Welcoming Our Newest Board Member

Emily Papperman recently joined Hospicare’s Board. She is currently employed at Finger Lakes Independence Center as an Advocacy Specialist and has been in that position for 13 years. Last year, she got her Certification as a Work Incentive Practitioner for the Ticket-to-Work Program through the Social Security Administration. This professional development plays into her role as an Advocacy Specialist because benefits like SSI, SSD, SNAP, and Section 8 can all give people access to assistance and resources they may need in order to gain or regain independence and be active in their respective communities. Emily is also an Associate Board Member at Racker, having served two terms as a Board Member there and having spent the last year on that Board as Board President. She is passionate about helping folks with disabilities develop their own voice and advocating to ensure that they are involved in the conversations about topics that are important to them in their everyday lives. Emily is an avid reader, a lover of all things chocolate, and a devoted fan of Stevie Wonder and Elton John.

I was drawn to Hospicare’s mission and work because Hospicare helps people navigate the most difficult times in life with grace, dignity, and compassion. I am honored and privileged to have been given this opportunity, and I really look forward to joining the Hospicare family.”

Sit and Reflect in Hospicare’s Poetry Chair

by Teresa Yatsko, Hospicare volunteer

This chair created by Hospicare volunteer Teresa Yatsko is being offered to all as a place to sit and relax, read the writings of others, or consider your own writing as a way of joining the effort to bring people together in the joy and healing power of the written word. Stop by our Ithaca grounds and enjoy! Below is Teresa’s amazing story behind the chair.

The Poet-Tree chair project involves offering a space for people to write poetry and to leave behind their writings for others to read and perhaps be inspired by. There have been seven Poet-Tree chairs placed around Tompkins County to date. I’ve enjoyed the many thrills and benefits of finding notebooks filled with poems and thought-provoking reflections from people of all ages over the last few years.

Recently I’ve been encouraged to share my story. My intention is to share part of that story with you in the hopes that you might consider creating your own unique Poet-Tree chair space and to incorporate the concept into your setting.  My current goal is to write a small book describing my experience and I am looking to include how the concept I’ve developed can be adapted. 

Here is some background as to how this poetry project came to be. A few years ago, I began carrying a small notebook and pencil in my pocket when I hiked in the woods. I started writing short poems and observations about the moments I was encountering. The more I wrote, the more I began to to think about all the people who walked along the same trails and wondered what they had observed, what their experience had been. What if hikers were encouraged to observe their surroundings and then had the opportunity to write a simple poem? Would they?

Around the same time, while on a hike at the Roy H. Park Preserve, I saw someone had left a simple chair made from tree branches in the gorge where the two streams meet. I took a seat and reflected on the beauty around me. I loved the idea that someone had left the chair behind for others to enjoy. Something compelled me to take a photo of the chair. I’m glad I did because a few days later when I returned, the chair was gone. I don’t know what happened to it, but I was determined to make another one and put it back where the original one had been.

As I was building the chair I had the idea of placing a notebook with it where people could write about what they saw or what they were experiencing while they were sitting in the chair. I bought an inexpensive dry bag and inside put a notebook, pens, and short explanation of my discovery of the original chair and the inspiration it sparked. I encouraged people to sit in the replicated one, to relax, and to write if they felt moved to do so. 

A few friends of mine and I hiked into the gorge and assembled the chair. Each of us wrote a poem. I hoped our writing would prompt others to write. A few days later, I discovered several entries had been recorded by fellow hikers. There were simple poems and beautifully detailed observations of the natural world. Entry after entry began to appear over the weeks. I felt incredibly inspired. During the next month I would make six other chairs and place them along the hiking trails of Tompkins County. 

As the months went by and I read more of the writings, I became deeply moved by what was happening. People were using the chair to not only write fun and creative poems, but also to write down snapshots of their lives in that moment. Many of the writings were quite profound. People expressed gratitude for the opportunity to stop and reflect. Many felt a connection to others who had written in the book. It seemed as if a very special community was being formed by having this shared experience of writing while in the Poet-Tree chair.

Hospicare Volunteers Develop Wonderful, Close Relationships

by Jane Baker Segelken, MA, MSW, part of the Social Work team at Hospicare

For Cortland County resident Conni Bentley, volunteering for Hospicare is fulfilling because she’s making a real difference in someone’s life. “The happiness and satisfaction that comes from providing comfort to others is enlightening and rewarding. The more volunteer work I do, the greater my overall happiness,” she said.

Volunteers like Conni who provide five percent of patient care are part of Hospicare’s interdisciplinary team of providers offering support to patients at the end of their lives. Volunteers work in collaboration with Hospicare’s registered nurses, social workers, spiritual care leaders, home health aides, administrative staff, and medical director. What volunteering for Hospicare gives individuals is an opportunity to offer many needed services to the organization and/or the patients and their families.

