Song Bath with the Threshold Choir

This program was offered by the Hospicare Threshold Choir of Ithaca on February 21, 2021.

The choir members are volunteers at Hospicare. Our volunteers provide assistance to patients and their families in a variety of ways including companionship, respite for caregivers, light housekeeping, and assistance with shopping. This is done in the patient’s home setting or our 6-bed residence on East King Road in Ithaca.  

The Threshold Choir was founded by singer/songwriter Kate Munger in 2000, Threshold Choir International now has over 150 chapters worldwide.

Threshold Choirs sing for people at the threshold of life as well as for their families and friends, in private homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and hospices.  The choir sings in groups of 2 to 4 singers using the instrument that we all have, the human voice, to share songs of comfort and caring. 

Members of the choir are not performers. The choir sings to people who may have different levels of attention and different needs.  They may sing softly and gently to someone who has fallen asleep or someone might sing along with us, requesting songs that have special meaning for  them.  The Threshold Choir does their best to honor wherever they are on their journey.

Since bedside singing is not currently possible, Hospicare’s Threshold Choir is exploring creative ways to share their voices and presence.  The Song Bath focuses on sharing the joy of singing and promoting a feeling of well-being and ease.

We invite you to sit back or lie down, close your eyes, if you would like, and be bathed in songs that soothe the soul.

We hope that you enjoyed listening to our talented choir and that it brought you peace and a sense of calm during this crazy time in the world.  Thank you to all the singers for letting us into their homes and for showing us what magic they can bring to someone in need.   

If you are interested in the Threshold Choir please contact Wendy Yettru at 607-272-0212 or wyetrru@hospicare.org.

Faces of Cortland

By Barry Miller

Team Member Profile: John Hughes, RN

Job Title: Primary RN/Case Manager

Residence: Cortland

Family: Wife Liz, two children (a son who lives locally and a daughter in Norway) and three grandchildren, with one on the way.

New Beginnings on the Horizon: “A current goal is to find a place with more land and barns and get back to having horses again.”

John Hughes knows a thing or two about new beginnings. “I’m kind of all about that,” says John. “I have always thought of life as an adventure and that the only limit is our own courage and imagination.”

Take, for instance, John’s 40-plus years of professional work, in which he has been a commercial truck driver, a blacksmith, an opera singer (“Please don’t ever ask me to sing—it’s long gone!” says John), a marketing/development manager for large hospital systems, a nursing home administrator, a manager for 55 skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities, an owner/operator of a national firm providing clinical and operational consulting services to over 300 health care organizations in 30 states, and an owner/operator of a senior services campus—among other pursuits. “It sounds like I had a lot of trouble keeping a job, doesn’t it?” he jokes.

John’s kind and laid back personality helps put our patients at ease.

Speaking of new beginnings, what advice might John give a prospective Hospicare healthcare worker?

“It depends on what kind of work environment they may be looking for,” John says. “For someone who values autonomy and who is fulfilled by building a true relationship with patients and families over a long term, hospice is great. The reward is helping patients and their families through the final journey. Of course, we have accountability, but each day we are pretty much able to design our day, meaning where we go, who we see, and so forth.”

John with coworkers at the Hospicare six bed residence in Ithaca.

Regarding the unique aspects of hospice patient care, John reflects, “Our patients are as ‘real’ as they come. I have had more real heart-to-heart conversations with patients in the hospice setting than anywhere else. So, if a nurse is looking for this type of setting, Hospicare is a great opportunity.”

Outside of work, John is a board member of Cortland’s Family Health Network, a group of five federally qualified health centers in Cortland and Cayuga counties. John also enjoys gardening and farming their half-acre plot with his wife, Liz, a Cortland native. But perhaps his biggest passion is raising and farming with Belgian draft horses, which he did while living in Ohio. “Let’s call that a retirement goal,” says John.

Wintering and Cold Water Swimming: An Exploration in Radical Self Care During the Pandemic

by Laura Ward, LMFT, CT

“When it’s really cold, the snow makes a lovely noise underfoot, and it’s like the air is full of stars.”

Katherine May

The water is completely still under a brilliant sky, layers of light beneath a canopy of dark clouds. The moon shone brightly above us.  Walking into the lake, I admire the tiny shards of shell glittering on the rocks below, each shard clear and defined in the calm water. As we swim, I can feel the cold reaching all the way to my center, reminding me to just be, to breathe deep. Walking away, I carry the lake within me, calm and shimmering.

I wrote this reflection after completing my second cold water swim in Cayuga lake with my co-worker Sara Worden, Assistant Director of Community Engagement.  Cold water swimming has been shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits and many people engage in the practice regularly. 

