Archives: Homeland at Home


‘In Sickness and In Health’: Local Couple Faces End-of-Life Journey with Courage


“In sickness and in health” are five simple words couples pledge on their wedding day. These words become the most sacred of promises during challenging times.

Debra and Mike of Dauphin County have kept this vow for 57 years of marriage. During their decades together they have raised two children, hosted countless holiday meals and celebrated birthday parties in the home they have shared for 52 years. Their lives changed when the “in sickness” chapter began six years ago when Mike’s health began to deteriorate. But Debra is not alone in caring for Mike. She has the compassion and support of Homeland Hospice to help her keep her promise.

Mike has struggled with various health challenges since 2009 when he underwent heart bypass surgery. His health began to decline rapidly in 2017 when he was diagnosed with Venous Disease, which forms painful blisters and skin discoloration from his knees to his ankles. The severity of the disease makes him unable to walk without the assistance of a walker. Around this time, Mike was also diagnosed with dementia.

In November of 2022, the culmination of Mike’s illnesses led to a 10-day hospital stay. Debra and her children knew Mike could not come home and solely rely on the care of his family. Debra was aware of Homeland’s reputation for high-quality, compassionate care and explored their continuum of care services. She toured Homeland Center, a private, nonprofit retirement community in Harrisburg, as well as the organization’s outreach services.

“I wanted to know all the possible options of care for Mike’s changing health needs,” Debra says. “Homeland alleviated my concerns.”

Debra and her children decided home care would provide Mike the most comfort and peace. Debra’s son rearranged the living room for Mike’s return from his hospital stay.

“Mike’s bed faces the window so he can watch the deer outside,” Debra says. “I know this brings him joy.”

When Mike first returned home, he received palliative care services from Homeland to help manage his health issues. As his well-being continued to decline, Mike transitioned to Homeland Hospice care for his end-of-life journey.

Mike’s dementia and advanced health issues makes communication and movement very difficult. Dementia doesn’t just impact individuals with the disease. It places a significant emotional burden on caregivers, as they strive to adjust to the stages and nuances of the illness.

Through the services offered by Homeland Hospice, Mike receives routine visits from a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) to help with bathing and dressing as well as medication reminders and administration. Mike also has the support of a nurse and social worker to provide a complete team of support. Recently, Mike began receiving massages to relieve pain. This is part of the complementary therapies offered by Homeland Hospice.

“Everyone genuinely cares about us,” Debra says. “I no longer spend every minute of my day consumed by worry.”

In addition to medical care and support, Mike has received cards and notes of encouragement from volunteers around the country. The cards are delivered thanks to the generous efforts or Homeland volunteers and Volunteer Match, an online program to engage individuals with volunteer opportunities.

“Mike and I look forward to receiving cards,” Debra adds. “We are very grateful for this act of love and kindness.”

The support provided by Homeland Hospice brings Debra peace of mind and allows her and Mike to live each day as fully as possible.

“I appreciate every minute Mike and I have together,” Debra says. “It is in God’s hands now.”

For more information about Homeland Hospice, call (717) 221-7890.

“Miracle Lady” Rita Van Meter Shares Her Memories Through Homeland’s My Life, My Legacy Program


Rita Van Meter of Lewistown was known as the “miracle lady”Rita and volunteer Kandy Melillo by staff at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital after she survived a medical episode in August of 2022. During her hospitalization, Rita suffered a heart attack and received last rites from her priest at Sacred Heart Church of Lewistown. She spent nine days in the hospital followed by one month in a nursing home. Rita turned to the services provided by Homeland Hospice, a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania, which enabled her to return home and live independently. Rita’s strength to overcome medical milestones is just one of the many chapters in the story of her life. She recently shared her life story through Homeland Hospice’s My Life, My Legacy program.

My Life, My Legacy was launched last year to help hospice patients preserve their memories and tell their life stories. Through the effort, a hospice volunteer meets personally with the patient and their family to ask a series of questions about the patient’s life. The volunteer records the responses and allows the family to add their thoughts and recollections as well as photographs. The result is a printed book for the patient to help find peace and pride in their life story. The book also helps families preserve memories after their loved one passes.

