Grief During Covid-19

By Laura Ward

Grief is defined as a normal and natural response to loss.  At Hospicare, we provide bereavement support to those who are grieving the death of a loved one.  However, based on the current circumstances, we feel that it’s important to expand our discussion of grief to include the many different types of losses that people are experiencing right now as part of this pandemic

These could be major such as that of a job or financial means.  As a community, we are curtailing our social contacts due to the need for social distance.  This loss of physical connection with our loved ones is extremely difficult.  Gone are the simple social pleasures of meeting a friend or friends for dinner, coffee, a walk or at the dog park.  Social gatherings such as book club, game night, choir practice, group exercise classes and BBQ’s are off limits.  The theater, bowling alley and churches are all closed.  The wedding, trip, or family reunion we had planned has been cancelled.  Our children are grieving the loss of their social network, educational system, sports team, extracurricular activities and even that recital, performance, or big game that they had been working towards.  Our regular routine is disrupted, many of us are no longer able to head to work as usual and those who are working for essential businesses now must cope with added fear and risk.  The uncertainty of this time and the risk of illness brings its own anxiety and adds to our stress. 

Grief impacts us on many levels.  Physically, you might notice changes in sleep or appetite, fatigue, restlessness, headaches, body aches or episodes of crying or feeling numb.  Grief can be a roller coaster of emotions and these emotions can change quickly.  We might feel anxious, sad, angry, fearful, or more irritable.  Grief can feel like a heaviness we carry both physically and emotionally.  On a cognitive level, we might have difficulty concentrating (which can make working from home even more challenging), be indecisive, find ourselves preoccupied with worries, experience a sense of unreality or denial.  We might experience behavioral changes and find ourselves inpatient, forgetful, or looking for unhealthy ways to cope through overeating, too much screen time or numbing ourselves with drugs or alcohol.  Socially, we need more support when we are grieving, and these current circumstances can make it especially difficult to meet that need.  Some people isolate more during grief and lack the motivation and energy to make the extra effort needed to connect.   Spiritually, we might find ourselves searching for meaning or comfort during this time.  Some people find comfort in their faith or prayers, and others have spoken about the positive environmental impact.  For example, dolphins have been spotted for the first time in the canals of Venice and air quality has improved in China. It’s important to recognize how these grief reactions can impact our current functioning.  Our usual means of coping may also have changed whether it be our habits or reaching out socially, going to the gym or attending an art class.  We may need to explore how to recreate, expand and implement, new ways of coping during this pandemic to maintain our emotional and physical health. 

The experience of grief can also be both individual and unique.  It can be difficult when the people in your life are struggling with this current situation and the associated losses, but are expressing that struggle in very different ways.  One might assume that since we are all in this together, that we would be feeling similar ways.  Yet, our expressions of our grief may look so dissimilar that instead of feeling supported, we can be left feeling more alone.  Perhaps you are feeling sad and someone else is responding with complete denial or is minimizing the seriousness of the situation.  Or you might receive messages from other friends to “think positive” or “see the bigger picture” or laments about “silver linings.”  Neither one of you is wrong in how you are coping with the situation, but you may simply not be on the same page at the same time with the people in your life.  This can create tension, and leave people feeling more alone and without the comforting validation they would normally receive in these relationships.  Remember, that even though we might not understand another person’s emotional or mental response to this crisis, even if our own grief looks different, we are all grieving.  The greatest kindness we can offer is to support each other, and in order to do that we must suspend our judgements to allow for the range of emotions that those around us are experiencing.  More than ever, we need to take care of each other during this time and accept both our own and others experience with an open heart.  Check in frequently with the people in your life and with the people in your home.   

