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Homeland HomeHealth Nurse Treats Every Patient Like Family

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Employee Spotlight: Meet Kerstie Keebaugh

Kerstie Keebaugh, RN Case Manager for Homeland HomeHealth, likes life in a small town. Growing up and living in Middletown, Kerstie has a close network of family and friends as well as extended links to acquaintances of her family. When visiting patients, Kerstie often hears remarks like “I remember your grandparents,” which brings her immeasurable joy, as her grandparents have passed away. Kerstie treats her patients with the same care she would her own family members and welcomes each day as a new adventure.

For Kerstie, the calling to be a nurse came early in life. By the time she was in middle school, she knew she wanted to be a nurse.

“There was no other career for me,” Kerstie says. “I wanted to help others and knew nursing was the best way I could make a difference.”

Prior to working at Homeland, Kerstie had other professional experiences which allowed her to practice nursing but did not provide time for Kerstie to get to know her patients and provide them with the best personalized care. She joined the Homeland HomeHealth team three years ago and it has been a perfect fit.

In her role as a case manager, Kerstie sees about six patients a day and often spends an hour with each one. She often works with patients for months, providing time to form strong bonds and provide optimal care.

“I love seeing patients in their homes instead of an institutional setting,” Kerstie says. “I often feel like I’m part of their families.”

Kerstie works with patients in the Middletown and Steelton areas, which provides unique experiences and connections which can only be found in a close-knit community. During one patient visit, Kerstie was connected with a gentleman who had worked with her grandfather and went on family vacations with Kerstie’s grandparents. During her time with the patient, she heard stories about her grandfather that she had never heard before. In some small way, Kerstie felt like she was caring for her grandfather during her time with her patient.

“I was young when my grandparents died,” Kerstie adds. “I often feel like I’m caring for them now when I work with my senior patients.”

As a HomeHealth nurse, Kerstie is part of a highly trained medical team that includes nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; nutritional counselors; social workers; and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who provide specialized care for patients wishing to remain in their homes instead of a nursing home, rehabilitation center or other care facility.

As Americans in the Baby Boomer generation age, more and more people want the independence and freedom of staying in their homes to live their best possible lives. Homeland HomeHealth helps patients achieve this goal. Home medical care is convenient and is as effective as care received in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

Kerstie encourages anyone considering a career in nursing to pursue the profession and try different work settings to find the best fit.

“Follow your heart,” Kerstie encourages. “I took a chance with HomeHealth and it has been more rewarding than I ever imagined.”

Homeland HomeHealth serves five counties throughout Central Pennsylvania, providing care in a person’s home.

For more information, call Homeland HomeHealth at (717) 412-0166.

From Candy Striper to CNA: Meet Teena Mowery

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teena mowery, cna

Employee Spotlight

At 12 years-old Teena Mowery from Shippensburg learned she loved to help others while working as a candy striper at a local hospital. This experience led Teena to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) when she was only 16. Today she proudly works as a CNA for Homeland HomeCare, which has provided a continuum of care for countless clients and their families since its origination six years ago.

Over the past year Teena has worked solely with one client with Parkinson’s disease who resides near Hershey. Through her extended time with the client and his family, she has formed a strong and trusted bond.

“I look forward to seeing him,” Teena says. “I know I can make his day better because he has 100 percent of my time and focus.”

CNAs play a critical role on the HomeCare team as they are trained to notice changes in a client’s health condition, which a caregiver may not recognize. This attention to detail along with support of day-to-day activities provides safety and security for individuals in their care.

During an average day, Teena assists her client with bathing, dressing, feeding and light housekeeping tasks. Her extended time with one client has helped Teena develop a routine, which provides comfort to her client and his wife who also serves as a caregiver.

Recently, Teena helped her client enjoy dinner at a restaurant with his wife and family. While his speech is limited, he shared a touching moment with her.

“He said I love you,” Teena shares. “I know his words meant he is grateful for my support.”

Homeland’s HomeCare services can help improve a client’s quality of life while living safely in his/her home. HomeCare also benefits the primary caregiver who may be unable to perform the daily tasks required to help his/her loved one. This support also gives caregivers a brief respite from the emotional pressures of caring for a loved one.

While many of us can learn the skills needed to work as a CNA, the compassion and empathy for others cannot be taught. This comes from the heart, making the profession a labor of love.

“My clients and coworkers are extended family members,” Teena adds. “I love what I do.”

For more information on Homeland HomeCare call 717-221-7892.

Homeland Hospice Staff Member Earns Advance Certification: Meet Angie Smyser

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angie smyser, homeland hospice social worker

After four years as a social worker with Homeland Hospice and nearly two decades of working in the profession, Angie Smyser has earned her certification as a licensed clinical social worker, which refers to social workers who have obtained their master’s degree in social work and completed the requirements in their state to obtain their professional license. Angie is the first person at the organization to achieve this accreditation. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Social workers are an integral part of Homeland’s team of support. They work with nurses, counselors, home health aides, physicians and others to provide comprehensive support to patients and their families. Social workers assess the emotional dynamics of a household and help families face their concerns during a patient’s end-of-life journey.

