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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.

Brian Medkeff-Rose to Retire After Decades of Compassionate Leadership

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Brian Medkeff-Rose, M.Div., M.A., Bereavement Counselor at Homeland HospiceAt the end of October, Brian Medkeff-Rose, M.Div., M.A., Bereavement Counselor at Homeland Hospice, will retire after more than 28 years of compassionate leadership. During his time with Homeland, Brian has implemented innovative approaches to reaching and supporting the bereaved. His deep well of empathy and support has helped countless people find new purpose amidst the pain of loss.

Brian graduated from the Methodist Theological School in Delaware, Ohio. He was ordained by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and obtained his clinical pastoral education from Bethesda Hospital in Ohio, which prepared him to work in acute care, outpatient care and long-term care, as well as elder services, home health and hospice care. Brian’s clinical pastoral work led him to Harrisburg and, ultimately, to Homeland Hospice. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

“I kBrian Medkeff-Rose at the Homeland Hospice 5knew immediately Homeland was where I belonged,” Brian says. “I’ve been proud to be part of a team approach to care. Social workers, physicians, nurses’ aides, volunteers – we have all worked together to help those in need.”

As a bereavement and spiritual counselor, Brian has used an out-of-the-box approach to create a path forward for individuals experiencing loss. Several years ago Brian launched the Men’s Breakfast and Women’s Luncheon Series, which provides a monthly platform for individuals to connect with others on a similar path. Through these events, strangers become friends by sharing a safe space to speak about their journey of grief.

In 2019, Brian helped organize “A Journey from Hops to Beer: The Grief Path” for individuals in Homeland’s bereavement program. At the event, Brian discussed the similarities in the journey of grief to the process of making beer. Both take time and patience. At the event, individuals at different points in the grieving process talked about their experiences and offered each other support.

Brian Medkeff-Rose decorating for Christmas“We never stop grieving,” Brian says. “The amount of time since the death of your loved one does not matter. It’s always okay to cry.”

In addition, Brian has helped incorporate messages about the grief process into Homeland Hospice’s Annual Memorial Walk and 10th Anniversary Event, “Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude,” held last November.

“I am so fortunate to have worked alongside of Brian,” says Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, Bereavement Counselor for Homeland Hospice. “He has given me the foundation to serve our patients and their families with a servant’s heart.”

At the core of Brian’s outreach exist a simple message of love, self-care and the acceptance of transformation as part of the grieving process.

“Brian’s love and passion for his work is contagious,” says Mary Peters, MSW, Assistant Director of Social Services for Homeland Hospice. “He will be greatly missed by our staff and hospice families.”

“It’s been a privilege to know our patients and families and support them through their life-changing journeys,” Brian adds. “They will always have a special place in my heart.”

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. Bereavement support group meetings also are held on a rotating schedule throughout the year.

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

Homeland Hospice Selected for National Project to Improve Care

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Homeland Hospice, a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania, has been selected to participate in the alpha testing phase of a new tool to standardize the collection of data for hospice patients. Homeland is one of 20 hospice programs chosen nationally, and the only hospice in the state participating in the project.

The Hospice Outcomes Patient Evaluation (HOPE) tool is a project led by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) designed to better understand care needs throughout a patient’s dying process and contribute to the patient’s plan of care. The HOPE tool will also allow CMS to analyze data between patients and hospice programs across the country.

“A core goal of the HOPE tool is to understand how a hospice team works together to put the patient’s needs first,” says Mary Peters, MSW, Assistant Director of Social Services for Homeland Hospice. “A patient-centered approach to care has always been our philosophy.”

Homeland team members include a registered nurse case manager, hospice medical director, attending physician, volunteer coordinator, social workers, spiritual counselors, home care aides and others.

The HOPE tool alpha testing involves three phases, which includes training, data collection, and a forum scheduled in June 2021 to review the data and offer feedback about the tool.

Homeland has completed training and is in the data collection phase. During this phase, a patient’s primary hospice team – including a registered nurse, social worker and spiritual counselor – is present for each assessment.

With Homeland’s expansive service territory, data collection has required additional time and travel and Homeland’s dedicated staff has risen to the occasion.

“I’m proud of our staff for taking on this additional project,” Mary adds. “We are committed to providing excellent data to support the HOPE tool.”


