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.

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.  

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, and for Threshold Choir members that way is through music. Other Hospicare volunteers offer 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 Hospicare chapter of the Threshold Choir was started in 2017 by Jayne Demakos, then director of Hospicare’s Music Program. Threshold Choir as an organization was founded by singer/songwriter Kate Munger in 2000, and 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 WYettru@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.

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.”

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.

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). 

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!

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services is hiring a chief executive.

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services seeks a dynamic Executive Director to lead our respected, vibrant agency. We bring together medical expertise, compassion, and outstanding care for those dealing with life-threatening illnesses. Located in New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region and renowned for our area educational institutions, Hospicare serves the residents of Cortland (pop. 50,000) and Tompkins (pop. 100,000) counties.

The agency has a $5 million operating budget, serving more than 500 patients and their families annually through hospice, palliative care, and bereavement services in patients’ homes, in our 6-bed residential facility, and in partnering acute-care and extended-care facilities. The Executive Director works alongside a deeply committed staff (50 FTEs), engaged board, passionate donor community, and volunteer network of 600 people.

The successful candidate must have strong communication skills; promote a culture of collaboration, teamwork, and open communication; possess financial and business expertise; and demonstrate success in outreach and fundraising.

Send resume and cover letter to ExecutiveSearch@hospicare.org. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Find more information about this opportunity and download the job description here.

Hospicare welcomes Joe Mareane as interim Executive Director!

Joe Mareane, a Hospicare Board Member and vice president, is stepping in after the resignation of Kim De Rosa in September.  A national search to fill the Executive Director position will commence shortly.

“I am looking forward to working with an organization I’ve come to greatly admire from the perspective of a community member, board officer, and family member of one whose passing was eased by a remarkable team of Hospicare nurses and staff,” said Joe. “I spent a long career in local government, including nine years as Tompkins County Administrator, before retiring a couple of years ago.  I’m hoping the skills I learned along the way—to be a good listener, careful thinker, and collaborative manager—will contribute to a smooth transition to a new Director.”

Joe Mareane retired in 2017 as Tompkins County Administrator.  During his tenure, he served as the chief executive officer of the 700-person, $170 million organization.  His retirement came after a 35-year career in local government that included serving as Onondaga County’s Chief Fiscal Officer, where he managed a $1.2 billion budget, and earlier as Assessment Commissioner, Director of Management and Budget, and Director of Development for the City of Syracuse.   He was also involved in the development of the Palisades Center mall in Nyack, New York as an executive with the Pyramid Companies and served as a Vice President of the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce.

“While executive changes are inevitable in every job sector, what will never waiver is Hospicare’s commitment to its patients and families,” said Hospicare Board of Directors president Betsy East. “The Board is confident in our exceptional senior leadership team and their ability to navigate this transition, as well as the dedicated and compassionate staff who provide extraordinary care to all who need it.”

Joe currently serves on the Boards of Challenge Workforce Solution, the Human Services Coalition, and as a member of the New York State Indigent Legal Services Board.  He holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne. Joe and his wife Amy have been married for 45 years and have three grown children. 

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services provides palliative care, hospice care and grief support to all residents of Cortland and Tompkins counties. Care is provided to patients in private homes, in nursing facilities, in hospitals, and at Hospicare’s 6-bed residence on Ithaca’s South Hill.

Hospicare Welcomes Natalie (Jenereski) Daffinee to the Board

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services welcomes Natalie (Jenereski) Daffinee as our newest member of the Board of Directors. Natalie’s term began in June.

For the past three years, Natalie has served as the Associate Director of Social Media Strategy at Ithaca College. She graduated from IC with a degree in television-radio. Prior to returning to her alma mater, Natalie worked as a Digital Public Relations Strategist at a PR agency in Tennessee and was a broadcast journalist in Chattanooga and Binghamton. When she’s not working, Natalie enjoys playing tennis, cooking, and going on hikes with her husband, Tyler, and their dog!

Natalie has served on Hospicare’s Development & Community Relations committee for the past two years, and has provided valuable input into marketing and communications strategies for the agency.

“My husband and I recently decided to put down roots in Ithaca, and I was looking for some ways to get involved in the community that we both deeply love and appreciate,” says Natalie. “The mission of Hospicare & Palliative Care Services speaks to my soul, and I look forward to contributing to its success.”

Best wishes Jayne Demakos

Hospicare wishes Jayne Demakos much joy and happiness as she embarks on a new adventure – and her dream job as a full time music-thanatologist! Jayne will be providing her beautiful harp music to patients and families at St Peter’s Hospital in Olympia, Washington.  So many Hospicare families have benefited from Jayne’s music and compassion for many years, and she will be sorely missed by our community. Best wishes to you, Jayne!