“Social and emotional issues come along with health issues,” says Mary Peters, MSW, assistant director of social services at Homeland Hospice. “Social workers bring these components together to best serve our patients.”

As a licensed clinical social worker, Angie can now both meet the immediate needs facing families and dive deeper into counseling to help patients and their loved ones overcomes emotional barriers to finding peace.

For Angie, helping people involves looking at the behaviors and emotions at the surface as well as what is kept private and only shared after earning one’s trust.

“We all have layers to our emotions,” Angie says, “Dealing with the imminent death of a loved one often brings out unresolved feelings and issues.”

Through her training, Angie has learned to approach issues through a clinical lens to see how she might help patients and family members deal with the root causes of issues. Finding productive solutions to problems while family members have the opportunity to communicate often lessens the burden of grief after the passing of a loved one.

To earn her license, Angie completed 150 clinical hours with an experienced licensed clinical social worker who served as a mentor. Angie participated in individual and group sessions monthly or more frequently for more than four years. This was followed by a comprehensive exam, which she passed in August.

“Homeland is fortunate to have Angie’s skill set,” Mary says. “We can now bring an additional level of support to our patients and families.”

For Angie, the driving force behind her interest in earning her certification is her eagerness to help families when they need it most.

“Sometimes people just want to be heard,” Angie says. “I’m honored to help families in their time of need.”

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

 

A Career of Empathy and Kindness: Debbie Klinger to Retire from Homeland Hospice

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Debbie Klinger - Retired RN and Homeland Hospice DirectorAt the end of February, Debbie Klinger, RN and Director of Homeland Hospice, retired following her nearly eight-year career with the organization. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

During her tenure, Debbie has strived to embody the heart and soul of the hospice mission while working with patients and families. Through her leadership, she has created a team that practices empathy and kindness while delivering the highest quality care.

Debbie knew she wanted to be a nurse early in life. She learned she was accepted into Geisinger Medical Hospital’s School of Nursing on the same day she learned she was expecting her first child. Debbie put her aspirations of a nursing career aside while she raised her children. When her sons reached their teenage years, Debbie decided to begin her nursing education.

“I became a student as a single mother at age 38,” Debbie says. “My passion for nursing never waned and my determination to achieve my goal grew stronger.”

After working many years in management with other hospices, Debbie joined Homeland Hospice as the Assistant Director of Clinical Services. She later advanced into her current position. While Debbie has been part of many successful projects and events, her legacy is the creation of strong teams committed to consistent and compassionate care.

“I’m proud to work with a team of dedicated professionals who believe the patient comes first,” Debbie adds. “I believe this is the hallmark of our organization.”

Kris Crockett Portrait - Our TeamOne of those dedicated team members, Kris Crockett, RN and Assistant Director of Clinical Services of Homeland Hospice, will move into Debbie’s role. Kris has been part of the Homeland team for more than nine years. She started as an on-call weekend nurse and began working as the assistant director of clinical services in 2017.

Over the past few years, Kris has worked tirelessly to reduce the organization’s pharmacy costs while continuing the highest quality of care. This process has included daily research of the cost of prescriptions along with educating the hospice team about medication changes.

Like Debbie, Kris believes in building strong teams by focusing on the mission of the organization while never losing sight of the little things about the job, which can culminate into a big difference.

“Our nurses often check in with one another during stressful times,” Kris says. “These small acts of kindness aren’t in their job description, but build lasting bonds between team members.”

As Debbie’s retirement nears, her commitment to Homeland Hospice will continue. Debbie and Kris are proactive planners who are committed to working together as a team to ensure the transition is seamless.

“I’m proud of my years with Homeland,” Debbie says. “I’m confident Kris will continue to lead the organization with vision and compassion.”

Homeland Hospice serves 14 counties throughout central Pennsylvania, providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland staff is closely involved as death approaches and may be present at the time of death. This is one of hospice’s greatest strengths – helping the patient and loved ones cope as a person approaches life’s end.

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (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.

Finding the Hope in Hospice … for 10 Years

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Myra Badorf, Assistant Director of Development for Homeland HospiceMyra Badorf is the Assistant Director of Development for Homeland Hospice and on August 16th celebrated her 10-year anniversary. Upon looking back, she shares her thoughts with us.

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“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” ~ Tia Walker, author

I’ve worked for Homeland Hospice for 10 years now … never on the front lines like so many of my colleagues, but never far from the heartbreaking stories of untimely and sometimes tragic deaths, to the beautiful descriptions of the passing of an elderly person who lived a good life full of love of family, success in a career, a strong faith and peace … even welcoming death in the end.

My mother is 89 and my father is 88, and my family and I are blessed to still have both in our lives. Plus, I have never had anyone close to me ever needing the services of hospice. But I too know that it is a matter of time. With two parents looking at the doorstep of 90, I expect it now, and I will welcome the support hospice services have to offer when that time comes.

