Homeland is proactive in preventing weight loss


Unintended weight loss in the elderly is serious business. When the body is forced to draw on stored protein for energy, the antibodies that ward off illness are diverted, and a cascade of negative health consequences can follow.

Homeland Center dietitian Christina Dinger, left, gives resident Lorraine Englander a nutritional supplement. Dinger is part of a team that ensures residents maintain a healthy weight.

“If you have an 80- or 85-year-old who’s beginning to lose weight, that’s associated with multiple issues, and things spiral out of control,” says Homeland Director of Nutritional Services Yolanda Williams. “There can be skin breakdown, dehydration and infections because the immune system is weakened.”

Homeland’s unique approach

Spotting, preventing and treating weight loss demands true detective skills, and Homeland Center developed an individualized approach – unique to nursing homes – that’s worthy of a “CSI” episode. Instead of giving nutritional duties to multi-tasking nurse’s aides, Homeland assigns a nutrition-at-risk aide to the care teams on each floor in skilled care and in the Ellenberger dementia/Alzheimer’s unit.

“Their sole responsibility is to make sure that residents receive their supplements and are adequately hydrated,” says Williams. “They focus on the prevention of weight loss in the first place, but if a resident does lose weight, they focus on providing interventions to help them stabilize.”

The nutrition-at-risk aide tracks the weight and other indicators of each resident, watching daily for trends that signal weight loss and then investigating the causes. A variety of issues can trigger weight loss: depression, loss of appetite, loss of a loved one or conditions such as urinary tract infections. Some residents might need assistance with eating but are too proud to ask, says Williams. The key is spotting the root cause early.

“We catch weight loss before it starts causing real problems,” she says.

Eating favorite foods encouraged

Once the problem is spotted and a cause identified, the nutrition-at-risk aide works with family members and other staffers to customize a solution. It might mean adding a favorite yogurt brand to the diet to encourage eating or finding opportunities to pack more calories into every bite.

“We always focus on preferences,” says Williams. “If they want salads and like veggies, we don’t take those away, but we work in the calories elsewhere. We may have a resident who loves ice cream, so they get ice cream with their breakfast. Maybe we put five pats of butter in their oatmeal.”

Nutrition-at-risk aide Christina Dinger enjoys “being able to build a rapport with the residents.”

“I’m then able to tailor interventions to each individual resident,” says Dinger, a dietetic technician, registered, or DTR. “When we have to address their weight loss, it’s something that fits into their lifestyle. Sometimes we’re even able to prevent weight loss because we’re able to pick up on triggers before it becomes an issue. I enjoy working so closely with the residents and their families.”

Two residents recount service during World War II, Korea during Veterans Day luncheon


For F.M. Richard Simons, volunteering to fight during World War II was a way of giving back to the country that had welcomed his grandparents.

“They say it’s a great experience but one I’d never want to do again,” said F.M. Richard Simons, who saw combat in Italy during World War II.

The Korea War was in full force when a friend from nursing training convinced Marianna Bjurstrom to join the Air Force. To Bjurstrom, who was 24, it sounded like a way to make her dreams of traveling and seeing the world come true.

While the paths that led Simons and Bjurstrom to military service were far different, both said they were proud to serve and treasure the friendships they made along the way.

Simons and Bjurstrom spoke during a special Veterans Day luncheon at Homeland Center. Before the lunch, the 30 residents who are veterans received red carnations to commemorate their service.

“They say it’s a great experience but one I’d never want to do again,’’ said Simons, who at 19 served with the famed 10th Mountain Division and saw combat in Italy from 1944 until the end of the war. “You build a real comradery; friendships that help keep you alive and stay with you.’’

When World War II ended, F.M. Richard Simons finished his Army service as a disc jockey for Armed Forces Radio.

Though the 10th Mountain initially trained in Colorado’s mountains to fight as ski troops, when the Allies entered Italy it was the division’s mountain climbing abilities and sheer guts that were called upon. Simon’s first taste of combat came in the taking of Mt. Belvedere in Italy’s Alpine Mountains, a fight that would cost almost a thousand of the division’s troops.

“The Germans were expecting us. It’s not like in the movies – it’s much worse; you’re walking into one of the most horrendous experiences,’’ said Simons, who clearly remembers the first of his friends to die, Francis Lowery.

“We all came together from training in Texas, about five of us, and Lowery was the first to go, stepped on a landmine,’’ Simons said, adding seeing friends die is something you never get used to. “To me he’s always going to be 19 years old.’’

Simons, who is Jewish, only learned of the atrocities committed by the Nazis after the war. But during one battle, a lieutenant went down the line asking if any of the soldiers were Jewish and told them to hide their dog tags, which were stamped with an “H’’ for Hebrew.’’