When we are overwhelmed with difficult emotions, it can be helpful to lean in, allowing yourself to move through the emotions that are rising.  Know that all emotions pass, change and evolve.  It’s important to make time to feel, and it can be helpful to set aside time just for this purpose.  Some people might find that journaling, meditating, or talking it through with a trusted friend to be a safe way to achieve this.  It’s important to allow our feelings to be expressed or we run the risk of the feelings building up which can negatively impact our health or overall functioning.  Sometimes we might realize that our worries or fears are dominating our mind.  If you feel like you’re in a rut with these thoughts rather than moving through, it can be helpful to disrupt this process by deep breathing, stepping outside or distracting ourselves.  Other ways to cope include creating a new routine, getting outside, trying something new, discovering joy in the moment, exploring new ways to connect, and getting in touch with gratitude.  Creating a new routine can be a source of comfort when we have lost our usual way of life.  A new routine can mean setting a regular time for waking, bedtime and healthy, balanced meals.  Getting dressed and ready for the day.  Introducing daily time to be outdoors, take a walk or even just sit on the porch.  If you are working from home, start and end at regular times and step away from screens for some portion of each day.  Connect with family by spending time together at home or through electronic means.  For instance, play games together online with a friend or set up a virtual coffee date.  Take time and space for yourself through a solitary walk, reading a book or putting together a puzzle.  Find joy in starting a new hobby or enjoying an old one.  Practice gratitude each day and when all else fails, extend kindness and compassion to yourself, this is a difficult time.   

New Year’s Letter from our Executive Director

By Kim De Rosa

Looking towards the next decade at Hospicare & Palliative Care Services.

New Year’s is a time to reflect on the year that’s passed as well as set intentions for the one that lies ahead. This year seems particularly meaningful to me as we embark on a new strategic plan that will guide Hospicare into this next decade and beyond.
Hospicare is honored to serve our neighbors throughout Cortland and Tompkins counties by providing palliative care, hospice and grief support to all who need us. While I am grateful to lead this incredible organization as Executive Director, Hospicare belongs to every one of us – our patients, families, volunteers, donors, supporters, and of course, our phenomenal staff.


Together, we are Hospicare. And together, we are going to make sure that every single person who can benefit from our care knows where to turn.


In 2020, we will embark on major initiatives to grow our palliative care program, which improves quality-of-life on a physical, emotional and spiritual level and is available to anyone facing serious illness. A major part of this initiative will be helping our community better comprehend palliative care, a term that still confuses many people. We’re hiring a nurse practitioner to lead our clinical efforts alongside the nurses, social workers, and other staff who are at the core of our care team. Simultaneously, a major gift from a grateful patient (read about the Tapan Mitra story) will allow us to jumpstart a multi-faceted educational campaign, spanning online, print, radio and in-person initiatives. As a valued part of the Hospicare family, you also are an important advocate! We want to ensure that you know and can describe palliative care to your friends and family, so we’ll be working on communication tools to help with that as well.


Another key priority for 2020 is to build awareness of hospice and how it can support families for months – not just weeks or days — before a death. Our hearts break every time we hear someone say, “I wish we had contacted Hospicare sooner.” Our goal is to help patients feel empowered to talk to their doctors about hospice, and to reach out directly to us at any time with questions.
These are just two of Hospicare’s initiatives, and I’m looking forward to working with you to make them reality.


This community is a special place to call home, and it’s the people who make it so. Thank you for all the ways in which you support Hospicare’s work, and my best wishes to you and yours for a bright start to 2020!
Kim De Rosa 

Hospicare is a Lifeline

By Mark Stevens

Ann and I met in 1987 when we were Graduate students in the Yale school of Drama.  Ann was in her first year of the 3-year program and I was in my second.  Because of the intensity of the program it is not hard to imagine that our paths would cross almost immediately.  I’m not sure what it was that attracted us to each other.  Our common ground and sense of humor I’m sure was a major part of it, but we became fast friends.  And  even in the most stressful of times we could find laughter in the situation or in the myriad of problems we encountered along the way.

There was one time that we worked together on the same production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”.  Ann was in charge of a particular set piece that can best be described as a windmill consisting of three steel pipes that extended below a raked show deck and attached to the floor  Ann and I spent about two hours alone under the deck drilling holes and attaching the legs to the floor.  Two hours that consisted of work, yelling, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  Two hours that helped developed a bond that would last for the two decades.

