American Heart Month at Homeland: Healthy staff, happy residents

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When Homeland Employee Wellness Coordinator Roxane E. Hearn, PhD sees Homeland Center staff wearing scrubs that have grown baggy from weight loss, it warms her heart.

“You see them moving faster,” she said. “They say they’re not as tired on their shift or feel they have more energy to spend time with family.”

“Dr. Rox,” as she is affectionately known, is a resource for helping to keep Homeland Center and Homeland at Home staff healthy and on their toes. For American Heart Month this February, she offered fun incentives and challenges to protect the hearts that, in turn, protect Homeland’s residents and patients.

A human heart at peak condition keeps the body energized and alert. When the heart pumps blood properly, a person stays focused and avoids fatigue. Shortness of breath makes it hard to push carts of meals or medical supplies through the halls. The body is strong enough to help a resident move around the room or get out for an activity they enjoy, whether listening to a musician or making a craft.

A healthy heart also shows up outside of work, giving staff the motivation and energy to play with children, exercise, and enjoy a favorite hobby. All are essential to the work-life balance that equips Homeland staff to manage life’s daily stressors.

Put it all together, and Homeland keeps its heart-health initiatives beating. Dr. Rox is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a doctorate in health psychology, a certification in functional nutrition counseling, and has recently begun to place strong emphasis on the use of a functional medicine approach to health and wellness in the Homeland employee population. Functional medicine doesn’t replace traditional medicine. Instead, it takes a holistic view that considers the whole person and seeks to identify and address the root causes of health issues, aiming to understand the underlying imbalances or dysfunctions that contribute to symptoms.

“Hearts don’t always send warning signs when they start becoming unhealthy; even when they do, people often ignore them,” Dr. Rox said. “It is imperative to teach employees to listen to their bodies and get their preventative screenings.”

She provides blood pressure screenings and helps staff see signs of approaching danger in all by understanding the medical terms on their lab tests. From there, she recommends steps for improvement. As she likes to say, family predispositions to heart-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are no excuse for complacency.

“Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle and diet pull the trigger,” she said. “With that in mind, you do have some control. You can change the trajectory.”

For American Heart Month, Homeland staff participated in the Commit to Fit Wellness Challenge, a six-week mobile app-based program that helps employees take proactive steps towards healthy lifestyle goals. Participants receive points for tracking physical activity, taking steps, rating their nutrition, and checking their weight routinely. Cash rewards are given through the challenge to support their efforts.

Additionally, Heart Healthy 7-Day Meal Plans approved by a Registered Dietician with the matching grocery list and step-by-step recipes were emailed and posted on the Homeland Employee Wellness Board. The meal plan focused on key nutritional considerations for a healthy heart and recommended meals that were low in sodium and reduced saturated fats and included healthy omega-3 fats, fiber, and plant sterols that block cholesterol absorption in food.

“We are now starting to teach the employees how to use food as medicine. We are empowering them to take charge of their health by not just telling them what to do but teaching them and giving them the tools to execute,” said Dr. Rox.

The emphasis on heart and overall health doesn’t end after February. Every quarter brings a new wellness challenge. Webinars zero in on specific health topics, such as fighting inflammation or maximizing digestion. One-to-One health coaching by Dr. Rox provides personalized support for employees by helping them set and achieve their health goals. This support includes tailored guidance on nutrition, exercise, disease management, stress reduction strategies, and overall wellness. Through regular meetings both in person and via a telehealth portal, the employees are provided with accountability, motivation, and education, empowering them to make sustainable lifestyle changes and improve their health outcomes. Lifestyle and diet recommendations are a staple in the Homeland Employee Wellness Program, with constant suggestions to eat right, exercise regularly, quit smoking, limit alcohol, get quality sleep, and manage stress.

“We are giving employees the information and support they need so they can take charge of their health,” said Dr. Rox. “Proactiveness is crucial.”

She recalls a Homeland Hospice nurse who cared for multiple family members and patients. About eight years ago, Dr. Rox helped her quit smoking, change poor eating habits ingrained by long days of driving, and learn “box breathing,” a form of deep breathing known to calm frazzled nerves. Gradually, the nurse lost 50 pounds.

“Lifestyle change is something you’re able to maintain and be flexible with, despite life’s twists, turns, and hurdles,” said Dr. Rox. “Habits can change in 21 days, but the more sustainable change takes longer.”

Creating sustainable changes is key to Homeland’s commitment to health and well-being – for staff and residents.

“When staff are healthy, the environment for the residents is safer, and they receive better-quality service,” said Dr. Rox. “Happy, healthy employees make for happier, and healthier residents.”

Homeland resident Loretta Colestock: A life of love and service

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After 65 years of marriage, Loretta Colestock lost her husband to Alzheimer’s in 2015.

It was a challenging time. In the years after his death, she got tired of rambling around alone in the house, but she also wanted to retain her independence.

Loretta had heard about Homeland Center’s stellar reputation and decided, “Homeland is a good spot for me.”

“I told the kids and surprised them,” she said. “They went on the tour with me and seemed to like everything about it.”

Since coming to Homeland last August, Loretta has settled in comfortably. Enjoying crafts, attending music programs, hosting family visits, and singing with the staff — it suits her joyous and dynamic nature.

Loretta was born in Harrisburg and lived in the area between Harrisburg and Hershey, known as Lawnton, from sixth grade on. She was the second of five siblings raised by a hard-working single mother.