“He said don’t wear your dog tags because if the Germans captured you they would set you on fire,’’ Simons said. “I look back and think how lucky I am to be alive; it was so easy to die.’’

Near the war’s end in Europe, Simons broke his ankle, which prevented him being shipped to the Pacific, where the war against Japan was raging. Then a staff sergeant, Simons spent his final months overseas as a disc jockey for the Armed Forces Radio.

When he returned home, Simons used the GI Bill to finish college and later founded Simons Insurance Agency, now run by his daughter, Ruth, under the name Simons & Company. He also became involved in politics, serving on Harrisburg’s City Council in the mid-1980s.

Marianna Bjurstrom served as an Air Force flight nurse during the Korean War.

Marianna Bjurstrom got her wish to see a good part of the world as a flight nurse caring for soldiers wounded in Korea, who were initially evacuated to Japan. Bjurstrom, another nurse and a Navy corpsman would fly from Japan to Hawaii (with stops and Midway and Guam) and then stateside to San Francisco. During the long Pacific flights they usually cared for about 20 patients.

“We saw fractures from gunshot wounds and other injuries. Sometimes they were paralyzed in some way and would be on a frame that we would turn every two hours so they could have some change in their circulation,’’ she said.

“One time I was doing private duty for a patient who wasn’t expected to make it make it and I kept talking to him and just before we landed he woke up,’’ said Bjurstrom, who never had a patient die on one of her flights. “I’m most proud of treating that man until he woke; that really made me feel that I was doing something.’’

When she left the Air Force in 1952 as a first lieutenant, Bjurstrom moved home before coming to the Harrisburg area with her husband. This mother of four girls was an emergency room nurse prior to working for Pennsylvania Blue Shield as a claims review specialist until she retired in 1986.

Bjurstrom said she approves of the expanding role women have in the military and may even have thought of making a career of the service had those opportunities existed in the 1950s.

“I think it’s great because it’s time for women to have their place in this world,’’ said Bjurstrom, who added that she feels it is important to observe Veteran’s Day – for those who served and for those still serving.

“We gave up some of our own interests to serve our country,’’ Bjurstrom said. “I think we should be recognized for that.’’

Homeland sing-along sparks memories, smiles


Pete Wambach recalls how, as he played a sentimental song for retirement community residents, he noticed a  woman wiping away tears. He asked her what was wrong.

“My husband sang that song and got down on his knee in Riverfront Park and proposed to me,” she said. “And he’s been gone for seven years.”

Pete Wambach brings his outgoing personality and love of songs to Homeland every month for a song-along with residents.

Pete responded gently. “Isn’t it nice to remember?” he asked.

“It sure is,” she said.

Wambach is well-known around Harrisburg. He is the namesake of his father, beloved journalist and radio personality Pete Wambach, famous for starting his broadcasts by saying, “It’s a beautiful day in Pennsylvania” in his gravelly bass voice. Pete Jr. is a former state representative who served the Harrisburg and Steelton areas from 1981 to 1993.

Now retired, Wambach brings his outgoing personality and the love of songs he inherited from his parents to a new venue – Homeland Center’s monthly sing-along. Using his own karaoke equipment, Wambach plays tunes from the early to mid-20th century, songs made famous by performers such as Eddie Cantor and Mel Torme.

Wambach first took his karaoke gear to the nursing home, where his late parents had lived, in the early 2000s. In mid-2013, he and his wife, Urszula Wambach, started volunteering at Homeland “for the smiles,” he said.

On a rainy Wednesday evening, Wambach told his group of about 25 residents and family members, plus a lively Maltese-Yorkie named Duke, that he and Urszula never miss a month.

“You know I always enjoy coming,” he said. “I love to take your smiles home. I think about you all month long. I really do. It’s so great that you have the desire to come and sing and enjoy yourselves and just have a good night and a good time.”

The sessions are held in Homeland’s chapel, under the vaulted ceiling and amid the stone altar and the showcase of religious-themed Hummel figurines. Wambach greeted guests as they came in.

“Hey, Carl, how are you, buddy?” he asked one.

“Not bad for 93,” Carl answered.

After he got things going with “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” projecting the lyrics on the wall, Wambach proclaimed that it wasn’t a bad start. “I heard half of you singing and half of you humming,” he said.

Guests sang along with the Bing Crosby standard “Swing on a Star” and the nostalgic favorite “In My Merry Oldsmobile” (“Here’s a car they don’t even make anymore,” Wambach joked when the title appeared on the screen.) He shared his memories of family sing-alongs, the Wambach parents and all 14 kids singing show tunes and songs made popular by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Barbra Streisand.

When Wambach played “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” someone crooned in falsetto, Tiny Tim-style. During “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” one couple held hands and leaned their heads toward each other.

