Hospicare’s Four Legged Companions

The story of Follensby and the Fig Newtons

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

Writing Your Loss

By Jane Baker Segelken MA, MSW

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.

Jane Baker Segelken will facilitate this four week writing program to enable bereaved to tell their story, explore their unique circumstances and use words to heal. Wednesday, Mondays, Oct 18, 25, November 1 and 8, 6:00-8:00pm. 

The Sessions

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.

Register here.

Sara Worden Takes on a New Role at Hospicare 

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!”

You are invited to join Sara and Joe Sammons for virtual open office hours on Zoom. Tuesday, September 14, 4-5pm. Sara can be reached at sworden@hospicare.org or 607-272-0212.

The Beauty of What Remains

By Rebecca Schillenback

What is left when someone we love has gone from our sight?  What remains when a beloved person has died?  What will be left of us, after we are gone?  Can beauty be found in what remains?

In his book The Beauty of What Remains, Rabbi Steve Leder offers a gentle meditation upon these questions.  Drawing from the lessons he has gleaned from his years as the senior rabbi of one of the largest synagogues in the world, Leder’s many miles spent walking with people ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ have led him to understand that it is actually death that can show us how to live and love more deeply.  With great compassion, Leder approaches the loss and grief that visit us because of death, and asks us to consider what gifts and opportunities might also be found there. 

Of course, it’s so understandable to wish for a life without the losses and griefs of death.  But Leder suggests that if such a wish were granted, while we could gain time and safety to a degree that is almost incomprehensible, we would also paradoxically lose something urgent and precious that defines our very humanity and propels us to love.   In the end, Leder proposes that it is precisely the urgency of love, and the preciousness of what and who we love about living, that are an indelible quality of being human, and of the beauty of what remains when death has taken someone we love from us.

All of the great spiritual traditions wrestle with the reality of our human finitude, and give voice to our many responses to the given-ness of our mortal condition.  Many stories, songs, poems, faiths, philosophies, hypotheses, and cosmologies have been crafted by our spiritual ancestors and by our contemporaries, through the millennia and modernity, to grapple with our shared condition.  Steve Leder’s book is another lovely offering in this long tradition.  Please join us as we explore this gentle book, and use Leder’s reflections as our guide for creating and connecting with ‘the beauty of what remains.’  

Book Discussion: The Beauty of What Remains, by Steve Leder

This event will include an interactive discussion of the book, The Beauty of What Remains.  Rebecca Schillenback will lead us through an exploration of spirituality, grief and what can be learned from this book. Held via Zoom. Registration is required by September 20th. For more information contact the Bereavement staff via phone at 607-272-0212 or send an email. Login details will be provided after registration.

The Nature Conservancy Reports on Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare

Swimmin’ to a Clean Water Future in the Finger Lakes

By Liz Galst, Communications Manager, New York Marketing and Communications

Phosphorous and nitrogen pollution pose a threat to the region’s water quality. Here’s what we’re doing to help—and how you can take part.

The health of the lake has a big impact on the health of our organization and our ability to deliver services.

SARA WORDEN
Hospicare Acting Director of Development and Community Relations

Welcome to our New Board Members

Hospicare is pleased to announce that three new members have joined our board of directors.  Please join us in welcoming Aloja Aierewele, Jerry Dietz, and Laurie Mante!

“Of all the ways that community members give to Hospicare, the gift of time is perhaps the most selfless,” said Executive Director Joe Sammons. “We are so grateful that Aloja, Jerry and Laurie have decided to offer their time, skills, and expertise to our organization’s mission of providing compassionate care to Cortland and Tompkins counties. Together, we are Hospicare — and we are so fortunate to welcome three new board members who demonstrate such care and commitment to the spirit and mission of Hospicare.”

Left to right: Laurie Mante, Aloja Aierewele, Jerry Dietz

Laurie Mante is the executive director of Kendal at Ithaca. She came to the Ithaca area in 2019 after spending 28 years in various leadership positions in aging services in the Albany, New York area. Laurie’s professional experience includes numerous roles with nursing homes, assisted living, and adult day services, as well as four years as the executive director of the community hospice. Laurie has a passion for quality hospice and palliative care services that are rooted in personal and professional experiences. Laurie lives in Lansing with her husband Tom and daughter Mary Kate.

Aloja Aiereweleis is a human service professional with a medical background. Trained in pastoral ministry, Aloja has worked with nonprofit organizations for 15 years to help individuals and families live stable and productive lives. He is currently the Energy Warriors program coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Aloja is the recipient of the Jane Y. Hartz Outstanding Human Service Worker Award, which honors a frontline worker whose dedicated efforts make a real and measurable difference in the everyday health and wellbeing of the people served.

