Meet, Xihang Wang, one of our amazing patient care volunteers. He has volunteered in the Residence since fall 2020. He has been a regular at the dinner shift for most of the time and this semester, is doing a lunch shift. Xihang shares this about his volunteering experience:
I wanted to sincerely thank you for all your help starting way back in fall of 2020. You taught me an incredible amount when I first trained to become a volunteer, and I significantly appreciate all the support you have provided me in the years ever since. Volunteering at Hospicare has changed my perspective on the purpose of medicine – I originally believed that medicine was solely about treating disease. Now, I understand that medicine is instead most fundamentally defined by the sense of kindness and compassion directed towards patients.
It was a humbling experience to see all the dedication displayed by the Hospicare staff and fellow volunteers as they cared for patients in the residence, and I hope to emphasize this sense of humanity in all that I do in the future. Looking back, I am extremely grateful to have had the privilege of volunteering at Hospicare. Thank you again for all that you, and Hospicare, do.
This year marks our 40th Anniversary, and we continue to honor the past and work together for a sustainable future. Thank you to all those who attended the 40th Anniversary Donor Luncheon at Hotel Ithaca. It was truly a wonderful celebration. Please enjoy a few photos, by Casey Martin, from the event.
At the luncheon, Nina Miller, former Executive Director of Hospicare said “So here we are, 40 years later, honoring all that has brought us to this point. I am profoundly grateful for all that this organization has meant in my life, providing me with the most wonderful professional experience I could have dreamed of, with friendships that have lasted for almost half my lifetime, with the knowledge that our work was important and humane and compassionate, and of course for the personal experience my family had at the most difficult moment in our lives”.
There will be more occasions to get together and celebrate coming up, with the 20th Women Swimmin’ in August and a community-wide celebration of Hospicare’s 40th in the fall. Thanks again to the entire Hospicare community for your continued enthusiasm and support, which continues to be critical to our ability to offer high-quality services to all who need them!
As Nina says “Look how far we’ve come. No one has to face the end of life alone.”
Our 20th Annual Women Swimmin’ is on Saturday, August 12, 2023!
Wow, the 20th Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare swim!
Once again, we have lots of different ways to participate. Swim the lake, be a safety or escort paddler, volunteer, donate, or Go the Distance! YOU choose which is the best fit for you!
Lake Swimmer – The amazing 300+ women who swim from Bolton Point on the east shore of Cayuga Lake 1.2 miles to the Ithaca Yacht Club on the west shore, on Saturday, August 12th!
Go the Distance – Set an activity or service goal in support of Hospicare. Between May 9 and August 12, anyone can participate by doing any activity in support of Hospicare. Whether you are walkin’, swimmin’ laps, knittin’, bikin’, pickin’ up trash for your fundraising activity, we are grateful for your support!
Support Paddler – Experienced paddlers in canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) assist our swimmers by guiding, escorting, and cheering them on as they swim across the lake!
Volunteer – Help out our participants and attendees before, during, or after the event.
Our Mission Statement
Go the Distance and Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare is a fundraising event that supports the expert, compassionate care which Hospicare & Palliative Care Services brings to patients and their loved ones at any stage of a life-limiting illness and/or following a death. This event raises funds and provides information and education about the agency and its mission in a manner that is inclusive, fun, and consistent with Hospicare’s ideal of respect for all people.
My wife, Mary Ellen Carollo, was a resident in Hospicare from September 2014 until her death in May 2015. Our family is convinced that the wonderful care she received there is what kept her alive for those nine months.
Mary Ellen was diagnosed with an inoperable, terminal brain tumor in Fall 2013 when she was only 58 years old. While she was being treated that first year, she was able to live at home. But by the following year she was starting to decline and needed more round-the-clock care than our family could provide.
We called Hospicare and were able to place her in one of the residential facility rooms for what everyone thought would be her final few days – but, thanks to the 24-hour attention the staff was able to provide for her, she rallied.
Then, around the 2014 holidays, she started fading again… yet once more improved in the short term. By Spring 2015 she began what turned out to be a final decline from which she could not recover, and one night she died peacefully in her sleep with one of her sisters, one of her brothers, our son and me by her side.
During all that time in Hospicare, it became a second home for our entire family – her mother, her eight siblings and their spouses and children, my two siblings, and our son – along with numerous friends from throughout her life, co-workers from her long and illustrious career with IBM, colleagues from her various volunteer activities, and anyone who knew and, of course, loved her.
We got to know and become friends with Hospicare’s medical and care-giving staff and the administrative team, as well as with Mary Ellen’s “neighbors” in the residence and their families, too. We relaxed in the lounge, had drinks and snacks in the kitchen, played games in the living room, soothed our spirits with music (our son played piano, one of her brothers played banjo), held Mary Ellen’s retirement party from IBM, and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2014. Some of us even had “sleep overs” in her room a number of times.
I lived in Ithaca at the time and went to see her at Hospicare almost every day. With Mary Ellen in Hospicare, I was able to go home for a break every night, and go to work most days, confident that she was getting excellent medical care and personal attention from the staff, as well as social interaction with that day’s visitors. That respite was critical for me, and as certain as I am that being in Hospicare kept her alive, I’m equally sure that it kept me from cracking up myself.
Naturally, we all became heartfelt and, if I may say so myself, generous supporters of Hospicare. Our family contributed in a number of ways, such as helping the staff out in the kitchen or with wheelchairs for Mary Ellen and her fellow residents, donating for one of the paving stones in the walkway around the grounds, and even making a substantial financial gift for the renovation of the kitchen – now known as “Mary Ellen’s Corner” in her memory.