After I graduated in 1989, I moved to Los Angeles, California to work as the Technical Director at the University of Southern California (USC).  Because of a change in positions after the first year, I moved up in the ranks and was able to hire a someone to work beside me to teach and design the technical aspects of the many productions.  Ann was an accomplished academic, with and undergraduate degree in theatre and history, and after 3 years decided to return to school to pursue her PHD in the History of Science and was accepted in the program at Princeton University.   Ann and I resigned our positions with USC and moved to New Jersey to begin the next act of our lives.  Over the next few years and in no particular order we got married, taught at two different Universities and finally moved to Columbia, South Carolina and to work at the University of South Carolina.  Over the next 11 years Ann worked as an Associate Professor in the History Dept and I worked for the Dean of the Honors College and then for the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

During those 11 years Ann’s scholarship, reputation, hard work and dedication led her to being offered her dream job as an Associate Professor in the Science and Technology Studies at Cornell.  While Ann was a respected researcher and writer, teaching students was her passion. At Cornell, she finally had the chance to focus on both with a support by the University and her fellow professors that she never found anywhere else.  I’d never seen her as happy professionally, and both faculty and students adored her, lining up to try to get into one of her classes.

When we lived in Columbia Ann had suffered from fibroids in her ovarian track, but surgery had taken care of them and regular scans had eased our minds that they would be caught quickly if they returned. Ann’s health was something we would watch, but we never obsessed. For the next few years before the offer to move to Ithaca Ann went for checkups twice a year and always got an “all clear”.   

July 2016 was our second summer in Ithaca.  I’m not sure what day it was now but Ann woke me one morning complaining about pain and asking me to take her to Emergency Room. If you knew Ann, and she said she was in pain, you knew this wasn’t something minor.  So, we got up got dressed and headed across the lake to the hospital.  We didn’t realize it then, but that morning began our longest journey together.

The trip to the emergency became a long day of scans and tests and the discovery that the fibroids were back, Ann was quickly scheduled for surgery at the center in Buffalo.  After the surgery, the surgeon pulled me into a private area and told me he’d successfully removed the fibroids but couldn’t remove a large mass that was involving a larger area. 

Ann and I had been married for 21 years and were best friends for even longer. We had experienced so many adventures together, both good and bad.  But this was a situation that you can’t really relate to unless you go thru it.

The type of cancer Ann had was known as – endometrial stromal sarcoma — a rare form, affecting a small number of women worldwide.   Ann had a lot of grit and was determined not to allow this disease to keep her from her commitment to her role at the university as a teacher and scholar.  So, while she continued to fulfill her duties in the office and in the classroom, she began on a daily regimen of oral chemotherapy.  Every day for the next 3 months, I drove her to campus so she could teach, and then pick her up and drove her back home an hour later.   Most often she would retire to the bedroom with her laptop and do work until she fell asleep

The drugs took a terrible toll on her and after a month and a half it was obvious the drugs weren’t working, and a car trip to a world-renowned cancer hospital NYC yielded no new possibilities for treatment.  A car trip that was extremely uncomfortable not to mention nauseating when we went thru the Lincoln tunnel.

Ann’s condition began to deteriorate at the beginning of December and when we went for a weekly appointment, Ann’s oncologist ordered a blood transfusion.  This was the second type of transfusion she went thru we were not that unduly alarmed at this happening again, but then when you are in the situation and going through this type of thing what is normal?   It was decided that she would be there overnight so since there was nothing I could do I went home to take care of the dogs and came back first thing the next day That morning as  Ann and I sat talking in her room, one of her doctors arrived to talk to us. “There’s not much else we can do,” And that she was going to go home.

Ann and I looked at each other.  And we had a long talk with the doctor. He was there for a long time making sure we both understood the whys and wherefores.  Much of it wet in one ear and out the other.  And suddenly we were alone in the room.  I remember I stood up and was staring out the window for a long time and we said nothing.  Then a memory came to me and I turned back to her as she laid in the bed is said. “you remember when we were under the deck putting in that stupid windmill or whatever it was”?  And she nodded.  “I thought of that the other day.  Not sure why.  But I remember how cool it was under the show deck.  I remember how quiet it was in the theatre except for us laughing.  Isn’t that funny?  I remember it, like it was yesterday.  And I after a while I turned back to her and said, “I wish it was yesterday”.

