Homeland coordinates window visits to keep families in touch


“Hi, Grandma!”

“Hello! I miss you!”

“Do you see Jillian, and Brooke, and Alex?”

In groups of two or three, the members of Betty Dumas’ family took turns saying hello to their beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. With COVID-19 restrictions still in effect, no one could go inside, so the gathering took place at a Homeland Center window.

In the age of limited contact, Homeland coordinates window visits that keep families connected.

From the inside, residents get a bit of cheer and love. From the outside, family members get reassurance that their loved one is doing fine.

It is all done in compliance with Homeland’s strict measures to prevent COVID-19 contamination without compromising the vibrant quality of life assured to every resident.

On this day, Betty’s family congregated outside the windows of the first-floor skilled care dining room. The window visits help make the inability to visit in person a bit more tolerable, said Betty’s daughter, Donna Longnaker.

“I’m just so happy to see her,” she said. “I really am.”

Advance scheduling helps Homeland staff coordinate the little details that assure safety and a positive experience for residents and their families. It starts when families call Homeland’s activities office to schedule a time and day.

From there, a Homeland staff member lets the resident know their family is coming and makes sure they are wearing a face mask before taking them to the visiting window. Using a personal or Homeland Center phone, the staff member connects to one of the family members outside.

“The residents find great joy in it,” says Homeland Activities Director Aleisha Connors. “They enjoy seeing their family face to face, right there through the window.”

Multiple generations and, sometimes, family dogs will join in the visits. Some families bring signs proclaiming, “We love you,” or showing family photos.

Pouring rain didn’t stop the celebration of one resident’s 97th birthday party. While she stayed dry inside, family members stood outside under their umbrellas. They dropped off presents at the front door, and Aleisha brought them to the resident’s side. Together, they opened gifts consisting of clothing and an arts and crafts kit.

Another resident’s granddaughter came to the window, wearing her wedding dress for the ceremony that her grandmother would not be able to attend.

“When you see things like this, it’s amazing, and you really are reminded how important family interaction is for the residents,” says Director of Social Services and Ellenberger Unit Coordinator Ashley Bryan.

The window visits can augment the virtual visits that Homeland started coordinating after the pandemic restrictions prevented visitors from coming inside. For family, the window visits offer firsthand assurances of the quality care their loved ones receive.

On a warm Monday afternoon, Betty Dumas hosted three generations for a window visit. They took their turns chatting. When a question came up about how long Betty had worked as a nurses’ aide at Harrisburg’s former Polyclinic Hospital, they merely had to ask, and Betty answered — 22 years.

Betty’s granddaughter, Nicole Yasenchak, brought her three children to the window visit.

“She seems to be in good spirits”, she said.

Some residents, like Betty, do better with window visits than virtual visits because they have a hard time seeing faces and following conversations on the small screen.

The visits even give family members a chance to interact with the staff that they get to know so well. Donna said hello to a staff member who tapped on the window to get her attention.
Donna wishes she could hug her mom, but she has the comfort of knowing that her mother is safe at Homeland.

“I love Homeland,” she says. “I’m glad she’s here. She has a lot of good care.”

Board of Managers member Carol McCall gives back to Homeland


Carol McCall was sitting in Homeland Center’s Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion helping the Board of Managers prepare fresh flower arrangements when two residents walked up.

The next thing Carol knew, one resident was talking about his time in the Air Force, and the other was talking about his Navy service.

“I enjoy talking to the residents and hearing what they have to share,” Carol says. “That’s what I like about the way Homeland gets to know the residents and hears their stories because it is important to listen to everyone.’’

The Board of Managers is Homeland’s unique, all-female board responsible for maintaining Homeland’s renowned homelike feel. Although Carol is relatively new to the board, she has deep ties to Homeland through family and church.

Carol became acquainted with Homeland in 1998, when she and her sister were scrambling to find a nursing home capable of providing skilled care for their mother and personal care for their father. Homeland “just seemed to be the right place.” Their decision was confirmed when their trusted family physician said, “You girls did the right thing.”

“He could see the level of care his patients were receiving,” Carol says.

After they came to Homeland, Carol’s mother lived for one year, and her father “flourished for two years.”

“He was so happy with his suite,” she says. “He had everything he needed right there. And he just loved the food. He was constantly praising it. He even called one of his buddies who lived in a facility on the West Shore and said, ‘Eddie, you ought to move here. The food is so good.’”

Carol’s dad made good friends and was under the care of a nurse knowledgeable about his medications. He was an electronics whiz who built the family’s first television and repaired radios and radar on Army helicopters at New Cumberland Army Depot. He participated in history discussion groups. When poetry activities were coming up, Carol – who kept a poetry file from her college days – would get a call.