Rita worked with Kandy, a recent retiree and volunteer, over the course of several months to share her memories and work through the series of questions. The book was completed in February of 2022.

“I didn’t know what to think about the project at first,” Rita says. “After a while it was just like talking to a longtime friend.”

Rita, a mother of five children, is a vivacious, politically-active self-starter who deeply loves her family. For her, family extends to friends of her children, neighbors and anyone in need of a helping hand. Rita believes her call to help others stems from the social and political time she was born.

Rita was born in 1935 when the country was in the depths of the Great Depression. At the time, our country had an unemployment rate of 20%. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in August of 1935 which granted income for retirees and the unemployed. This Act was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal to tackle the worst economic crisis ever experienced by our country. Rita was among the first wave of Americans to receive a social security card. With the card came a letter from President Roosevelt, which she still has today.

“I like to think this is why I am a Democrat,” Rita jokes. “Growing up in the Great Depression definitely influenced my passion for civic engagement.”

Throughout her work tenure, Rita served as a legislative assistant for Ruth Rudy, who represented Centre and Mifflin counties in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Rita loved the work because she knew the constituents and was able to help answer their questions and solve their problems.

Helping people in need of a friend is a common theme in Rita’s life. In 1989, Rita formed a nonprofit organization called Burd House, Inc., which provided a safe space for young men and women to receive help with their basic needs and education. Rita founded Burd House, which is in honor of her maiden name of Burd, by purchasing a former bakery and slowly transforming it with a kitchen, dining room, laundry service and recreational area. At any one time, up to 50 young adults could be found receiving tutoring, grabbing dinner and enjoying the company of friends at Burd House.

During its 20-plus years of operation, Rita impacted hundreds of lives through Burd House. Her small acts of kindness were miracles for many lost souls in need of a friend. Through the My Life, My Legacy program, Rita had an opportunity to relive countless happy memories of camping trips to Hidden Valley Camp Ground and special Christmas dinners with the men and women of Burd House.

Rita’s life story is special and unique, just like her. The beauty of My Life, My Legacy is that it is not a cookie-cutter approach to storytelling, rather it is a framework driven by the patient’s memories and experiences.

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

For Rita, her interests and passions are more than memories. Through her actions, Rita put in place tangible actions to change the lives of young men and women. These actions continue to ripple throughout the world today.

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

Palliative or Hospice Care: Which Service is Best for You?


Palliative vs Hospice

Homeland at Home strives to help patients and families make the most of their moments together. Through teams of dedicated and compassionate professionals, Homeland provides a continuum of care for changing life circumstances. Earlier this year, Homeland launched a Palliative Care program to enhance its line of services. The program works in collaboration with Homeland’s other outreach services, including Homeland Hospice. While Hospice Care and Palliative Care programs are often mistaken for one another, they are not the same.

Hospice care is for individuals with a serious illness when a medical cure is no longer possible or the decision to stop aggressive treatment has been made. Homeland Hospice helps patients and their loved ones live as fully as possible during their end-of-life journey by providing comfort and pain relief. In addition to care services, medical equipment and supplies are provided as needed to aid in a patient’s care.

Palliative care may be provided at any time during a person’s illness and is often offered to patients while they are receiving potentially life-prolonging or curative treatments. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on a specific diagnosis and does not prevent patients from receiving other healthcare services, treatments or procedures. This form of care provides relief to patients suffering from pain, stress or other symptoms due to a serious illness.

“The goal of palliative care is to reduce or eliminate symptoms such as pain, fatigue and other symptoms that may be impacting their quality of life or interfering with their ability to continue to pursue life prolonging care,” says David Wenner, Assistant Medical Director for Homeland Hospice. “This form of care often helps patients avoid unnecessary emergency room visits due to uncontrolled symptoms and other issues related to their disease.”

One similarity between hospice and palliative care is their delivery of services. Both programs are implemented anywhere a patient calls home. The convenience and comfort of receiving care at home brings comfort and peace of mind to patients and their families during a difficult time.