That was December 5. Six days later, Ann would be gone.

I had barely heard of Hospicare. You never think about something like hospice until you need it. Our doctor suggested Hospicare in Ithaca made some calls, and it was explained that Hospicare’s Residence was full.  Another option would be to bring Ann home, but that worried us. Our 16-year-old son Evan was in the throes of exams at school, and we worried about the long-term effect it would have on him, as well as other members of our family who began to arrive. But we learned that we could have the full hospice services delivered right to Ann’s hospital bed.

At the time, I felt I was standing at the edge of a cliff, leaning over a dark abyss, lost and unsure of what to do. Then someone grabbed my belt and held me steady. I turned around to see who it was, and there was Hospicare. Every nurse, aide, and volunteer we met felt like an angel.

The whole experience is set up to help make a difficult transition a little easier. It’s not easy at all, of course. It’s terrible. Hospicare was established for that purpose. The purpose of helping with care of your loved one but also in helping the immediate family members like us with the process of transition. A help that was tirelessly and patiently explained in every detail and with all manners of help along the way. 

Ann passed away on Dec 11, 2016 and it was devastating to Evan and myself.  After Ann’s death, Evan and I found it difficult to talk to each other. In fact, there were times we didn’t talk at all. I had no way to understand what was happening in his soul, and he had no way to understand what was happening in mine. We didn’t yet know that it was okay to be sad. Or angry. Or hurt. Or furious. Or lost.  Evan gave up playing sports, which was a passion he’d held since childhood. I spent every day feeling like I was walking around in a dense fog.  Wanting to find the right words to say but not knowing how to form the words

We felt very alone. After a while, people didn’t know what to say when they saw us. Evan said it best: “People want you to feel better because they want to feel better. They don’t want to deal with it anymore, and just want you to be okay.”  But we were not OK. We were stuck dealing with it all the time, 24 hours a day. 

But a lifeline was there.  We started meeting with Laura, one of Hospicare’s bereavement counselors. One of the very first things Laura said to us was that it’s okay to feel awful. Those emotions are the things that make us human.

From there, and in a beautifully subtle and compassionate way, Laura began giving us little tips to help us relate to one another. She brought positivity and light back into a world that felt so hopeless.  Eventually, Evan and I saw that we could find a way out of the darkness and together we could find our paths toward healing.  Similarly, I began to attend some of Hospicare’s group sessions.  In those conversations, I listened to other people’s struggles.  came to understand the depths of hurt.  And it may seem strange, but those groups sessions help you to see and feel that you are not alone.  You are not alone in a raft in the middle of a sea.

Every time I interacted with Hospicare it was like finding a little building block.  Over time all those little building blocks construct a new normal. Both of us began to climb out of the darkness and see the sun.  Evan returned to sports the next year.  He became a captain of the high school swimming team and traveled to the state championships in his last two years of high school.  And he was on the varsity Lacrosse team for 3 years.  Because of everything he experienced thru Hospicare, and how it took care of his mom in those last days, he dedicated himself to working in healthcare and is now studying to become a nurse at Utica College

Does all of this mean I’m done grieving Ann?  No. I think about her every day. There are still times when I would wonder and wish why she would walk in the room to share something with me. There are a thousand little things that remind me of her constantly. You never get over this kind of loss; you just make friends with the ghosts and be happy with the memories.

More people need to understand what Hospicare is doing in the community. It’s an incredible organization that provides a safety net for people like me. It’s part of what makes this area such a good place to call home. That’s why I tell my story here.  Evan and I have volunteered for the past two years now during “Women Swimming for Hospicare”, and we feel good about giving back to the organization that gave so much to us.

Even though you may not have known it, the support you give to Hospicare meant you were supporting myself and Evan and the many families during the most difficult time of our lives. Thank you.

Ann was recently honored at the University of South Carolina.