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

Not 9, But 99

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Helen Haddick, Homeland Hospice Nurse, has a gift of expression. We are grateful to her for allowing us to share the following article from her blog “From Saving to Sending, Hospice Isn’t Just About Dying.” Prior to becoming a Hospice Nurse, Helen’s journey included ten years of being a Med Surg, ICU, and Perianesthesia Nurse.

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She was the type of old lady I want to be. She was sassy and opinionated. Mostly confused but, had moments of crystal lucidity. Her eyes were set on a fellow resident and no amount of reasoning could dissuade her that this was going to be her boyfriend. She loved Diet Coke, but, fountain only please… Her accomplishments were many in life during a time when such feats were limited to those with an Adam’s apple.

Gold hoops were always glimmering from her ears. A former hairdresser, the hairdo was never in question. Sometimes she loved me and other days she would look at me, questioning loudly “What in the hell are you doing here?”

We shared chocolate bars and man stories. She always told me that while other parts might not work, her eyes never stopped. As her mind allowed, we talked about trash reality tv. She was my patient for a long time. Far longer than is usual for hospice. I had a nickname for her, only known to me, Kitty.

Just as Medicare requirements dictate, we had several team meetings and the talks of discharge would go round and round. But, just as the time would grow closer, something wildly unexpected would occur and discharge became a non possibility.

As rapidly as her descent was, her resurrection was equally as fast. Non responsive for days, she would just open her eyes as if she never skipped a beat. To say that this made me feel clueless would be an understatement. Just as I prepared family, boom, she was roaring right back.

I had begun to accept my lack of knowledge and power. Just as discharge talk began, the crisis began. Making sure to prepare family just in case, I found myself disbelieving they words I was uttering to them. Guiding them through the journey of end of life, I was expecting to receive calls daily that she had sat up and was demanding food.

This time was different. There was a little nagging voice urging me to keep my eyes open. There was gurgling. There was lack of waking up. My comforting and preparation of her daughter continued, even though I still felt beyond skeptical. The mottling. The fever. And yet, she had bounced back before.

Her preacher came and along with the daughter said some prayers. I had asked him to go today… nagging feeling. My phone rang as I was with another patient and noting the number, my thought was that I probably had forgotten my stethoscope there – pretty typical.

“Helen… it happened.”

“What happened?”

She

Was

Gone

With my best attempts as hiding my shock failing, I wrapped up my visit and headed over to pronounce. Even still, I half expected to walk in and a deep sleep to have been misread as an eternal sleep.

But, she was no longer.

Her face peaceful. Her life lived her way. Her journey traveled her way. Her death beyond question on her terms.

There were moments it felt she had 99 lives. That ended today.

As my heart continues to swell with gratitude which express as tears from my eyes, I cannot believe my good luck.

Her 99 lives have given such profound meaning to my one.

 


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

My Volunteer Journey

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By Lisa Wolff, Homeland Hospice Volunteer

About 6 years ago, I was fortunate to be able to retire from a long career as a health care lawyer. After I retired I had to figure out what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I decided I wanted to work directly with patients instead of working at a desk. While it was definitely not easy to find such a job without any experience and with my “maturity” eventually I was hired as a nurse’s aide in the Neurology Unit at Harrisburg Hospital. This was great because they provided the training I needed for the job. Being a nurse’s aide was about as different from a legal desk job as any job could be! It was fast paced, hands on, and never a dull moment! It provided me the opportunity to meet all types of people, from all walks of life and many cultures, to provide hands-on care and comfort, and to be a part of the patients’ and their families’ lives for a short period of time. Often, patients were so grateful for my small service that it was overwhelming to me. I learned so much about people and the world in general. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

After several years as a nurse’s aide, I decided it was time to retire more permanently so that I could spend more time with my family. I knew I still wanted to work with patients and I thought volunteering for a hospice organization might fit the bill. After doing some research about the Homeland organization, I met with Laurie and was very impressed by her leadership skills and her vision for the volunteer team. I became a volunteer patient companion.