“Carol, I need a poem for Veterans Day,” he would say. Or, “I need a poem for this weather.”

“We were very thankful for the care and the quality of the people that were at Homeland,” Carol says now. “Some of them are still here.”

Carol’s dad also enjoyed excursions around town, and now, Carol has come full circle. As a Board of Managers volunteer, she sometimes joined residents on their outings (pre-pandemic) for lunch or shopping. On a holiday trip to a shopping mall, Santa Claus waved at the group, and everyone marveled at the decorations.

“The men weren’t there to shop very much,” she says. “They went to the optometrist to get their glasses adjusted.”

Carol lives in South Hanover Township, outside of Hershey. She grew up in Harrisburg’s Colonial Park area and spent her career happily teaching first and third graders in Central Dauphin School District, where she had attended school. She still hears from former students. One grew up to be an award-winning teacher at Dauphin County Technical School.

Several of Carol’s church friends had served on the Homeland Board of Managers, and Carol would often visit church friends who were residents. She once turned down an invitation to serve on the Board of Managers because the time was not right, but when the opportunity came again in fall 2019, she accepted.

She enjoys flower arranging, which during normal times perks up the dining room tables and now, with the pandemic limitations, individual arrangements brighten up residents’ rooms. In retrospect, she is pleased that residents were able to enjoy the Board of Managers’ winter party just before protections against COVID-19 put an end to large gatherings and outside visitors. That “Homeland Sock Hop” featured staff wearing poodle skirts, specially made cookies, and an Elvis impersonator making the ladies swoon.

“The idea of going to the party, gathering, and getting ready is something the residents look forward to,” Carol says.

Carol and her husband, George McCall, enjoyed attending concerts at Mt. Gretna. They also travel when they can, sometimes taking short boat trips along coastal sites.Carol appreciates Homeland’s unwavering commitment to excellence. In regular times, that meant training staff to sustain high levels of care. During the pandemic, she says the staff has

“I see Homeland as such a positive place,” she says. “It’s a nice, clean, happy, well-run home.”

Homeland makes Father’s Day special


Bob Fultz taught his eight children many things. His son, Tim Fultz, learned the value of hard work while the family tended 10 acres of land, complete with gardens and livestock.

“We had pigs for many years,” he recalls. “We raised and sold them. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job.”

Bob Fultz is one of many dads whose accomplishments as fathers, inspirations, and friends were recognized by Homeland for Father’s Day. Working amid COVID-19 restrictions, the Homeland staff still made sure that Bob and 25 other dads received special recognition for their remarkable achievements in raising healthy families.

On the Friday before Father’s Day, Homeland held socially distanced socials for the dads in Homeland’s Personal Care and Skilled Care units. They enjoyed favorite treats like shrimp, old-fashioned root beer, cheese and crackers, pretzels, chips, and if approved, beer.
Activities staff led them in reminiscing about their families and answering trivia questions about dads and grandfathers.

In advance of Father’s Day, the Homeland staff decorated mugs with “Happy Father’s Day” messages and fun, manly images of bow ties, hats, and mustaches. On Father’s Day, they decorated a cart and pushed it around the rooms, delivering a mug filled with a few personal items, such as shaving cream and snacks, to each father in residence.

The two events helped Homeland’s corps of fathers celebrate Father’s Day, even without their families coming to visit in person, due to coronavirus restrictions. Some families held window visits. Bob Fultz’s family came for their window visit just before Father’s Day, with big smiles all around.

Bob Fultz and his wife, Shirley, were childhood sweethearts who would have been married 67 years before Shirley’s death earlier this year. Together, they raised eight children, teaching them to be independent, responsible, and entrepreneurial.

At home, the family did their farming and gardening. As the owner of his own electrical and construction businesses, Tim says his father taught all the kids, both boys and girls, the full range of building arts: “Hands-on, everything from the ground up. Putting footers in. Doing block work. Framing, plumbing, electrical, roofing.”

Their mother taught all the kids to cook, and through all of this the couple ran their own restaurant, named Bob & Shirley’s.

Sometimes, the kids were not happy to be pulling weeds, picking vegetables, or raising rabbits on their summer vacation days. Still, they watched their dad set a shining example of integrity and diligence. Inspired by his dad’s entrepreneurial example, Tim started his own construction business, restaurants, and lunch wagon.

“He just loved working for himself, even though he didn’t get rich on it,” says Tim, of West Hanover Twp. “One of his good friends told him, ‘You’re never going to get big in this business because you’re too honest.’ At least he could sleep at night.”