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services Receives Major Gift to Grow Palliative Care in Cortland and Tompkins Counties

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services Executive Director Kim De Rosa announced today the community’s access to palliative care services throughout Cortland and Tompkins Counties will increase substantially thanks to a major gift from the estate of a local resident. The $100,000 donation will be used by Hospicare to establish the Tapan Mitra Fund for Palliative Care and the Tapan Mitra Endowment for Palliative Care.

“Palliative care can make a world of difference for patients and their families, and the research backs that up,” said De Rosa. “Hospicare is launching a major effort to expand and grow our popular program, ensuring that all who can benefit from palliative care know where to turn. We are immensely grateful for this transformational gift and the opportunity to partner with an incredible family to make a significant difference in our community.”

Cornell University professor Tapan Mitra, a leading economic theorist, died of cancer in February. At the time of his passing, his care was coordinated by Hospicare. Dr. Mitra directed that a portion of his estate be used to support education, the environment and cancer services. This gift to Hospicare was administered by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

“Professor Mitra was grateful and impressed at the quality of care he received from Hospicare in his final days,” said Aveek Majumdar, his nephew. “He would have been heartened that part of his legacy will allow others in the community to benefit from the organization’s further expansion to palliative care services.”

“Dr. Mitra’s charitable gift to support strong partnerships and to publicize the benefits of palliative care will provide comfort and compassionate care to many people well into the future. “We are proud to offer this leadership opportunity for Hospicare, and are especially grateful to our donor who makes it possible for local quality of care programs to thrive,” said George Ferrari, Community Foundation CEO. “These planned gifts become a meaningful force in local philanthropy.”

Palliative care specializes in relieving the symptoms and stress of serious illness. Symptoms may be physical, emotional, or spiritual, and the goal is to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care may be appropriate at any point in an illness, from diagnosis on, and – unlike hospice–?it can be provided at the same time as curative treatments. 

The Tapan Mitra Fund for Palliative Care will provide the financial resources to cultivate strong partnerships with the region’s medical communities, and to provide Hospicare’s service area (Tompkins and Cortland Counties) with education and information about the benefits of palliative care and its interdisciplinary approach. Interest earnings from the Tapan Mitra Endowment for Palliative Care will provide funds in perpetuity for outreach and marketing efforts.

Since 2017, Hospicare’s PATH (Palliative Approach To Health) program has served hundreds of patients and families. Each of its approximately 70 patients have access to a nurse who assists with symptom management, coordination of care, and finding community resources to help with individual needs. In 2020, PATH will expand in both staff and scope, providing patients even more hands-on, focused care.

Palliative care programs have proven an effective addition to the overall care for serious illness, reducing pain and other distressing symptoms. The programs also increase patient and family/caregiver satisfaction with their care and make transitions between hospitals and other care settings easier. Numerous studies have shown that palliative care improves patients’ quality of life, decreases depression and anxiety, saves patients from unnecessary hospitalizations and tests, and even prolongs life.

Dr. Mitra’s passion for the community and for education drove him to make significant philanthropic gifts, both during and after his life. In 2016, Dr. Mitra established endowments to offer prizes for economics students at Cornell and the University of Rochester.  This past summer, a gift to the Finger Lakes Land Trust administered by Community Foundation established the Tapan Mitra Preserve.

This donation is the second-largest single private gift in Hospicare’s 36-year history. 

Warm greetings to Hospicare’s new board members

With the start of 2019, Hospicare & Palliative Care Services was thrilled to welcome three new members to its Board of Directors:

Rev. Tim Dean is the Director of Spiritual Care at Cayuga Medical Center, where he has worked since 2007. Tim is chair of the CMC Ethics Committee and serves on the Palliative Care Team. Tim’s faith, rooted in evangelical Christianity, has grown into an ecumenism that celebrates all people and welcomes all faiths. He describes himself as “a Baptist with some Buddhist leanings.” Tim’s personal interests include outdoor pursuits, especially on Cayuga Lake (paddling, fishing, sailing). Tim occasionally works as an instructor/facilitator for Cornell Outdoor Education to bring balance to his work at the hospital.