“The residents love to sing. They just love it,” Wambach said. The event is even “a complete brain workout,” because residents reading words on the wall are using one side of the brain while they use the other side to sing.

“If you have some nice memory songs you want to hear, let me know,” he said to solicit requests. “There’s thousands upon thousands of songs, but if I have them, I’d love to play them for you.” One woman requested “A Bicycle Built for Two.” Another asked, “Do you have ‘You Are My Sunshine’?”

“I’m your sunshine?” Wambach responded.

“No, he is,” she said, pointing to her husband. Wambach found the song quickly, introducing it by saying, “See? If we have it, we’ll play it.”

Wambach ends every session with the Irving Berlin classic “Count Your Blessings.” He does so because “it’s a song that soothes you.”

“When you hear ‘count your blessings instead of sheep,’ you think about what blessings came to you that day and what’s in store the next day,” he said as his guests were leaving. One added her own thoughts.

“Look at the people that don’t have a nice roof over their head, plenty to eat and care,” she said. “That’s all you need to think about.” She thanked Wambach for coming.

“You’re bringing back all these wonderful memories,” she said.

Homeland Center recognizes past achievements, focuses on the challenges ahead


In its 147 year history, Homeland Center has never asked a resident to leave because they lacked funds.

“I want to use past successes only as learning experiences … our challenge is the future,” said Barry S. Ramper II

Making good on this practice over the past year, Homeland Center has provided more than $2.8 million in charitable care for residents, auditor David H. Padden reported during the annual meetings of Homeland’s boards of Trustees and Managers held recently. Homeland typically outspends its peer facilities on per resident care by 30 percent as well.

But with the reports came a warning from President and CEO Barry S. Ramper II: In today’s challenging health care environment, the continued generous support of donors is critical to Homeland’s future.

“I want us to use past successes only as learning experiences and not to rest on them,’’ Ramper said. “What happened yesterday will not benefit our residents who have entrusted their lives to us for today and for tomorrow. Our challenge is the future.’’

To assure that Homeland can continue providing benevolent care, a goal to increase its endowment by $20 million by the year 2020 has been set. To realize this goal, Homeland established the 1867 Society to recognize individuals and couples who have made significant, tax-deductible commitments to the endowment.  Charitable annuities, trusts, bequests, gifts of life insurance and real estate are among the donations that can support Homeland.

In light of the enthusiastic response to date, the deadline to become a charter member of the society has been extended until Dec. 31. Society members will be recognized annually (with permission) at a special event and in newsletters and have their names prominently displayed. Betty Hungerford, director of development, will be happy to discuss opportunities to support Homeland. She can be reached at 717-221-7727.

“Growing our endowment and planning for the future ensures we can continue to fulfill our responsibilities to our residents and the community,’’ Ramper said. “This is our heritage. This has been our responsibility going back to 1867.’’

Ramper said skilled nursing and personal care is the second-highest regulated industry – homeland security being first and the nuclear power industry third. The combination of regulations and limited federal funding underscores the importance that donations play in Homeland’s continued success.

To assure Homeland can continue providing benevolent care, a goal to increase its endowment by $20 million by the year 2020 has been set.

Homeland’s devotion to resident care makes it one of the few Medicare designed five-star facilities in the Harrisburg area.  Moreover, the center was named for a third year in a row as Harrisburg Magazine’s Readers’ Choice for Best Long-Term Care Facility.

Ramper and Trustees Chairman Morton Spector referred to the success of Homeland Hospice as an example of the innovation and adaptability of which Homeland is proud. Homeland Hospice is one of the leading hospice providers in central Pennsylvania.

“Five years ago we established Homeland Hospice, the first of our outreach efforts to provide palliative care in settings including at home, in our facility or in another nursing home or hospital,’’ Spector said. “We continue to address unmet medical and social needs, guaranteeing the high quality of care that has been our hallmark over the past 147 years.’’

Among the improvements in the past year, Homeland Center completed a facility-wide wireless system, giving residents, employees and guests Internet access through a high-performing network. The system upgrades are making it possible for Homeland to implement an Electronics Health Records system to improve care and a medication management system to ensure resident safety.

Additionally, Homeland has added three beds to the center’s Ellenberger Unit, which will enable the center to care for 24 residents with advanced memory impairment, Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

Homeland’s mission has changed since it was founded to shelter the area’s women and children whose husbands and fathers had died in the Civil War. However, Ramper stressed the focus on quality care – made possible largely by the generous support of our community — has never changed.

“It’s not about policy, it’s not about procedures, it’s not about regulations and it’s not about audits,’’ Ramper said. “The residents entrust their lives to us and in turn we owe them our full commitment.’’

