2023 marks Hospicare’s 40th Anniversary! All year long we will be honoring 40 years of care while working to ensure the future.
We have an important announcement for our community!
40 years ago, a group of concerned citizens, seeing a need in our community, formed Hospicare as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Ever since that day, our community has helped keep it going, making it possible for Hospicare to provide tender hospice nursing and counseling care, palliative support, and bereavement services to thousands of people in this region.
Today there are challenges–powerful system and economic forces–like exploding healthcare staffing costs, for-profit hospice providers that make huge profits by providing less care, inflation, and the pandemic’s disruption of the healthcare system.
Today there are also wonderful opportunities for friends and supporters of Hospicare to ensure a strong future of care for all who need it.
In this, our 40th year, we ask for your participation to help us tell our inspiring story and help us strengthen Hospicare:
Share your story – Are you a volunteer, grateful family member, or staff member with a story to tell? We would love to hear from you. Fill out this form or call Sara Worden at 607-272-0212.
Follow us on social media and like or share our posts!
Donate – As the area’s only nonprofit hospice, we rely on the generosity of donors like you. Donate today or contact Emily Hopkins about including Hospicare in your Planned Giving.
Swim – 2023 marks Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare’s 20th swim!! 300+ amazing, brave, strong, resilient, badass women will swim across the lake to raise money for patient and family care. Will you be among them, or will you sponsor a swim?
Attend an event – Stay tuned for ways to honor this milestone!
With the 40th anniversary of the founding of Hospicare coming up in 2023, I thought this might be the perfect time to offer a little history of the organization, with a focus on its residence.
Recognizing an unmet need
In the early 1970s, soon after Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ best-selling book On Death and Dying was published in 1969, there rose up a national conversation about the advantages of home care for the dying over treatment in institutional settings. In Tompkins County, the county’s Health Planning Committee convened a group of concerned citizens and others involved in the health care community to discuss local programs for the terminally ill. The group discovered there were no services in the area that focused on the issues of the dying. In response to that vacuum, Nina Miller and Anne Costello co-founded Hospicare in 1981 to meet the needs of terminally ill patients in their homes. Then, in June 1983, Hospicare was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization.
Initially, the Hospicare’s board hired just one nurse to provide information and support services to terminally ill patients and their loved ones. As the program grew, more staff and services were added. In 2002 the agency changed its name to Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County, Inc. Today the organization’s 40 employees and nearly 100 volunteers serve patients and families in both Tompkins and Cortland Counties.
A first in the state
In the early 1990s, the idea of a residence was born. The intent was to make available three new services: respite assistance for home caregivers who find the strain of caring for a dying person momentarily too great; transitional care for terminal patients who are being moved from hospital to home care; and a home for those who are dying but cannot be cared for in their own homes.
There was a roadblock, however, to opening one: New York State law, at the time, didn’t allow for residential hospice facilities. And so, Hospicare staff and volunteers lobbied Albany legislators to change the law. They succeeded in getting legislation passed that allowed “the provision of hospice care in a hospice residence … to provide hospice care to between three and eight patients at one time who otherwise do not have a suitable home or caregiver in order to receive hospice case in their own home.”
Opened to patients in 1995, Hospicare’s Nina K. Miller Hospice Residence (named after the agency’s founder and first director) was the first certified freestanding residential facility in New York State. It sits on more than 11 acres on South Hill in Ithaca and offers six private rooms with views of the extensive gardens, pond, and countryside, meals, activities, and staff on site 24 hours a day.
Services at the residential facility
A recent snapshot of care in the facility: One patient, a mentally alert widower, enjoys taking slow walks in the residence with his walker and a volunteer at his side. He tells stories about his life—his struggles and his accomplishments. His grown children visit nearly every day to sit with him and talk for a bit. In quiet moments, he gazes out at the chipmunks and birds that populate his balcony. Another patient, with advanced dementia, was frightened at first when she was brought to live at the residence, but now she is often relaxed and cheerful, enjoying the warmth of the aides and nurses and volunteers, enjoying having lotion rubbed into her feet, enjoying the soup lunches and the comfortable bed. Another patient, who has a painful condition that seriously limits her mobility, is grateful for the constant care, the pain medication, and the careful attention that is paid to her various food allergies and aversions. Every patient is visited regularly by the spiritual care coordinator, Edie Reagan, and by Hospicare’s medical director, Dr. Lucia Jander, as well as by social workers.
The hospice way of thinking is to provide pain management, symptom control, and emotional and spiritual counseling in a warm, supportive environment via a care team, both for patients living in the Hospicare residence and for patients living in nursing homes or their own homes. Care for patients’ families and other loved ones is also a big part of hospice. Advice, help with planning, medical education, and bereavement support are all mainstays of Hospicare’s work.