Michael Kilmer, a lifelong resident of Cortland county, is Executive Director of the Elizabeth Brewster House, a licensed adult care facility for up to 45 residents.  He holds an undergraduate degree in Therapeutic Recreation from SUNY Cortland, and a masters in social policy from SUNY Empire State University. Happily married with two children, Michael and prides himself on his work in the community, including serving on the Board of Education for Homer Central Schools, on the board of the Hospice Foundation of Cortland County, and with a variety of other committees and councils.

Dr. Kathryn Rooth completed her Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Residency at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts.  After residency, she started working as a Hospitalist at Cayuga Medical Center and as an Urgent Care Pediatrician.  She has been involved with the Palliative Care team at CMC and is passionate about end of life care in the developmentally disabled. For the past several years, Kathryn has participated in Women Swimmin’ where her husband and 3 children cheer her on. 

Members of the Board of Directors are some of the many volunteers who choose to help Hospicare each year. Volunteers serve on committees, assist with office work, volunteer at special events and – of course – work directly with patients and families in their homes or in our residence. Each individual is critical to our work to broaden Hospicare’s community reach in Tompkins and Cortland County, helping to ensure all who desire and need our services have access to them.

Thank you!

For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Volunteer Manager Wendy Yettru at 607.272.0212 or wyettru@hospicare.org.

Hospice Foundation of Cortland County

The Hospice Foundation of Cortland County exists to provide comfort to people with life limiting illnesses, encouraging and supporting them and their families to live and experience each day fully.

In 2014, The Hospice Foundation of Cortland County and Hospicare & Palliative Care Services joined forces, and the partnership supports and promotes hospice services throughout Cortland County.

Dr. Pat Hayes has come to the end of his 6-year term as a board member for The Hospice Foundation of Cortland County. During his tenure, Pat was a member of the Buildings and Grounds committee, and also served as president for a year-long term.

“Pat has been a wonderful addition to our board with his medical background and compassion for endorsing Hospice in Cortland County,” said board president Barb Closson. “He is always willing to help out, and quick to say ‘I can take care of that’!”

The Hospice Foundation of Cortland County board is also welcoming back Gail Van Patten – a “super” volunteer who has already served two previous 6-year terms.

“Gail’s commitment to hospice is very clear,” said Barb Closson. “She is very grateful that she was able to utilize hospice services when she needed it for her family and recognizes the need for services in Cortland County.”

For more information about the Hospice Foundation of Cortland County, please visit https://hospicare.org/cortland-foundation/

Pictured are 2019 Hospice Foundation of Cortland County Members: Back row: Michael Kilmer, Gail Van Patten (Vice President), Bill Hopkins, Dianne Higgins (Treasurer), Kathy Boyland, Seated: Suzanne Riley, Barb Closson (President), Bev Ryan and Nancy Fuller.

My Gratitude for Mom and Muggsy…and You

These past few months have been some of our family’s most difficult. But in many ways, they have also been some of our best. As we head into the holidays — a hard time for many of us as we cope with memories of loved ones — I want to share my story with you, my Hospicare family.

My mom — known as Ruthie to all who loved her — lived a long, good life. An amazing, supportive mother to my brother and me, mom enjoyed spoiling her grandkids and great-grandkids.

Playing bridge, bowling, and a series of Boston terriers (all named Muggsy) kept her smiling and laughing. She was so committed to Syracuse University sports that she refused to consider giving up her season tickets until she was in her mid-90s. To support her beloved Orangemen, she never left a game before the final buzzer, no matter how painfully lopsided the score.

Mom enjoyed scotch and martinis. In fact, an extra-dry martini, straight up with a twist, was one of the last pleasures she enjoyed at Hospicare, thanks to the rapid and kind assistance of the staff of Northside Wine & Spirits in Ithaca. 

Last spring, at 98 years old, mom’s health began to decline. She and our family made the decision together to move her to Hospicare for her final days. In the residence, she could still be close to us while being cared for in a quiet, calm, supportive environment. The decision made a huge difference in her quality of life and in the quality of time our family had with her. Instead of worrying about logistics and details, we were able to focus on her and on us and on building happy final memories.