Jerry Dietz graduated from Ithaca College in 1975.  He has owned and operated CSP Management, a real estate management firm in Ithaca, since 1990.  Prior to that, Jerry was the owner-chef of two restaurants in Ithaca, Ragmann’s and The Other Side.

Jerry has enjoyed serving on the boards of numerous local, mission-based organizations. Most recently, he served for two years as board president at the Cancer Resource Center. He also served as a board member and past board chair for the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, and served on the advisory board for the Friends of Ithaca College. He is active with the local synagogue, Temple Beth-El, where he has been the long-time house chair and is a past president.

Jerry married his wife, Margaret, in 2017.  As part of the lead-up to their wedding ceremony, they held a day of service at Hospicare in which family and friends spent a day painting and cleaning up the grounds at the residence.  Because of that event, they became aware of a Hospicare “wish list” item to have a gazebo constructed on the grounds. In 2018, with the help and generosity of family and many friends in the community, they were delighted to make that wish a reality.  In October of 2018, they dedicated the newly constructed gazebo in memory of Margaret’s mother, Mary Overslaugh, who received care at the Hospicare residence in the final three months of her life.

To view the complete list of board members, visit our website: https://www.hospicare.org/why-hospicare/about-us/meet-the-staff/

Collaboration between Hospicare and Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services and the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (CRCFL) both share a common goal to be accessible to diverse populations throughout our community. CRCFL supports people living with and affected by cancer and Hospicare provides end-of-life care and grief support. Both are nonprofits serving several counties in central New York. 

Throughout the year, we’ve connected faith leaders with our resources through programming such as webinars, and promotional outreach via digital and print materials. Perhaps most valuable, are the two Community Conversations that we hosted with faith leaders. Our goals were to listen to the needs of the faith leaders and to help bridge the gap between faith and healthcare. 

“Hospicare is proud to be a part of the ecosystem of organizations committed to a better, more just world, from health care to human services to the arts to the environment and so many more.  That ecosystem – so vital to our survival as a people and as a planet — is strengthened when organizations collaborate” said Joe Sammons, Executive Director of Hospicare.

Kim Pugliese, Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (CRCFL) and Joe Sammons, Executive Director of Hospicare & Palliative Care Services in the CRCFL Healing Garden.

Our organizations were fortunate to have Aleah Thomas, Diversity and Inclusion Programming Assistant at CRCFL leading the project. Aleah provided the glue that we needed to keep momentum through the year. 

“I am so grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with Hospicare’ said Aleah. “It has been so rewarding to work together to achieve the same goal of reaching underserved communities.”

Together through this partnership, we have reached out to dozens of faith communities throughout Tompkins and Cortland Counties and we look forward to these relationships deepening. 

Kim Pugliese, Executive Director of CRCFL said “We are so grateful to both Aleah and Hopsicare for the opportunity to collaborate on this outreach project. The opportunity to be more inclusive and reach populations who wouldn’t traditionally think to connect with us for support is invaluable. I know from personal experience how hearing “you have cancer” can make the floor drop out from under you.  We want to make sure that NO ONE faces cancer alone….and that everyone can have access to resources to make that journey less overwhelming or isolating.”

It is our hope that these initiatives are only the beginning of a long lasting relationship between our organizations and communities of faith.

An Introduction to Hospicare and the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes with Kim Pugliese and Joe Sammons.

We would love to share more information with you and your congregants! We are happy to speak briefly during your in-person or virtual services during your announcements period. If live engagement is not feasible at this time, we are happy to send brochures for your bulletin or send digital materials to include in your e-newsletter. If you would like us to connect with your organization, please contact us. 

For more information on our organizations you may visit crcfl.net and hospicare.org. Our teams are ready to serve you!

Meditative Swims for those we have Lost

(A Women Swimmin’ Participant Profile)

by Erica Steinhagen

“I swim in meditation to those I and others have lost.”

I had decided not to bring my neoprene sleeves. It seemed so warm to me. Even at 8am, it was getting humid, and I didn’t even deign to look at the Cayuga Lake temperature abstract that I so faithfully refreshed each winter dip in order to record the audacity of our character on those bitter days. Today was a miler, and I was so eager to get in, I only made sure to have my sleeveless wetsuit for buoyancy, cap, goggles, Garmin, bright pink buoy… When I arrived at East Shore, I checked. 63 degrees. Hm, ok. I forgot my water shoes, too. Ah, well. I rushed in like always and pushed my face into the water and instantly bucked up and made that hooty reflex-sound like “WHOOF” and then eased back in, letting my face and neck get acclimated as I started the crawl. The water was so still it looked like a pool, but it was earthy and silty and the weeds were starting to reach the surface like they do in mid-June. The cold on my  bare arms made me almost smile, remembering the millions of needles of 32-degree water in February. This was easy. Exhilarating. Here we go. Whoosh. Quiet. And loud. Water in my ears. I’m alone.  