Bob, a Boy Scouts troop leader like his father, instilled his lifelong love of the outdoors in his kids. He took them camping, hunting, fishing and clamming in the Chesapeake Bay. They had fun, despite the occasional jellyfish sting.

“He’d always tell us, ‘Watch those things floating in the water,’” Tim remembers. “He had us out there when we were little.”

Tim passed that love of nature to his son, who is doing the same for his own boy.
“It brings closeness and camaraderie,” Tim says. “Helping each other as well as a sense of loyalty to our generations before us.”

Through it all, Tim’s parents weren’t shy about showing their kids their love for each other, holding hands or sharing a kiss. Even today, Bob tells Tim, “We had our ups and downs. We made it through. You just have to be able to work your problems out.”
Of all the values Tim learned from his dad, he cannot pick one that was the most important.

“I appreciate all of them,” he says. “I tell him every time I see him that he was a good dad. I could not have done it without him, all this stuff that I know. It makes him feel good. He always has a smile on his face and says, ‘Thanks.’”

Virtual visits bring peace of mind to Homeland residents and family


Julia Marburger was always the woman whose home was open to everyone.

“She raised five boys on her own, which is amazing,” says her daughter-in-law, Sharon Marburger. “Her home became the little hub of the neighborhood. Everybody was always at her house.”

In a virtual sense, Julia is still welcoming guests to her Homeland Center home, even with Covid-19 restrictions in place. Through meticulous planning and clever use of technology, Homeland Center is offering virtual visits, free of charge, that keep residents connected to family and provide peace of mind to loved ones.

“Our stress levels go down because we can see her, and we know how well everyone is caring for her,” says Sharon.

The virtual visits emerged from Homeland’s commitment to maintaining a sense of normalcy while strict COVID-19 containment procedures are in place. They started when Administrative Assistant for Strategic Projects/IT Alice Kirchner realized that Homeland Center had virtual-visit capabilities. She gathered and adapted 10 iPads and iPhones.

Working with Activities and Social work to understand the preferences of residents and families, Alice examined available applications and in consultation with IT settled on FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom (following proper safeguards and used only for family visits). Alice established accounts for each unit at Homeland Center and acquired cleaning materials, stands, chargers and adapters for the equipment.

Residents weren’t entirely familiar with the technology, but they caught on quickly.

“We have seen so much progress,” says Alice. “The first time one resident visited with her daughter, it was pretty stiff. Now, it’s a relaxed and enjoyable visit with no time spent on trying to figure out how it works!”

The Homeland Center Activities and Social Work offices coordinate with families to schedule the visits. Staff are trained to facilitate and log in to the different applications. Through

Notice the candle-lit cupcakes!

June, at least 260 Zoom calls had been conducted, including multiple 90+ year birthday celebrations.

Residents are excited to see their family members in one place, says Activities Director Aleisha Connors.

“It’s nice seeing the reaction on their faces – seeing them smile when they see their loved ones, knowing they’re still there and thinking about them,” she says.

Invitations go out to one or two family members, and they can invite others. Some visits have involved eight or 10 people, and pets.

“They’re raucous. They are loud. They are lovely,” says Alice. “They are multi-generational. I know of at least two groups that are four generations. It is wonderful.”

Homeland is “all about trying to balance protecting our residents with an equal commitment to caring for and about our residents” during the Covid-19 crisis, says Alice. “If we get a request for a virtual family visit, we do everything possible to honor that.”

In fact, the virtual visits have been so successful that “it’s hard to imagine that we will ever stop doing this to some degree,” says Alice.

Aleisha agrees. She envisions benefits for family members who live out of state or who go on vacation. The virtual visits offer an excellent method to stay in touch, she says.

Sharon Marburger loves the opportunity to connect with her mother-in-law and even bring virtual visits from Cocoa, her rescue dog. Cocoa’s visits to Homeland were a regular highlight for many residents before in-person visits were halted.

“These visits have allowed us to feel like we’re still part of the Homeland family,” she says. “It’s one thing for people to tell you that somebody’s OK. It’s completely different when you see that they’re OK.”

Sharon says she can see the effort Homeland’s staff puts into making sure that Julia “stays healthy and looks healthy.”

“Her hair looks pretty,’’ Sharon says. “She’s dressed nicely.”

The virtual visits with family at least twice weekly are less confusing for Julia than weekly visits with family standing outside her window, Sharon says.

“I think the visits make her feel like all is normal,” says Sharon. And for families FaceTiming or Zooming in, they are visual proof that all is well.

“It has helped us immeasurably to be able to see her,’’ she says. “It makes us feel connected.”