Join us at an upcoming senior expo


We thought you would be interested in learning about two upcoming senior expos in Central Pennsylvania.  We have some great giveaways, a contest to win a gift certificate to a local restaurant, information about Homeland Center and free blood pressure screenings. Our colleagues from Homeland Hospice will also be offering handy giveaways.  We hope to see you there!

October 22

Homeland Center is a sponsor and exhibitor at the 50+ Expo at Carlisle Expo Center. Free event which includes seminars and entertainment! Details and registration: http://www.50plusexpopa.com/cumberland-main.shtml

October 30

Rep. Marsico is hosting a Senior Expo from 10 am until noon, at the Antique Automobile Club of American Museum on 161 Museum Rd, Hershey, PA 17033.  Free admission to the expo and to the museum!  More details.

Homeland Enewsletter
We are launching two enewsletters: one just about senior expos where we will be exhibiting, and another one about general information about Homeland Center.  If you would like to subscribe to one or both, add your email address to the “stay updated” section below. You will be given the option to select which enewsletters you will receive.

measuring blood pressure small flashlight  bookmark magnifier clip

Homeland resident Joe Bowers relives WWII service in B-17


Joe Bowers stand by the Aluminum Overcast, a B-17 like the one in which he flew as a bombardier. Above is the Plexiglass nose he would sit in while guiding the plan over its target.

As World War II raged on, Joe Bowers was serving as an Army 2nd lieutenant platoon leader. His feet were on the ground, but his hopes were in the sky, with the B-17 “Flying Fortress’’ bombers winging overhead.

“I’d see these beautiful things flying around, and I think, ‘I’d like to get in there,’” he says today. ”Somehow or other, I got lucky.”

Bowers, a Homeland Center resident, served as a bombardier on U.S. Army Air Force B-17s as a 1st lieutenant for 26 months with the 305th Bomb Group, 366th Squadron. From January 7, 1945, to April 17, 1945, he flew in 35 missions over German cities including Karlsruhe, Munich, and Dresden. During that time he flew various B-17s bearing colorful nose-art and names like “What’s Crackin’ Doc,” “Miss Yvonne,” and “Fancy Pantz.”

On a rainy Saturday in September 2014, the 94-year-old Bowers relived his bombardier days when the Experimental Aircraft Association brought a restored B-17 to Capital City Airport in New Cumberland. Coincidentally, the airport is only a few blocks from the home where Bowers was born and raised.

The B-17s Joe Bowers flew in featured nose art, but nothing like the blonde pinup on the Overcast, he said with a laugh.

Seeing the plane parked on the tarmac – the B-17G-VE Aluminum Overcast — brought back memories for Bowers. The hefty B-17s, flying from England deep into Germany, flew in tight formation with nimble escort fighters that protected the bombers from air and ground attacks.

“Thank heavens they did their job,” Bowers said as he sat near the Aluminum Overcast. “We didn’t lose anybody in our crew. We all came through. We got shot at a lot of times, but nothing took us down.”

The formations were so tight, Bowers recalled, that “some wiseguy said, ‘Hell, I can jump from one wing to another.’”

As bombardier, Bowers sat in the plane’s clear Plexiglas nose. When the pilot ordered “bombs away,” Bowers would get control of the plane, with the critical job of maneuvering the ship into position and using the top-secret Norden bombsight to align the target and release the bombs, clustered as tightly as possible.

“All of a sudden, somebody would say go,” he said. “We kept our fingers crossed and away it went. Sometimes we were able to see it when it hit the ground. Not too often, because we were gone.”

Joe Bowers sits at the B-17’s radio controls.

To this day, Bowers wears a gold bombardier’s ring he bought long ago.

“I’ve always been proud of that ring, so I keep it around,” he said. “It’s a part of me, I guess.”

At war’s end, Bowers came home. He worked in a dental laboratory and at the Mechanicsburg Navy Depot until he retired. In retirement, he volunteered as a bus driver around the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Until 2013, he and his late wife Pat, who had lived with him at Homeland, would attend every Hershey Bears hockey game.

“I was always a nutty fan for the Bears,” he said.

As he walked closer to the B-17 at the Capital City Airport, visitors lining up for a tour took photos and thanked him for his service. Asked whether his ships also had paintings on their sides, like the pinup blonde in a bathing suit on the Aluminum Overcast’s nose, Bowers turned to look at the artwork.

The Aluminum Overcast in flight (used by permission)

“Not like that,” he said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.

Though he uses a walker, Bowers eagerly climbed the steps to the side hatch and stepped inside the plane. He didn’t hesitate to maneuver across the ledge circling the ball turret and into the radio room. From there, he could see into a narrow catwalk and the bays holding the bombs. He smiled from ear to ear and laughed out loud.

Bowers remembers being frightened “more than a couple of times.”

“When you’re riding up front and all this stuff is going on, I got scared,” he said. “But we still had a job to do, and that’s what we did.”