Hospicare volunteers include administrative support volunteers who work in the office or remotely to assist staff in all areas; community support volunteers who help with peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives or support events; and direct patient support volunteers who assist patients and families in a variety of ways. Currently, Hospicare is most in need of patient support volunteers, especially in Cortland County.

Patient Support Volunteers

Patient support volunteers provide emotional support and companionship to hospice patients and their families. These volunteers visit patients in a variety of locations such as a private home, a nursing home, or an assisted living facility. They spend time sitting quietly or talking with patients; playing games or watching a movie with them; helping them with small household tasks, running errands, or picking up groceries. Sometimes a volunteer will help with a personal project, such as organizing photographs or recording stories. At other times they may bring an instrument and play music. In all cases, the activities are driven by the patient and what he or she believes will be of most value. Visits might be a quick drop in or may last several hours. It’s important to know that volunteers do not provide any medical or hands-on care. Other services volunteers may provide include:

  • Tuck In: a weekly phone call to help identify weekend needs and/or a friendly phone call during the week to chat
  • Pampering: setting or brushing hair, rubbing lotion into a patient’s hands or feet, or painting fingernails
  • Massage: licensed massage therapists offer relaxing massage to patients
  • Reiki Masters: certified reiki masters offer healing energy work to patients
  • Threshold Choir: trained singers (in small groups or solo) offer comforting music to patients and their families
  • Vigil: offering compassionate presence with a loved one in the last few days
  • Grief Support: families receive supportive phone calls and mailings
  • Landscape volunteers: help take care of the grounds including weeding and filling the bird feeders

Conni has served as a tuck-in volunteer, which she says involves “friendly contact with patients by telephone to ensure they have enough meds and supplies for the weekend. Calls are made on Thursday so the patient’s nurse can schedule a visit if needed on Friday to check on the patient or to deliver supplies. Even though the contact is made by telephone, wonderful and close relationships develop with the patient, family member, and/or caregiver,” said Conni.

Having a volunteer as part of the care team is meaningful for patients and families because they offer an extra personal touch of support. “Volunteers are an essential part of the team, offering a compassionate presence at a vulnerable time,” said Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services. “Showing up and meeting patients and families where they are is a win/win for all involved.”

Becoming a Volunteer

How do people become Hospicare volunteers? Many who consider volunteering are already knowledgeable about hospice services because they had a family member or friend who received care. Others may know of the organization because they work in the healthcare field. However, many people are brand new to the concept of hospice. All volunteers have a desire to assist patients as they near the end of their lives with a unique level of solace, camaraderie, and support. To be successful, one needs to be compassionate, empathetic, and a good listener.

Interested in learning more about volunteering? All Hospicare volunteers are required to go through a specialized training, which is held at various times throughout the year. For more information, contact Wendy Yettru at wyettru@hospicare.org or 607-272-0212.

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 5) – Sarah Nickerson, Communications Coordinator

A Special Blog Series Written by Hospicare & Palliative Care Services Staff

This November, we started a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Because we had such a positive response to the series, we are continuing it past November and into 2022. Each post features a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part five of this series, we feature Sarah Nickerson, Hospicare Communications Coordinator.

Sarah Nickerson, Hospicare Communications Coordinator

“Hi, my name is Sarah Nickerson, and I am Hospicare’s new communications coordinator. I spent the summer helping Hospicare’s development team with Women Swimmin’ as the seasonal events assistant, and was hired into my current role by Sara Worden, director of development and community relations, in November. I am so excited to take on this role and help share the amazing work our team does and stories of the people we serve!

My relationship with Hospicare began many years ago. In my early twenties, I accompanied my mother, who was a Hospicare volunteer, to a bereavement group for children held at the residence on Kind Road. A few years later, I proudly waited on shore while she swam across Cayuga Lake as a participant in Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. In the summer of 2018, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and given less than a year to live. We were fortunate enough to be able to move her into Hospicare’s residence for the final months of her life. Having my mother in care at the residence allowed us to be with her as loved ones and not caretakers, which we were ill equipped to be. Hospicare became a home away from home in those last two months before my mother’s death: a safe space filled with love, where I could be nurtured by community.

The amazing care that was given to my mother and to our entire family by Hospicare’s staff stays with me and is why I am so honored to be part of this team today. I look forward to continuing to help Hospicare provide our community with compassionate end-of-life care and grief support.”

I took this photo of my father holding my mother’s hand while she was in care in the residence at King Road just a few weeks before her death on Valentine’s Day of 2019.