Here at Homeland Hospice I have the good fortune of reading the letters and cards of thanks that we receive from the many family and friends of those we have cared for over the years. Many of them include a monetary donation as a way to express their appreciation and gratitude, for which we are thankful.

These letters make me proud of the people I work with—our nurses, social workers, aides, chaplains, volunteers. All of them deal with important life issues daily, never wavering from this calling of hospice. I don’t know what burdens they carry for our patients, how it effects their off hours, or their health, but what I do know—to do this, they must have what we refer to as “the heart of hospice.” You see, it takes a special person, especially in the medical field to do this kind of work. Nurses are trained to heal. They are also trained to solve problems—which is an essential skill for anyone providing hospice care. In most cases healing will not come, but the opportunity to ensure a peaceful, pain-free death, managing complicated symptoms … well, our staff are second to none.

“Death is not the enemy sir, indifference is! You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” ~ Patch Adams

Homeland Hospice’s Soup & Casserole Program

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By Laurie Murray, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice

The end-of-life journey is a time when extra comfort and support is needed as patients and their families are often fatigued physically, emotionally and spiritually. A hospice caregiver is often faced with situations that can change daily or even hourly. Frequent medications, dressing changes, safety, toileting, feeding, and emotional support easily fills their day, and in many cases, their night too. In addition, there are situations in which a spouse or caregiver may never have prepared a meal. The patient is the one who always handled that daily task.

Homeland Hospice has found that for many patients and their families a simple home-cooked soup or casserole that can be taken from the freezer, heated, and enjoyed is a huge blessing. It is comfort for the belly! The meals are prepared by volunteers either working independently or as a group. Before Covid-19, our focus was having church groups prepare the meals. Now, there are people looking for opportunities to serve from their homes, so we are seeing more individual cooks becoming involved.

Some of our volunteers simply cook a little extra when they are preparing a meal for their own family. Church group often use the left-overs from a community or church meal to make a yummy dish or soup.

The meals are prepared in 8×8 aluminum pans, wrapped in aluminum foil, placed in a gallon freezer bag, labeled with the ingredients and reheating instructions and frozen. Volunteers then either contact Laurie to pick up a meal from them or the they are welcome to delivers it to the Homeland Hospice office. The meals are stored in a freezer at the office until it is delivered to a patient by hospice staff or by another volunteer, a “Casserole Courier.”

The meals do not remain in the freezer for long! With a census of over 200 patients, twenty meals can disappear very quickly. We are always accepting new cooks to assist with this program.

The Soup & Casserole Program is just another “extra” that is provided by Homeland Hospice. It helps in bring comfort to our patients, but also alleviates some of the stress from family caregivers.

Mary Beth, a faithful volunteer making soups and casseroles stated, “I’m so happy to help. All of the events of the world have made me feel helpless. This opportunity has once again made me feel helpful.”

Message from Dr. Rox

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With Dr. Rox’s help, Homeland is making a conscious effort to STOP the panic, anxiety, heightened stress levels, and frustration caused by the current state of our lives due to the pandemic.

Right now, she is encouraging everyone to thinking about the importance of boosting our immune system to fight viruses such as COVID-19 and the Flu. Research has proven time and time again that the body’s stress response systems are directly connected to the immune system and can influence what type of immune cells are made, where they go in the body, and how they function.

In other words, stress weakens your immune system.

People tend to focus on the conveniences they have lost, which heightens their stress levels. Dr Rox encourages everyone to use the power of mindfulness to help reduce stress and strengthen their immune systems.

She reminds us that mindfulness is a NON-RELIGIOUS practice.

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”  (Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley University of California, 2020)

Try These Three Ways to Stop, Breathe, Listen, and Connect

Practice #1: Come back to your breath. Every time you learn a new fact about this virus, stop, take a deep, calming breath, and notice what is happening in your body. Where are you storing this new information? Breathe deep and release any tension you’re holding. Here’s a simple practice for letting go.

Practice #2: Find ways to connect. Social distancing is the compassionate response to the challenge before us, but physical isolation doesn’t mean disconnection. Write letters to your friends, hold video chat parties, call your neighbors, send love notes to family and friends who live far away. If you’re feeling isolated, try this connection meditation to recharge.

Practice #3: Offer loving-kindness to the world. Whether you’re someone who hasn’t yet connected with this specific mindfulness practice, you’ve tried it and it felt a little odd, or you’re someone who relies on this practice for connection and nourishment—now is the time to offer our deep love to the world. Here’s how you can create a loving-kindness practice that feels right to you.

MEDITATION SOURCES: www.Mindful.org

 


Roxane E. Hearn, PhD (Dr. Rox) is Homeland’s Employee Wellness Program Coordinator, Health & Wellness Psychologist and Personal Health Coach. To learn more about or contact Dr. Rox, please visit www.MyDrRox.com.

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.