I became interested in this practice after reading the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat During Difficult Times by Katherine May, which is the book featured in our upcoming community book discussion. 

In the chapter “Cold Water Swimming”, Katherine talks about the mental health benefits and comradery of cold water swimming. Many people are using cold water swimming to help them cope with the many losses experienced during the pandemic. It’s a safe activity that can help swimmers feel connected to the healing powers of nature and other humans.

Book Discussion: March 4th with Laura Ward via Zoom. Register here.

Then, while talking with Sara, I discovered that she had had just booked American ice, open water and endurance swimmer, Jaimie Monahan, to speak at an upcoming event for the Women Swimmin’ community.  After marveling at the coincidence of our shared interest and the intersection of our upcoming events, we decided to give cold water swimming a try for ourselves and committed to six swims over a two-week period. 

Virtual Presentation: March 18 via Zoom. Register here.

It has been an exhilarating experience and one that has reminded me that I need to continue to stretch out of my comfort zone and look for new ways to stay healthy and care for myself as we approach the year mark of the pandemic and social distancing. To many, this might sound like a rather extreme example of self-care and I agree. 

However, we invite you to join us in reflecting on what you might need to keep going during these challenging times.  We hope that you will be inspired by Katherine May or Jaimie Monahan as you contemplate how to answer this question for yourself.

Advance Care Planning Video

Please enjoy an excerpt from our webinar series.

The webinar series was a partnership between Hospicare & Palliative Care Services, the Bem Endowment at Hospicare, and the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute.

With additional support from the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, the Funeral Consumer Alliance of the Finger Lakes, the Cancer Resource Center, and the Cortland Free Library.

Hospicare uses an interdisciplinary team approach to providing care to patients, families and caregivers in Tompkins and Cortland counties. We provide emotional, medical and spiritual support, and patients have access to care from physicians, nurses, social workers, grief counselors, home health aides and volunteers. It’s never too early to ask questions.

If you have any questions about Advance Care Planning, don’t hesitate to reach out at info@hospicare.org or 607-272-0212.

Hospicare Announces New Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Hospicare & Palliative Care Services is pleased to announce the successful hiring of its 8th Executive Director. Joe Sammons will join the Hospicare team in February. 

“We’re thrilled that Joe has agreed to join Hospicare as our new Executive Director,” said Betsy East, president of the Board of Directors. “Joe has valuable experience leading organizations in the health care arena, is committed to the Hospicare mission, and is a compassionate, strategic and thoughtful leader. We’re looking forward to working together with him and Hospicare’s incredible and dedicated staff and volunteers as we work to provide end-of-life and palliative care to members of our communities.” 

Sammons currently serves as the Executive Director of Challenge Workforce Solutions, the largest provider of training, vocational services and employment for people with disabilities and barriers in Tompkins County. Prior to joining Challenge in 2015, Sammons served as the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes, creating and completing a capital campaign of over $8 million while building new health centers in Hornell, Corning and Ithaca. Under Sammons’ leadership, the agency also implemented electronic medical records while dramatically expanding its education and community outreach programs. 

Sammons has also served as Executive Director of the Geiger-Gibson Community Health Center in Boston and as Assistant VP of Operations for Community Healthcare Network in New York City. Locally, he is involved with several groups, including the Tompkins County Human Services Coalition, the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, the Tompkins County Workforce Development Board, and Ithaca Rotary. 

Sammons and his family live in Ithaca. “I am deeply honored to be invited to lead Hospicare – I am simply in awe of the compassionate, high quality care the agency provides to people in our community, regardless of income or insurance.” said Sammons. “Throughout my career, I’ve been truly blessed to do good work for good people – a description that fits Hospicare really well.  I can’t wait to get started!” 

Sammons succeeds Kimberly De Rosa, who served as Executive Director for Hospicare until September 2020. Joe Mareane, former administrator for Tompkins County, has served as interim Executive Director. 

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services serves residents of Cortland and Tompkins counties. Our hospice team cares for patients’ medical, emotional and spiritual needs so they can more fully enjoy time with loved ones. Our palliative care team cares for people with life-limiting illnesses by relieving the burden of illness, enhancing the quality of life, and fulfilling the patient’s goals for comfort. Finally, we provide bereavement support services to anyone in our service area who is grieving the death of a loved one, whether or not they died on hospice. 

Anyone interested in learning more about our services and programs can call 607-272-0212 during our administrative business hours (M-F, 8:30am-4:30pm). 