Every single time, it happens. I am distracted by the starting, by the challenge to my comfort, the settling into a rhythm. But then, once I’m settled and in a pattern of right/left/rightbreathe, left/right/leftbreathe, I start to feel a little tightness in my throat. All of a sudden, I hear Carol telling my how when I’m 40, my voice will do that too…I’ll find my lower range, I’ll sing that role, don’t worry, it settles. The laugh, the tease, the big sister squeeze when we part after the gig. I am sitting with Camilla, on the end of her sofa, and she’s got a tiny smile and is much too pale, and she’s telling us how she dreamed us before we were born, the three girls with blonde, brunette, and red hair, she called us the Princesses and we each had a pony to ride that matched our hair, and she drew us, and knew us when we finally met. And then my Kel, at the end, unable to speak, but rolling her eyes with a joke, and squeezing my hand so tight, and letting me rub lotion on her bald head and the sound of her breath the last time I was with her.  

In the water they’re sort of above me and behind me, these women, because in front of me is just green. Foggy green. Flash of sun. Foggy green. Flash of land. Breathe. Sip. Settle the breath. Calm the tight throat. Get it together. I am here because I CAN be. I can still move my body. On land I am now clumsy, less coordinated and strong and confident than before my foot dropped from nerves being crushed by an exploding disc in my spine. I limp on land. I am no longer a fast walker, a source of great pride, especially when I lived in NYC. Not now. I am slow, awkward. In the lake, I am buoyant. I am not fast, but I am confident. I can set my face in the water like the sun is set with some insistence and firmness into the morning sky. Not high, but purposeful at 8:30am. Me too, I say to myself. To the sun. To my women. Me too. I am insistent. I will move because I can move. I am still here.  

Somewhere is my sister, too. She’s quieter. But to be frank, death is all around me. And it is a part of this meditation. Every time. That I have had so many lost to me who were gathered so closely in my net. That is why. That is why I am in the water. Because there is nothing to be done about loss. It has happened, it will continue to happen, we are all plummeting towards it every moment. But one thing I can do is swim. I can swim to raise money for Hospicare. Easy. And hard. I want it to be hard. Two miles. More. Let’s go. I can do it. I am here. I can move. 

I am so grateful to Hospicare for helping us witness and be present for deeply loved ones who are dying. I am so grateful for the support, and resources, and care that allow for the…what? The transition, the guidance towards what is next. The resting of a forehead to a forehead, saying words that might be the last ones. Say them every time in case they are. Then they are. That is all.  I love you, I will always be here, I will be ok, I will take care of her/him/them, always, it’s ok, you can let go, you can rest, I’ll be with you, I am with you, I love you.  

Swimmin’ for My Mom

By Casey Carr

We brought my 95-year-old mother home to live with us at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic so we could safely give her the loving care that she deserved. Although the first nine months were filled with lovely meals together, fun family card games, holiday celebrations and bonding time with my two sons; my mother’s health began to rapidly decline after she suffered a fall. This decline necessitated a hospital bed, Hoyer lift, and an enormous amount of emotional, medical, and physical caregiving. Due to COVID-19, placing my mother in a nursing home was out of the question. 

Casey Carr (left); Casey’s mom – Helene Carr (middle); Casey’s sister – Jayne Weeks (right) 

Hospicare to the rescue! I cannot begin to tell you how Hospicare made it possible for me to care for my mom at home and stay in balance at the same time. The emotional and informational support from the Hospicare social worker was phenomenal. She really cared about me, my mom and my family and made this difficult transition do-able. She helped me find and use every resource Tompkins County has to offer. 

Weekly visits from Hospicare’s nursing staff taught us how to care for and love someone while they are leaving us. They helped with everything from stress management techniques and medical intervention to changes in nourishment, toileting and mobility. They answered every concern and question no matter how odd or uncomfortable. Most of all, the nurse who visited weekly and more during the last few weeks of my mother’s life helped us understand what we could expect and how to respond in a medically knowledgeable and loving way. Please support Hospicare so they can provide this immeasurable resource to others.  

The home health aide that Hospicare provided gave me much needed respite to take care of other things in my own life that kept calling to me. The spiritual advisor checked in every week to ensure my mom and I had someone to process the changes happening during this challenging time.  

And they did all of this for no charge to us at all! And so, I swim for Hospicare to give back so Hospicare might be able to help others enjoy and care for their loved ones at home during the last weeks or months they are with us. Please help me by donating what you can to Hospicare and Palliative Care Services.