Homeland at Home delivers hospice and palliative services with its hallmark tradition of providing the most compassionate care possible. Central to this approach is putting the patient first. The Homeland team works with patients and their families to understand the patients’ goals and values so they can make the best care choices possible. Both programs understand each patient is different, so the Homeland team often incorporates out-of-the-box approaches to support patients’ individual needs.

Hadiza Fox has been a registered nurse practitioner at Homeland for more than six years. She provides both hospice and palliative care to patients and understands how to make sure patients’ voices are heard during their time of need.

“Each patient is unique and requires a personalized approach to care,” Hadiza adds. “The Homeland team works together, along with a patient’s other health care providers, to ensure that care is consistent, compassionate and individualized.”

The month of November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Homeland is honored and privileged to be part of the lives of patients and their families in central Pennsylvania. We are proud of our outstanding team of professionals who provide the highest quality of care every day.

For more information on Homeland’s Hospice and Palliative Care programs, call (717) 221-7890.

Guitars … with Gratitude… 2020 Tour Resumes



After a temporary pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Homeland Hospice is excited to announce its “Guitars … with Gratitude … 2020 Tour” is back on the road. Guitars are currently on display at Café 1500 in Harrisburg and Desperate Times Brewery in Carlisle.

“Guitars, Gifts & Gratitude” was a Homeland Hospice 10th anniversary event held last November featuring local musicians and a guitar gallery with more than 60 art-inspired guitars. The guitars were generously donated and decorated by local individuals and businesses. While each guitar is unique in its design, emotions of hope, compassion and love shine through each piece.

The guitar tour extends the 10th anniversary celebration and provides a platform to share the message of Homeland Hospice. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Patrons visiting Desperate Times Brewery can admire Judy Dooley’s butterfly-themed guitar created in honor of her mother Rose, who died more than two years ago. In her end of life journey, Rose received in-home care support including massage and music therapy, and spiritual counseling from Homeland Hospice. The Homeland team also helped Judy as a caregiver and grieving daughter.

“The moment I heard about the guitar project, I knew I wanted to be involved,” Judy says. “This project has helped me tell my mother’s story.”

Designing the guitars was not only therapeutic, but an opportunity for individuals to unleash their inner-artists. From local elementary school students and business owners to professional artists, the guitar designers used their talent to showcase their personality. Just like music, the guitars speak to everyone individually while conveying a sense of community.

“I knew the designs would be good,” says Ed Savage, Assistant Director of Development for Homeland Center. ”But I was blown away by the creativity. The guitars are outstanding.”

For more information on the guitar tour locations, visit our Guitar Exhibit Locations page.

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.

A Decade of Dedication: Meet Tera and Alice



One of the most precious commodities we have in life is time. During an average week, we give 40 hours or more of our valuable time to our job. The fortunate are able to combine their career with their passions and interests. The blessed hear a calling to non-profit-based work, and find gratification in being able to stop counting hours and start changing lives.

Alice Kirchner, Strategic Planning and Special Projects for Homeland Center and Homeland at Home, and Tera Quarcco, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for Homeland Hospice, are two such individuals whose paths have led them to fulfill a calling to support the compassionate work of Homeland. Alice and Tera have each worked for Homeland for more than 10 years.

As a CNA, Tera is part of the Homeland Hospice team providing direct care so patients and their families can make the most of their time together. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Tera believes her work is a true calling and cherishes the bonds she has formed with patients and families.

“Every patient has a special place in my heart,” Tera says. “It’s a privilege to help families find comfort and peace during an end-of-life journey.”

Like Tera, Alice felt a calling to this mission. After she retired in 2009 from a career with IBM, Alice became a hospice volunteer. At the time, Homeland Hospice was a newly formed outreach program of Homeland Center. She immediately loved the patients, families and staff. After two years, Alice was hired part-time as a bereavement coordinator.

“This is where I wanted to be,” Alice says. “My heart was dedicated to the work of hospice.”

Alice studied thanatology to understand the spiritual, social and human behavior aspects of end-of-life care. This education, along with her experience in strategic planning, led her to her current role with Homeland Hospice and Homeland Center six years ago. Today, Alice is working to ensure Homeland serves the needs of the community for the next 150 years.

“Everything I have ever done in my career has led me to where I am at Homeland,” Alice adds. “I love this work.”

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 at Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.