In a little over a year of volunteering with Homeland Hospice I have had many different kinds of experiences. Some patients are just as sweet and pleasant as can be and have no difficulty talking with me about a variety of subjects. Others are not able to communicate verbally or have significant hearing loss. Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable because a patient is not able to communicate and I don’t have a lot to say (I don’t really feel it is appropriate to talk about myself and my life too much). Other times, I feel concerned because, based on my nurse’s aide experience, I have identified a possible care giving need. In these instances, I either figure it out myself, such as reading to a patient who is nonverbal (if they seem to like that) or I call on Laurie. Laurie is a great resource! She always has good ideas when I am seemingly stuck! Also, if I have a care giving issue she will very quickly get a response from the patient care team.

One time I had a patient who was known in her facility as a very grouchy lady. Every time I visited, she was in a bad mood and had a list of complaints about her condition or her environment that she wanted me to address. (I realized that if I were in her place, I would probably have similar complaints, but I know that voicing such complaints is not always the best way to win friends). I would chat with her and play gin rummy (using her rules) and after a while she would become pleasant and I would be able to coax her to take a walk down the hall. Invariably, when I left she would ask for a hug, which I gladly gave. Just helping to make a patient a little happier for a short while is my goal.

Volunteering for Homeland Hospice is so rewarding. I must say, however, that sometimes I really don’t want to make a visit. It can seem too challenging to think of things to say, or deal with someone who is nasty, non-verbal or hearing impaired. However, I have to laugh at myself once again because every time I leave a patient and get into my car to go back to my nice life, I am filled with gratitude about the visit I just had. I hope I make some small difference in the patients’ day. I know they have made a difference in mine.

I am bummed about the pandemic. I really miss interacting with the patients. I learn so much from them and I cannot imagine how difficult it is for them and their caregivers to be so isolated from social interaction. I do write cards, I can only hope they help a little.


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. Volunteering is a component of Homeland’s holistic approach to health care. Homeland Hospice 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, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

A Life of Serving Others Employee Spotlight: Reynaldo Villarreal

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Having grown up in the dry climate of Mexico, Reynaldo (Rey) Villarreal, chaplain for Homeland Hospice, reveres the rolling hills and green trees of Central Pennsylvania. For Rey, life with Homeland Hospice is another chapter in his story of serving others in their time of need. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Rey joined Homeland Hospice in January after working as a pastor for churches in El Salvador, California and Las Vegas. Rey’s wife, who is also a pastor, was raised in Pennsylvania. The couple relocated to the area to be closer to their family as they raise their children.

Rey was raised in Mexico where is father is a pastor and his mother leads programs for women and children run by the church. As one of five children, Rey worked beside his parents and siblings to help individuals and families in need of spiritual guidance and basic needs support, like food and shelter. Through their work, Rey and his family often encountered people associated with local drug cartels who stood in opposition of the church’s mission.

“We grew up learning how to stay safe from the cartels,” Rey says. “Receiving threats on our lives, having our cars stolen and being accosted in the streets was a way of life.”

Despite these challenging circumstances, Rey’s family remained in Mexico because of the significant need for their help and the small miracles they witnessed daily.

“It was an incredible experience to see someone leave the cartels for a life with purpose,” Rey adds. “It was affirmation of the power of faith.”

While working as a pastor, Rey loved his time with the elderly members of his congregation. He looked forward to learning about their families and life story. Rey often shared his love of music during his visits. He is an avid guitar player and singer. He knew if he ever had the chance to work with patients in hospice care, he would jump at the opportunity. For Homeland Hospice and Rey, the match of mission to talent and passion has been ideal.

A few months after Rey joined Homeland, the COVID-19 pandemic hit our region, limiting access to hospice patients in many nursing homes. Rey sees the grief and loss of families as they mourn the death of their loved ones during a time of social distancing.

As some restrictions have lifted this summer, Rey has returned to several nursing homes to spend time with patients during their end-of-life journey. He strives to go the extra mile in supporting staff and caregivers during this challenging time.

“I try to let everyone see the smile in my eyes since they can’t see it through my mask,” Rey says. “Now, more than ever, we need to connect with one another any way we can.”

Rey looks forward to the days when he can bring his guitar and sing to patients once again.

“Music has the power to brighten everyone’s soul,” Rey adds. “I can’t wait to give that gift to patients.”

Spiritual counseling is a component of Homeland’s holistic approach to health care. Counselors and chaplains respect each individual’s beliefs and offer support and encouragement. In addition, Homeland offers bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of a loved one.

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