her mother Angelyn. With the help of Homeland Hospice’s bereavement program, Amy has found productive ways to discuss her grief and reconnect with art and crafts, which she has always loved. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

In April, Amy connected with Homeland Hospice when her mother was in the final stages of her battle with kidney disease. As her illness progressed, Amy knew they needed the extra care and support only a hospice program could provide.

“From the beginning, the Homeland team listened to my mother’s needs,” Amy says. “Being seen and heard during this challenging time was so important to my mom.”

At the time, Angelyn was living at Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg. Homeland’s hospice services are available any place an individual calls home. The Homeland team worked with the staff at Bethany Village to provide comprehensive care for Angelyn, which brought Amy comfort during a difficult time.

Following the death of her mother, Amy began bereavement counseling with Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, lead bereavement counselor for Homeland Hospice. Working with a counselor who specializes in helping people deal with grief, helped Amy in ways she never imagined.

“While I was grieving the loss of my mother, I realized I had unresolved grief over the death of my brother,” Amy says. “Counseling lifted a weight off of my shoulders.”

Homeland Hospice provides bereavement support through phone calls, mailings, one-on-one consultations and support groups up to 13 months after the death of a loved one. Support groups offer self-awareness, healing, helping others, a sense of community and coping skills. Bereavement support is available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

paintings and drawings by amy zechaAs the weight of grief lifted for Amy, her creativity returned. Amy has begun painting, drawing, sewing and knitting again. Her mother taught her many of these skills and encouraged her to pursue them as a child.

“Over the past few years, I didn’t have energy to focus on my creative pursuits,” Amy adds. “I’m productive again and enjoying every minute of it.”

Amy’s creations include funny paintings and greeting cards with puns, which remind her of the wonderful sense of humor shared by both her mother and brother.

This fall, Amy became a Homeland Hospice volunteer. She is creating memory pillows for families who have lost loved ones. The pillows are frequently made of articles of clothing worn by the deceased family member. Amy’s first memory pillow was created for a woman who recently lost her husband. The pillow is made from his ties.

“Sewing meant so much to my mother,” Amy says. “I am so happy I can help others while using a skill she taught me.”

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Pattie Craumer Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul Series

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pattie craumer holding chicken soup for the soul - eldercareThe words were in her heart and head. They were formed over a 24-month journey of caring for her father before his death and grieving his loss after his passing. Pattie Craumer of Mechanicsburg gave her words life in a short story published in June in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Navigating Eldercare & Dementia: 101 Stories for Family Caregivers. Her piece, “Behind the Things” tells the story of parting with material possessions and the memories they hold after the death of her father.

Pattie grew up in Camp Hill and moved to the western part of the country to raise her family. She moved back to the area seven years ago to be closer to her father, Bob. In the spring of 2019, Bob broke his neck during a fall. Over the following months, Bob spent time in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation homes before moving to Homeland Center. In his final days, he received services from Homeland Hospice.

“I wasn’t able to be with my mother at the end of her life,” Pattie says. “I wanted to spend each day possible with my father.”

During Bob’s final days, he received spiritual counseling and music therapy from a harpist. These services provided Bob and his family great peace during a difficult time.

“Homeland Hospice was essential to his end-of-life care,” Pattie adds. “I wish I would have understood the scope of Homeland’s services earlier. We certainly would have used them.”

Following her father’s passing, Pattie connected with Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, lead bereavement counselor for Homeland Hospice for bereavement support. Pattie and Noelle met a few times in person before the announcement of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the following months, Pattie and Noelle continued their counseling sessions over the phone.

“Noelle immediately understood what I was going through,” Pattie says. “Our year-long time together was transformational for me.”

Homeland’s bereavement programs are available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief. Bereavement support group meetings also are held on a rotating schedule throughout the year.

As Pattie and her siblings began cleaning out their parents’ home, she was overcome by the stories behind each possession. Pattie experienced the dismantling of her parents’ lives as two unforgettable lives unfolding again, but backwards. She decided to save a few key pieces of furniture with the hope of breathing new life into them in the future.

Pattie salvaged a high chair used by her parents’ four grandchildren. After cleaning it up, she found a buyer on Facebook Marketplace who needed a second highchair to accommodate visits from her grandchildren.

“Knowing another family can make happy memories with this piece brought me so much joy,” Pattie says. “In a small way, the story of my parents continues.”

This culmination of losing her father, bereavement counseling and finding new purpose for her parents’ belongings inspired Pattie to submit her story for publication. While Pattie has never called herself a writer, her mother, Natalie, always aspired to write. In many ways, Pattie’s piece was a tribute to her mother’s dream as much as an outlet to share her journey.

“Something meaningful came out of a painful experience,” Pattie adds. “I hope my story can bring comfort to others.”

Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. To learn more about Homeland Hospice’s bereavement support, please contact Noelle Valentine at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Chaplain Dann Caldwell Appointed Board President of Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area

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Homeland Chaplain Dann CaldwellIt has been said that life comes full circle. For Dann Caldwell, chaplain for Homeland Center and Homeland Hospice, the loop he began as an intern with Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area (CCU) has closed with his recent appointment to serve as president of the organization’s board of directors.

During a yearlong sabbatical from Princeton Seminary, Dann worked as an intern at CCU, which is a partnership of more 100 Christian congregations in Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry counties. CCU provides housing assistance for our most vulnerable neighbors in need. Now, as board president, Dann is helping to lead CCU during one of the most difficult times in housing in recent years.

“Our greatest challenge is helping our community respond to the impact of COVID-19,” remarks Darrel Reinford, executive director for CCU. “We are working diligently to avoid a spike in homelessness.”

CCU’s spectrum of services includes helping individuals and families with rental assistance to prevent eviction; managing most of the emergency shelters in Dauphin County; helping families find permanent housing; operating overnight shelters during the winter months; managing Susquehanna Harbor Safe Haven, a long-term residential facility for chronically homeless men with a mental health diagnosis; and spiritual outreach efforts throughout the region.

“It is a privilege and honor to serve as the President of CCU,” Dann says. “I am blessed to serve the often forgotten members of our community.”

Dann’s commitment to the service of others is rooted in his role with Homeland. For more than eight years, Dann has served as a chaplain for patients and their families receiving services through Homeland Hospic as well as ministering to the residents of Homeland Center.

The team at Homeland considers not only the patient’s physical well-being, but mental and spiritual aspects, as well. Chaplains help patients and family members deal with spiritual issues, answer questions and find meaning and hope. They provide continued support to ensure no one ever feels alone.

“I’m humbled to share my faith with the residents and patients of Homeland,” Dann says. “It’s a pleasure to connect my spirituality through my work and volunteer efforts.”

Homeland Center is a private, not for profit, continuing care retirement community providing skilled nursing, personal care, Alzheimer’s/dementia and short-term rehabilitation services.

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more about Homeland Center, please contact (717) 221-7900. For information about Homeland Hospice, call (717) 221-7890.

 

Homeland’s Bereavement Team Offers Comprehensive and Compassionate Support

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Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW - Bereavement Team

Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW

Learning how to navigate the unchartered waters of grief after the death of a loved one requires a strong support system and the development of coping mechanisms to find hope for the future. Homeland Hospice provides a holistic approach to grief support using a team of compassionate counselors. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Recently, Homeland Hospice reorganized its bereavement counseling team after longtime counselor Brian Medkeff-Rose retired after 28 years of service. Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, now serves as the lead bereavement counselor and Alexis Conkle, MSW, provides administrative support while Noelle mentors her to learn the hands-on demands of the job. Alexis looks forward to taking on counseling duties as her time with Homeland progresses.

For Noelle and Alexis, the team partnership and their shared dedication to Homeland provides a strong foundation to help patients and families during their grief journey.

“Bereavement support is rewarding work,” Noelle says. “I’m humbled by the strength and compassion I learn from every family.”

While the steps of grief may form a pattern to healing, everyone’s process and timing is tied to his/her personal story. Through the shared understanding of loss, many people find comfort in Homeland’s bereavement support groups, while the individual process of handling heartache can often best be addressed through individual counseling. The duality of support needed on a pathway through grief is why Homeland offers one-on-one consultations and support groups.

While Alexis is new to her role, she has been part of the Homeland team since 2018 when she started as an intern. After earning her degree, Alexis was a social worker with Homeland before transitioning to the hospice bereavement team.

Alexis Konkle, MSW - Bereavement Team

Alexis Conkle, MSW

“I look forward to working directly with families and helping them through the challenges of grief,” Alexis says. “I admire the strong bonds the Homeland team forms with families, as it makes this work a calling and not a job.”

For many people, the grieving process has become more difficult because of social distancing measures in place through the COVID-19 pandemic. Noelle connects with clients via phone calls instead of in-person visits. During these calls, she not only focuses on the grief caused by loss, but the added loneliness of isolation.

During the winter months, Homeland’s popular men’s breakfast series and women’s luncheon series have been placed on hold. During the summer months, the groups met outside where they could socially distance and still spend time with one another.

For many people, comfort is found through the consistency of these support groups. It’s not uncommon for strong friendships to form during this time together. Support group sessions focus on the various stages and aspects of grief. Most importantly, the meetings provide a safe space for people to be around others who understand what they are experiencing.

Noelle and Alexis find their new partnership to be a rewarding learning experience. As Alexis learns new components of her position, her questions and observations spark a new perspective in Noelle. Together, the team is committed to providing the most comprehensive support possible.

“We understand healing takes time,” Noelle and Alexis remark. “We will walk with you through your bereavement journey.”

Homeland Hospice’s bereavement support program is available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

To learn more, please contact Noelle Valentine at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.