The residential unit is a private-pay facility that is separate from any other institution in the region. While private insurance, managed care providers, Medicare, and Medicaid will pay for the medical services provided, residents pay for the room, board, and custodial care, which is currently set at $350 per day. But there is a generous sliding-scale, and Hospicare never turns away patients for inability to pay. In fact, Hospicare provides so much charitable care and fee reductions that it relies heavily on gifts from the community to make up the difference each year. It is generous donations from individuals and foundations that make it possible for Hospicare to offer bereavement services to the community and hospice care for all who need it, regardless of finances.
Jane Baker Segelken, MA, MSW, is part of the Social Work team at Hospicare & Palliative Care Services. 607-272-0212; hospicare.org
Want to Make a Difference? Become a Hospice Volunteer!
Volunteers are an essential part of the hospice team; both in assisting our patients and families and in assisting our staff. Hospicare & Palliative Care Services is looking for:
• Volunteers to help assist our staff in the Ithaca office answering phones and greeting visitors • Volunteers to assist patients with advanced illness and supporting their families, especially in Cortland County • Volunteers to assist our patients in our Residence on King Road in Ithaca
The next volunteer training will be a hybrid of self-paced on-line training modules as well as meeting on Zoom with other attendees to discuss and learn more about hospice. The Zoom meetings are scheduled for 4 evenings; which trainees need to plan on attending all sessions. The dates are: 2/21/23, 2/28/23, 3/7/23, 3/14/23.
Each session is from 5:00pm – 8:00pm.Volunteers are thoroughly trained in the goals and philosophy of hospice and the compassionate care we offer our patients. Volunteers help provide our patients and families with respite, companionship, light housekeeping, assistance with errands and reading aloud, as well as provide support in our 6-bed Residence on King Road in Ithaca. We provide services in both Tompkins and Cortland Counties.
Once your application is received the Manager of Volunteer Services, Wendy Yettru, will contact you to set up an interview. If you have any further questions, please contact Wendy Yettru at 607-272-0212.
“Animals aren’t judgmental, they don’t care what you look like, what you sound like, who you are. They reduce anxiety and heart rate, and they ease depression,” explains Hospicare volunteer Janet Gray, who directs Cornell University Veterinary College’s Cornell Companion Program. The program, which marks its 25thyear in 2023, makes regular visits to 14 care facilities and group residences in the Ithaca area, including Hospicare. Janet visits Hospicare with her Golden Retriever Eve.
“During the pandemic,” Janet says, “Hospicare was one of the only places besides Longview, to allow our visits. “The dogs even went on Zoom meetings with residents of Longview.
Each of the 14 facilities regularly visited by Cornell Companion animals and handlers has a team lead. Hospicare’s team lead is Marg Pough, owner of four adorable Border Terriers whom she brings to Hospicare: DJ, Devlin, Pipit, and Avery. Janet marvels at how in tune with humans many companion animals can be. “Many of them seem to know which people want a snuggle, which just want a quick pat.”
Anne Robbins, a retired school nurse and Montessori school administrator, regularly visits Hospicare with her mild-mannered Goldendoodle, Ruby. Hospicare can expect at least one visit a week from a companion animal and his or her human.
Cornell Companion’s program currently boasts 40 volunteer humans and 40+companion animals, including an owl named Luna and a llama named Breakfast. Each animal must pass a rigorous test of their ability to stay calm, not react to canes and wheelchairs and walkers, and to let people—including children and the elderly—pet them awkwardly or heavily.
Before she had Eve, Janet used to bring Ace, also a Golden Retriever (she’s owned Golden Retrievers for the past 40 years).
“There was a wonderful lady who lit up every time Ace and I visited,” Janet remembers.
“She had a box of dog treats on her nightstand. Ace would put his paws on her bed so she could pet him. She delighted in talking about her dogs from childhood and how she missed them while she stoked Ace’s head and ears. Ace closed his eyes while she talked and petted him. At the end of our visit, Ace gladly received a dog treat from her. We visited her for many months at Hospicare until one day when we arrived, we found her room empty. We later found out that she had improved and was moved to another facility.”
“Cornell Companion dogs have been visiting our residence for many years now, where so many patients as well as staff have benefited from the comfort they bring ” says Wendy Yettru, Hospicare’s Manager of Volunteer Servies. “One of my favorite memories was of one our patients who was blind and bedbound and the dog that was visiting was placed in the bed gently next to him. This patient was non-verbal, but the smile that came across his face as he embraced the dog was incredible!”