One of her brothers and his wife, who live in Ithaca, are regular participants in Hospicare’s annual “Women Swimmin’ ” fundraising initiative, and that brother still helps out from time to time with landscaping work on Hospicare’s grounds.
After Mary Ellen died, we held a memorial service for her on the property, on what would have been her 60th birthday in August 2015. Hospicare was very generous in letting us use the facilities free of charge, and the staff helped us a great deal in making arrangements and setting things up. It was a wonderful and touching farewell in a setting that had come to mean so much for all of us.
That summer and fall, I attended Hospicare’s grief counseling program for bereaved spouses. Even though I had known I was not alone in losing the love of my life, commiserating with other survivors, under the guidance of Hospicare’s sympathetic and understanding grief counselor, was invaluable in helping me and the others cope with what for all of us was the biggest tragedy in our lives.
But that was not the end of our connection. We still show our continued support through annual donations, and I have included Hospicare in my own estate planning.
Having Mary Ellen at Hospicare helped make it bearable – or, to put it better, as bearable as possible – for us to confront the unbearable thought of her inevitable passing. For her and for us, facing death before her time was utterly heartbreaking. But doing it with the support of the caring people and the compassionate atmosphere we found at Hospicare helped make it an experience that, in spite of its sadness, we all treasure.
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.
Grief is a process that may involve conflicting emotions and can often feel uncomfortable and confusing. It’s natural to want to close down, shut off, and stop this unpredictable flow, especially in a society that expects grieving to happen in a certain linear timeframe and pathologizes anything outside of that.
I recently listened to an interview with grieving expert David Kessler, author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. He talked about the desire grieving individuals may feel to make the grief smaller in some way and offered an insightful alternative perspective to this reaction. “Rather than make the grief smaller,” he said, “we need to make ourselves bigger. Grief is love, and we don’t want it to get smaller.” He calls for a transformation of the traumatic wound into the cherished wound.
Indeed, research on grief supports Kessler’s emphasize on the importance of making space for grieving in all its forms. In his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow, psychotherapist Francis Weller writes, “if we ignore the fire, our internal life feels cold and the grief in our container congeals. Offering our attention, affection, and love, on the other hand, feeds the fire, and the gradual work of transmuting grief into gold can commence.”
My own early struggles with depression and an eating disorder as a teenager offered a gateway into investigating grief. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, so consumed by my own suffering and unprocessed loss. It was not until I had undergone years of therapy in various forms from cognitive therapy to meditation and mindfulness practices to restorative yoga and creative writing that a deeper understanding of my inner world awakened. I realized that my depression and eating disorder were manifestations of stuck energy—of grief—from having experienced trauma in my early years and not having had the tools to process it. I began to realize the importance of practices, and especially practices of creative expression, to help move the complex energies stirred by my losses.
As Weller writes, “we are a menagerie of moods, emotions, thoughts, and selves. For the most part, we keep the unsavory brothers and sisters on the outskirts of town. Practice, however, invites these voices into the mix, recognizing in them an essential element in our well-being. We are asked to welcome the weak and vulnerable parts of ourselves in times of grieving….” I love his perspective and the emphasis on practice as an invitation into such a compassionate view of our grief.
It is through this lens that I created my upcoming workshop “Recovering Your Creative Spirit in Grief.” Grief can cause you to feel stuck, uninspired, and unfulfilled. This impacts your ability to express conflicting emotions in creative ways. In this workshop we will explore the feeling of being stuck and how it affects our inner life and outer expression. Through written reflection, group discussion, mind-body practices, and intuitive collage I will guide participants into a deeper understanding of their own blocks. Together we will create a safe and supportive container for each person to begin the process of shifting from stuck to unstuck. My intention is to facilitate awareness of and curiosity around the needs and desires of your creative spirit and to share tools and practices to help you sustain a nourishing and fulfilling engagement in life well beyond the workshop.
David Kessler says that “each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed.” Research on grief conducted by Robert A. Neimeyer, a psychology professor at the University of Memphis and a clinician, points to this same insight of the need for connection in healing. Great strength, resiliency, and compassion emerge when we can be present to our own self-expression and the self-expression of others, whether in the form of sharing stories around a fire or making collage on zoom.
This workshop is an opportunity for us to come together in community and offer space for one another’s stuck energy to flow in creative ways. May the practices we play with help you connect to a much larger sense of yourself and the world—a self that can hold, in love, the pain of your loss. As one of my favorite writers and thinkers, Audre Lorde, says: “These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling.” I look forward to sharing healing creative space with you at “Recovering your Creative Spirit in Grief” offered virtually through Hospicare on March 3, 2022, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. May we all exceed the limits of our own self-image and awaken to the expansive being within—our inner creator.
Recovering Your Creative Spirit in Grief March 03, 6:30 – 8:00 pm via Zoom
A Special Blog Series in Honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month
This November, we are sharing a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Each post will feature a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part two of this series, we feature Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN.
Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN
“My role here at Hospicare is to help patients live the rest of their lives as comfortably as possible and to help ensure their wishes are fulfilled. Providing education and suggestions for patients and their families about how best to meet that patient’s specific needs and how to manage their symptoms adequately. Every patient is different, so I like to customize my care to best fit each patient’s needs and wishes.
At Hospicare, we really try to meet people ‘where they are’ and adjust to their needs accordingly as time goes on. To help make this possible, collaboration with other members of the Hospicare team is essential. Our team is made up of social workers, bereavement specialists, our medical director, spiritual care, volunteers and so many others that help keep our patients safe and comfortable.
Death is commonly seen as a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. I try to make death a beautiful transition for patients and their families by doing anything I can to support them physically and emotionally during this time. I feel very blessed that patients allow me to accompany them on this journey.”
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