***If you have a hospice or Hospicare story you want to share, please email Sarah Nickerson at snickerson@hospicare.org for more information or send a letter to:

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services

Attn: Sarah Nickerson

172 East King Rd

Ithaca, NY 14850

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 4) – Anna Osterhoudt, Social Worker

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 four of this series, we feature Anna Osterhoudt, Hospicare Social Worker.

Anna Osterhoudt, Hospicare Social Worker

“My name is Anna, and I am one of three social workers that are a part of the Hospicare team. My role as a hospice social worker is to assess the needs of our patients, their families, and support systems and provide any assistance I can. A few examples of things that I may assist with are providing emotional support to patients/caregivers, connecting them with community resources, assisting with end-of-life planning, or just being a friendly face during what can be a very difficult time.

I have been working professionally as a social worker in the medical field for the last eight years. However, I only recently joined Hospicare & Palliative Care Services three months ago. Making the decision to join Hospicare was not a difficult one as I have grown to be very passionate about hospice work, both professionally and personally. It is truly an honor and a blessing to be on this journey and to be a part of someone’s final chapters on this earth. 

With the right support, death and dying can be a spiritual, dignified, and peaceful experience. To be able to be a part of that experience and offer support and solace to patients, caregivers, and families during that time is a privilege that I cherish. It can also be scary, emotional, and trying but what is so special about Hospicare is that no matter what the experience is, which is very different for everyone, we are never alone. As a team we support each other, the patients, their families and caregivers, other agency staff, you name it, we are never left to handle it alone.  So why did I choose to work in hospice? There is a saying ‘Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I was lucky enough to find that job with Hospicare.”

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 3) – Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services

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 three of this series, we feature Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services.

Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services

“Hi, my name is Wendy and I’m the Manager of Volunteer Services at Hospicare & Palliative Care Services. When I started working here, over 20 years ago, I didn’t know much about hospice. It didn’t take long for me to see firsthand how the amazing team of professionals, including our volunteers, provides comfort physically, emotionally, and spiritually for our patients and their families. I believe in the philosophy that hospice is there so that patients may live as fully and comfortably as possible while facing end of life.

My position allows me the privilege of educating and working with community members who want to give their time and talents to Hospicare. I have enjoyed getting to know hundreds of people in Cortland and Tompkins counties as they learn about hospice and how their role as a volunteer makes a difference. Volunteers may offer to run an errand so a caregiver can have more time with their loved one; they may listen to a patient’s life stories, engage in conversation, play a game, help with a task, or be a quiet presence so someone doesn’t have to be alone. I have had the pleasure of hearing and witnessing many beautiful stories about the connections that happen between our volunteers and patients. I am honored to work with such an amazing organization and people!”

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 2) – Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN

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.”

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 1) – Kimmy Jones, Clinical Team Leader

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 one of this series, we feature Kimmy Jones, RN and Clinical Team Leader.

Kimmy Jones, RN, Clinical Team Leader

“Hello, I’m Kimmy. I’m the clinical team leader for Hospicare which means I supervise the primary nurses, LPNs, and home health aides in the field. Most of the patients we serve are in the field, living in a private home or a facility within Tomkins or Cortland counties. I’ve been an RN for 16 years and hospice work is the most meaningful nursing care I’ve ever done. It’s sacred work. I started my nursing career in the emergency department, then I worked in lactation education and breastfeeding/chest feeding support, and now I work in hospice.

I started here at Hospicare a little over three years ago as a primary nurse. After a year, I moved into the team leader position. This move just happened to take place right before the discovery of the Covid-19 virus. We have continued to serve the community and our patients throughout the entirety of the Covid-19 pandemic and to be diplomatic, it’s been quite a learning experience. The reason we have been successful during this time is our outstanding team of devoted staff members. Everyone has their heart focused on the mission to continue to care for our community, which has allowed us to forge through the uncertainty and ever-changing landscape of nursing care that has been brought on by this pandemic.

Hospice work can be very emotionally taxing. It can even be heartbreaking. But it’s some of the most rewarding and special work I’ve ever done. We are invited into people’s homes during a very sacred and intimate time, and it is such an honor. It feels fulfilling to be able to alleviate distress, whether that’s physical or emotional, and for the patient and family to trust us and look to us for guidance and reassurance. You’ll be hard pressed to find any healthcare worker who doesn’t find that rewarding. 

When asked ‘What brought you to work in hospice?’, a lot of people have beautiful stories about a personal experience they had when a loved one received hospice. I don’t have a story like that. For me, it just felt good. It felt right.”

Hospicare welcomes Ebru Arslan to our Administrative Team! 

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.

Ebru can be reached at earslan@hospciare.org.

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.