As a board member and the chair of our Development & Community Relations committee, I’m often in a position to talk about why I give to Hospicare. Over the years, I have gotten to see so many amazing examples of philanthropy in action —

We loved being able to dote on mom in the Hospicare residence, where all photos in this post were taken.

but of course, seeing your gifts put to work for my mom and our family brought it home in a striking and vivid way.

When you make a gift to Hospicare, you support patients and their families in many ways. You supply medications and medical equipment to make patients comfortable, and you soothe their souls with music and companionship. You provide meals, personal care and help with household tasks to ease the stress on caregivers. And you offer counseling and spiritual support to patients and bereavement services to their families as they transition to a new chapter in their lives.

Your gifts matter, and I hope you will join me in making a donation to Hospicare before the end of the year. Together, we ensure that every member of our community can live out their final days with peace and dignity, and that their families are emotionally supported through the journey.

I expect my grief will continue long into the new year, but my sadness is tempered by the wonderful laughs and sweet moments my family and I shared with mom in her final few months, thanks to Hospicare… and to you. Thank you!

(Make your end of year gift here, by sending a check to Hospicare, 172 East King Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, or by calling 607-272-0212.)

Mom enjoying the Hospicare grounds with her three grandchildren.

Dale Johnson Announces Retirement

Hospicare Executive Director Dale Johnson announced recently that he will retire March 15, 2019.

Dale has been with Hospicare for nine years after initially accepting an interim position as executive director and we are so grateful for his work. “I did not intend to stay but found myself enjoying the agency, the people, and this community more than I expected,” Johnson said. “So I threw my hat in the ring and was hired as executive director shortly thereafter. It has been an incredible experience for me and a pleasure to work with such good people, the volunteers and dedicated professionals on the clinical and support staff.”

Board President Loren Gardner said a search for a new executive director is underway. “I will miss working with Dale and am grateful for his service over the last several years,” Gardner said. “I am pleased that we will have the benefit of his unique expertise until March. He has done a lot for our community through his work at Hospicare.”

Hospicare and Palliative Care Services provides services in Cortland and Tompkins counties to more than 500 patients and their family members annually.

During Dale’s tenure, he has overseen a complex and shifting state and federal regulatory environment. He has managed substantial agency growth with the 2014 merger of the Cortland County hospice program. In 2018 the Palliative Approach to Health (PATH) program was introduced, significantly expanding access to palliative care services.

Dale’s reputation for advancing the work of hospice and palliative care extends well beyond Cortland and Tompkins counties. He is a founding board member of the Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa that has formed more than 75 partnerships between US and African hospices.

He recently was awarded the 2018 Carol Selinske Founders Award by the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State (HPCANYS) for “outstanding efforts on behalf of hospice and the needs of the terminally ill in New York State.” He has served as HPCANYS chair, vice-chair, board member, and member of several committees. Since 2012, he has been co-chair of the Federal Legislative/Regulatory Committee. Trained as an attorney and as a member of the NYS bar, Dale has provided a legal perspective on pending legislation and is serving on a task force that will propose changes to the state’s regulatory process that leads to adding health care services and facilities.

Hospice Utilization Climbs in Both of the Counties We Serve

Our lives are largely guided by our values, and as an organization, Hospicare is no exception. One of our core values is excellence, which we define, in part, as a commitment to continuous improvement in everything we do. We expect and remain open to change, recognizing that it is inevitable and necessary for all growth. It’s this value that encourages us to take time to assess and reflect on how we’re doing, and it drives us to improve access to and the quality of our services over time.

Whenever we have the chance, we dive deep into data, which can help provide valuable insights, especially when we can compare other similar organizations to our own.

Recently, metrics were shared with us that showed we are growing in a very important area. A newly released Hospice Analytics report of 2016 Medicare data showed that community members who need our hospice services are more successful in finding and accessing them. The measure, which is referred to as “hospice utilization,” is measured by the percentage of Medicare deaths in each county that occurred on hospice services.