By Kathy Lucas, Holistic Movement Coach, Dancer, and Steel Club Specialist
Dance had always been a home that I could retreat to in times of joy, frustration, hope and healing. It has given me permission to explore the pit of inner crises and became my personal processing tool that had no rules or filters. I cherish this relationship, which is why it felt like a dagger to my heart when the keys to my “home” didn’t quite open the door after I lost my father.
I thought, “I just need to find my way back to my body. I need to move this grief through. I’ll find some relief!” But grief grounded me into recognizing that this significant loss required a slow and more contemplative approach to moving with the grief patterns than I had and have experienced. During the beginning months of my loss, I felt heavy, sleepy, exhausted, devastated, weepy, and totally unmotivated. As an intuitive, active, sensitive, curious person, I felt as if something swooped in, pushed the “old me” out, and set up shop as a completely diﬀerent being. I struggled for months thinking that there was something wrong with me. The pain of losing my father felt so immense. How could I snap back and pick up from where I left oﬀ? How could I get back to work, back to socializing, back to projects, and perhaps most genuinely, how could I make my way back into dance?
With so much change in my life, my journey of exploring ways to heal through dance would convey that this grief had a lot to teach me. I started to observe and journal some of the physical sensations that would surface through moments of grief and grieving. I’d give myself permission to sit, breathe, or move with them in ways that felt organic to my process. Some days I couldn’t move an inch! All that was needed was to acknowledge what was true and observe the shapes or postures that my body was trying to reveal—an honoring of sorts. The body is wise, and when we take time to become aware of how we hold ourselves, move, walk, sit or even interact with others, we have an opportunity to enter greater clarity of what may or may not need to be expressed. Through greater awareness, I have found that I can have compassion for my grief journey. I’m learning to be patient and walk beside her vs running from her.
The more aware I become, the stronger my desire to use movement to chisel away at the heaviness of loss. Experimenting with moving through space manifested as a sort of “clearing.” It has given me a connection to release and hope. Megan Devine, author of It’s OK That You’re Not OK writes, “Your pain needs space to unfold.” This struck me to my core and prompted me to ask, “How much space do you give yourself to grieve?” With this prompt, I started to map out the physical space that I’ve honestly allowed myself to grieve. The space was an outline of my body! Why? Pressure. Pressure that our society places on us to “return to normal; get back to it; move on. But with loss, we change, so there is no going back. We learn a new identity, and this learning process takes time, space, patience, and love.
As I continue to allow for more space to grieve, I give myself more freedom to move and dance through the textures, shapes, gestures and stories of grief and loss. And through this experiment, an extension of love that I have for my father grows between us, building space and opening the doors to dance again.
My upcoming workshop, which will be held outdoors on the Hospicare grounds, focuses on introspection as it relates to static energy of the body, mind, and spirit. We’ll bring awareness to stored tension and the manifestations of grief in the body by exploring breath work, gestures, physical shapes, movement pathways and verbal expression. “The body says what the words cannot” -Martha Graham. Registration is required by September 14th. REGISTER HERE. For more information contact the Bereavement staﬀ via phone at 607-272-0212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feeling, Honoring and Releasing Our Stories of Grief: Using Dance and Movement as a Healing Landscape
Facilitator: Kathy Lucas
Date: Monday, September 19, 2022 Time: 5:30 p.m.-7:00 pm
Location: Hospicare & Palliative Care Services, 172 E. King Road, Ithaca, NY
Ebru Arslan joined Hospicare this fall as our Senior Director of Finance and Administration and is already making great strides in improving our systems. Ebru, inspired by our services, says “it is a mission with people at heart of the organization and I am proud to be part of the endeavor!”
Ebru was born in Turkey and came to the United States in 2000 as an international student and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Economics from CUNY Brooklyn College.
Having held both HR and Finance Director positions in New York City for about two decades, Ebru was seeking an opportunity to apply her many skills to a worthy-mission. In order to fulfill her dream, she moved upstate and proudly dedicated the last years of her career as the CFO of a local non-profit organization serving the community of Ithaca.
“I am looking forward to serving Hospicare,” says Ebru. “For every single aspect of the financial and administrative operation supports the agency’s services and ensures a graceful transition for patients and their families.”
In her free time, Ebru enjoys gardening, baking, and helping her parents with their projects. She also studied Islamic calligraphy and likes doing arts and crafts.
One of our most trusted and loved volunteers crossed the Rainbow Bridge this spring. Follensby, a beautiful Golden Retriever was a frequent visitor to the Hospicare residence for the past 10 years. Follensby loved being a visitor to the Hospicare and it is with a heavy heart we say “goodbye”.