A Report of our Work in Cortland and Tompkins Counties

As we turn the final pages of 2020, our thoughts go to all who have struggled with loss. Whether you mourn the death of a beloved friend or family member – or simply the loss of normalcy — this has been a hard year for so many of us.

At Hospicare, we celebrate the nurses, aides, counselors, social workers, and staff who have tended to those whose end-of-life needs and grief did not take a pause for COVID. They donned masks and gloves and gowns, mastered new technologies and techniques to maintain human connections at a distance, and selflessly braved risks to themselves in order to help a person or family in need. 

The good work undertaken by these extraordinary people could not have happened without donor support. Even in less challenging times, nearly one-fifth of Hospicare’s budget is supported with funds given by a generous community—not for frills, but as a means to provide the level of care, dignity, and comfort that has been the hallmark of our agency for over 36 years. 

When you give, you inspire others to give as well, be those gifts of time, talent or treasure. Together, we are creating a community that we can be proud to call home.

To our donors, we say a special thank you. Thanks to our commitment to patient care and our rich community connections, we stretch every donated dollar as far as it can go.  As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

On behalf of all the patients and families we serve, and on behalf of Hospicare’s staff who have not let the challenges of 2020 get in the way, we offer our thanks and gratitude. You make a difference, and our online report is how it shows.

Safe and happy holidays to you and yours,
Joe Mareane
Hospicare Interim Executive Director

Winter Solace Community Memorial

Although we could not be together in person, our virtual memorial on December 6th was incredibly moving and we thank everyone who participated, either by attending or by sending in names of loved ones.
 

For the first part of the memorial we took advantage of Zoom technology and broke out into small groups for intimate conversations in breakout room. We were honored that so many people choose to open up and share both their joy and sorrows.  We offered tips on how to cope with the upcoming holidays and participants shared stories of how we are choosing to remember our loved ones this year.

We’ve created a short video for those who weren’t able to join us.  Please enjoy our memorial video which features the wonderful music of Travis Knapp and a slideshow memorializing the community’s loved ones.

Always remember, Hospicare is here for you. The holidays are not going to be the same this year but know that you are in our thoughts. May peace and grace find you in the New Year.  

In Gratitude…

This time of year we traditionally gather with friends and family. That may look a little different this year, but we can still cultivate gratitude in our hearts. 

November is also National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time to pay special recognition to the work done every day by these skilled individuals, whose dedication to Hospicare’s mission has withstood even a global pandemic.

The story of Norma Helsper (as told in the video below) highlights the continuous service our interdisciplinary team has provided to all those that need our care in our community. 

We also wish to honor those advocates, volunteers, referral partners, and donors whose support sustains the good work of Hospicare. We thank YOU for all the many ways you support Hospicare!

Support through the Seasons

Tools for Navigating Grief and the Holidays during COVID

At this point it’s clear, the pandemic will change many of the ways in which we celebrate the upcoming holiday season. We usually associate the holidays with being “joyful” or “merry,” gathering with family and friends, giving gifts, and engaging in festivities and traditions. This year we will need to consider how our celebrations will need to change in order to keep ourselves and our friends, family, and community safe.  

We will naturally feel some grief as we reassess what parts of the holiday we can still create and what aspects we will need to modify significantly or discard all together.  Grief can manifest in many ways, and it’s important to acknowledge its impact on our physical and emotional health as the holidays progress.

Hospicare is providing support to the community at this unusual time. Programs are free and all are welcome! To RSVP for programs or for questions call 607-272-0212 or email events@hospicare.org.  Held online via Zoom. Login details will be provided after registration. Register for programs at least 2 days before event.

Winter Solace Community Memorial: Sunday, December 6. Join us at 7pm for fellowship and conversation and stay for a memorial service. Or come at 7:30pm for the program of remembrance. All in our community who are grieving, regardless of whether your loved one died on Hospicare’s services, are welcome to stop by for a time of remembrance during the busy holiday season.

Coping with the Holidays: Wednesday, December 9, 5:30-7pm. Holiday time can be especially difficult after the death of a loved one. Learn about ways to take care of yourself and honor your feelings as we head into the holiday season. Includes a presentation followed by a discussion and support group.

Yoga for Grief: Thursday, January 7, 5-6:15pm. Start the new year with self-care! Enjoy a gentle and peaceful yoga practice with Jody Kessler. No experience necessary.

Fall / Winter 2020 Newsletter

Our newsletter is out! The theme is creativity and it’s a testament to the incredible work our staff does everyday. Its pages are filled with examples of their adaptability, resiliency, and commitment to providing exceptional care, even in the most challenging of times.