The data told an interesting story, and one that we are proud to share with you.  Across our service area, in both Tompkins and Cortland counties, hospice utilization increased between 2015 and 2016.  Tompkins county hospice utilization increased by 3.7% and Cortland county experienced a growth of 3.6%.

While we’re proud of these statistics, and the community relations and outreach work that no doubt contributed to it, we’re more happy that this growth means that more patients and loved ones gained access to our services.

Bottom line: we’re reaching more families in both of the counties we serve.

At the same time, we will not rest on our laurels.  Excelling in the context of hospice utilization in New York State is a great start, but we can always improve. We wouldn’t be embodying our value of excellence without looking to identify where we still have work to do.

One way we could be doing better is by getting involved with patients earlier, which would help introduce families to our services sooner and would increase the quality of life of patients in their final months. Like most New York hospices, our average length of stay is low compared to the national average. And this is where we need your help!

Help us get the word out so our services to reach the people who need them most. Talk to your friends and family about hospice services and the options they have when facing a life-limiting illness. Read more about why it helps to understand palliative care options before you’re sick. Connect with a staff person at Hospicare directly to discuss a patient – family members, friends, neighbors, and even casual acquaintances can make a referral. Additionally, we welcome the opportunity to speak to your group, large or small, about hospice or palliative care services in Tompkins and Cortland county. Email our outreach and communications manager at communcations@hospicare.org or give us a call at 607-272-0212.

Women Swimmin’ 2018 – Thank you!

 

There’s an expression we say in Upstate NY: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.”

The morning of August 11 certainly tested that adage! Changing and uncertain weather conditions brought extra challenges for the 15th annual Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. Rain and wind can’t alter the amazing sense of community that happens at Women Swimmin’, though! Whether they swam or not, boated, volunteered, or just cheered from shore, everyone present was there because they support Hospicare’s mission to provide personalized care that allows patients to live their lives as fully and peacefully as possible, regardless of cost.

Women Swimmin’ is a community swim—not a race—to raise money for Hospicare. We’re always amazed and honored by the way our community comes together to help make Women Swimmin’ happen. The safety of our swimmers and boaters is always paramount in planning and executing Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. We’re fortunate to have a community of experienced and dedicated supporters and volunteers who help refine our safety procedures each year. Huge thanks to all of them, from the volunteers and staff from the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, Community Science Institute and Discover Cayuga Lake who were on alert for harmful algal blooms (HABs), to the Coast Guard Auxiliary and NY State Park police who were on alert for other risks in the water; from the lifeguards, boaters and volunteers who watched out for our swimmers, to emergency personnel from Bangs Ambulance who watched over everyone. This year, especially, we’re grateful for the knowledge and alerts we receive from experts at Cornell Meteorology.

We delayed the start of the swim to see what the weather would do, and thankfully thunderstorms passed us by. The first wave of swimmers excitedly boarded buses that took them to the entry point on the east shore and the swim commenced! Sadly, by mid-morning the weather had changed once again causing the conditions on the lake to deteriorate and forcing the cancellation of the last wave of the swim.

Altogether this year, 389 women registered to fundraise and swim for Hospicare. Some of those women are wives, daughters, sisters, granddaughters or other family members of people who received hospice services. Some of them are friends who joined together to swim and fundraise in memory of a special friend or loved one. Some of our swimmers have personally benefitted from the support our bereavement services team provides anyone in our community who is grieving a loss. Of those 389 women: 32 swam laps across NY and around the country (including 2 who were also boaters!); 288 showed up ready to swim across Cayuga Lake; many had to cancel for health or personal reasons before the lake swim. Some of the swimmers who weren’t able to swim across Cayuga Lake for Women Swimmin’ swam laps in local pools as they thought about loved ones in whose memory they had fundraised. Other swimmers opted to swim in Cayuga Lake or other bodies of water on their own.

Everyone at Hospicare is extremely grateful for the time, commitment and energy all of our swimmers, boaters and volunteers put forth to make Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare possible. Thank you to the friends and family who donated in support of a swimmer, and also to the corporate sponsors and underwriters who covered the expenses associated with the event. We truly could not support our community in all the ways we do without your amazing support.

 

Thank you!