“Follensby was a sweet dog who brought a lot of smiles to patients, families and staff at Hospicare” said Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services. “His is a sweet story that highlights not only the joy that our patients and families get from volunteers, but also the joy that the volunteers get from their work as volunteers.”
Deb, Follensby’s owner, reminisces that “When we visited the Hospicare residence, once I put a bandana on him, he knew he had a job to do and that he was going somewhere special. When we were within a mile or so of the residence, he started getting excited, and when we arrived, he would stop for nothing on the way to the door. He also knew the residents were his priority, so he would head there first. But if anyone on the way wanted him to, he loved to lean against them while he was petted.”
Deb also remembers a time years ago when they met a little boy who was visiting his mom at the residence. The little boy was eating fig newtons and asked if he could share them with Follensby. Of course, Deb said yes and they sat there for a while munching fig newtons together. It was a beautiful moment where a dog was able provide comfort to a child who was likely going through a sad and confusing time.
Follensby also kept Deb company as she sewed memory pillows and bears for our patients as part of her “Folly Bears” volunteer project. We are so thankful for her generosity and are pleased that Deb believes that it “was one of the most rewarding volunteer tasks I’ve ever done.”
Follensby’s and Deb’s visits were always a bright spot, for our patients and families but also for the Hospicare staff. He was a bundle of joy and you couldn’t help but smile and be joyful when he was around. We are incredibly thankful to Deb for sharing him with Hospicare all these years.
“All of us in the development area are so sad. He was such a beautiful boy and we enjoyed it so much when he came to visit us. I have thought about him often over the past year. He brought a smile to everyone’s face whenever he made his rounds. I was happy to have a treat for him for sharing his big heart and soft furry body with all of us here. He will be missed but is now in a better place and running wild, I’m sure.”
Terry taney, Hospciare community engagement coordinator
Much research has been done about the therapeutic benefits of writing, something I can attest to from personal experience.
My interest in expressive writing began many years ago when I first started keeping an informal journal and wrote about some of my life’s more difficult experiences. While participating in a writing circle, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. Rather than dropping out of the group I continued, directing much of my time to writing about my journey. To my surprise, I discovered how much better I felt writing and then reading what I had written out loud. Building upon what I learned, I have facilitated numerous writing programs over the years, including several for grieving Hospicare family members.
The Value of Therapeutic Writing
Researchers James W. Pennebaker, Joshua Smyth, and others have shown that recording experiences involving traumatic events, such as illness, care giving, and loss, can help people restore their emotional and physical health. Some individuals report that even their blood pressure drops.
When referring to this type of narrative writing, various terms are used interchangeably: therapeutic writing, expressive writing, reflective writing, and writing to heal. What people mean when they use any of the terms is writing deep thoughts and feelings about stressful events.
Therapeutic writing allows us to process, understand, and resolve the traumatic experience — to gain insight into our feelings and emotions while gaining distance and perspective.
The most important thing to remember here is that participants do not need to be “writers.” The goal is to write, and it is perfectly acceptable to explore topics other than those I suggest. To be efficacious, participants should plan to attend all four sessions.
The sessions are structured so that each may include a short guided meditation; the reading of a story, poem, or essay; 20 to 45 minutes of writing; and 20 to 45 minutes of reading out loud. Writing by longhand or typing makes no difference in outcome, and participants should write in whatever mode they feel comfortable.
So that everyone feels safe and secure, everything that is said or done in the room stays in the room — complete confidentiality is mandatory. Participants may not comment on each other’s reading other than to say “thank you” to ensure that no one receives feedback that isn’t what he or she expects to hear and that there are no negative feelings. The sessions are not designed to offer counseling.
The goal is to begin to get your thoughts on paper not to end the workshop with finished pieces. It’s a beginning … a chance to start exploring your personal experience in a way that makes sense to you in a safe and supportive environment.
Hospicare is pleased to announce that Sara Worden has stepped into a new role as Director of Development and Community Relations! Sara has more than ten years of experience in community-facing service, relationship-building, and event coordination here in our region, the last three years here in Hospicare, where she has cultivated valuable relationships with providers and human service partners.
Sara has a unique and authentic vision for a future where Hospicare is more interconnected with our community and its values, and grounded in a place of gratitude and hope. Sara says “I’ve loved working at Hospicare and I’m excited to serve our community in this new capacity! I look forward to strengthening our relationships in the community to ensure a long lasting and thriving organization that provides kindhearted care to Cortland and Tompkins counties. Don’t hesitate to reach out at any time with questions or ideas for collaboration!”