“She was a jewel,” Loretta recalls. “She never wanted to ask for help. She thought she could do it all herself. My siblings, we all got along so well. We were very close because we knew that Mom was doing her best. We were brought up on hand-me-downs, but we survived, and I think it made us stronger.”

Loretta graduated from high school in 1955 and worked at the former Harrisburg National Bank. In those days, Loretta would attend games fielded by the bank’s softball team. One player recruited a friend who was a good hitter and pitcher, and that’s how she met David Colestock, “who kind of swept me off my feet, I guess.”

David and Loretta were married in 1959 and raised four children. They settled in the Lenker Manor community of Swatara Township. He worked as a draftsman designer for Gannet Fleming, the engineering firm.

They stayed active in the community, with David coaching Little League, serving as a Swatara Township commissioner, and volunteering on the Swatara Township Police Commission.

Together, they served in the Paxtang Lions Club, participating in projects such as providing eyeglasses for the visually impaired. Loretta also sang soprano in their church choir, taught Sunday school, and joined church outreach efforts, including volunteering at a local nursing home.

“We always did a lot of volunteer service work,” said Loretta. “It’s kind of in our blood. They say if you want something done, ask a busy person. People would ask me, ‘Can you do this?’ and I’d say, ‘I don’t know,’ but I’d always give in.”

After the kids were grown, Loretta taught nursery school for 20 years.

“It was fun,” she said. “Kids today need more playtime rather than being on devices and the TV all the time. They need to play with other children.”

The Colestock children all did well, and Loretta is very proud of them. While still in her home during the pandemic, she heard voices singing outside. Looking out the window, she saw her children and their families there to serenade her.

Music remains an integral part of Loretta’s life. When Homeland CNA Aprile Greene breaks into song in the dining room – maybe singing “You Light Up My Life” or “You Are My Sunshine” – Loretta sings along.

Often, Loretta enjoys the peace of her personal care suite. Still, she’s also likely to be found playing bingo or dominoes, making wreaths in a craft session, or enjoying the performance of a visiting musician. For her first Christmas in Homeland, she adorned her room with cherished decorations she brought from home, including small glass lanterns inherited from her mother.

“I’m happy at Homeland,” she said. “I think it’s good. I like that it’s so clean, and the girls are so nice when they come in to help.”

But her independent streak still shows sometimes.

“They want to make the bed,” Loretta said. “I won’t let them. They say, ‘We’re supposed to do that,’ but I say I have to do something. I can’t just sit around.”

Loretta has nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and is a frequent guest at birthday parties and weddings. When she hosts family visits, the youngsters enjoy running around the Homeland gardens and getting ice cream sandwiches in the Gift Shop located in Homeland’s ‘50s-style diner.

Her suite is decorated with family pictures and furnished in antique pieces refinished by her husband. All provide mementos of a rich life, and she said she’s received compliments on her decor from the staff.

“They love the room,” she said. “They like the way I have it decorated.”

Homeland senior prom brings sparkle to a winter’s day

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“Time to crown the king and queen!”

Every prom needs a king and queen, and Carl Barna and Loretta Colestock entered like royalty – which they were!

The first Homeland Masquerade Senior Prom was underway. Created by the Homeland Activities Department to brighten up a late January day, the prom had everything – corsages and boutonnieres, masquerade masks, ball gowns, crowns for the king and queen, and music to dance by.

For many residents, the Homeland prom brought memories of proms past. Katherine Harrity, wearing a sparkly blue sweater and rhinestone necklace, remembered the proms in her hometown of Hamburg, NY.

“I always got a new dress,” she said while Judy Garland’s song “Embraceable You” played in the background. “It was a real dress-up time, and of course, everyone was trying to outdo somebody else.”

She didn’t remember much about the music and admitted that dancing to pop tunes of the day wasn’t her thing.

“I did square dancing,” she said. “Modern, Western-style square dancing. I enjoyed it greatly. I had a lot of fun.”

Resident Alice Lowe, adorned in sparkly earrings and a red sweater with rhinestone snowflakes, has a distinct memory of her prom – especially the strict chaperones.

“They were very guarded,” she said. “You went in the building, and you stayed in the building, and if you left the building, uh-oh.”

Betty Hungerford, Homeland’s longtime development director, enjoyed the prom with her fellow residents. The dress she wore to the junior prom stood out in her memory.

“My daddy took me shopping for it,” she said. “Bowman’s had a beautiful department store. It was really pretty. It was navy blue over pink tulle.”

King and Queen Carl Barna and Loretta Colestock, voted into the honor by residents, were crowned with fanfare and proceeded to give the royal wave to the crowd. Activities Coordinator Diomaris Pumarol, who came up with the prom idea, placed crowns on their heads and sashes across their shoulders. As he will probably be known from now on, King Carl also got a fur-lined red cape.

Loretta was resplendent in an elegant, navy-blue gown with a touch of beading. She bought it for a class reunion and figured she’d bring it along in the move to Homeland. She was surprised to be named queen, but “it’s nice that fellow residents voted for me,” she said.

Carl said he was initially reluctant to accept the honor because he’s never been one for dressing up. Loretta convinced him to take the crown.

“I said if everybody voted for him, then he should do it,” she said. “He said, ‘Well, I won’t dress up,’ and I said, ‘You’re you. This is the way you are, and they still voted for you, so that’s what you do.’”

Now that he was king, Carl said he felt “like a million dollars.”

“It’s very nice of everybody,” he said.

After the coronation, the dancing began. Residents, their family members, and staff danced to the music of Glenn Miller, Elvis Presley, and the Four Tops.

One resident took to the dance floor looking glamorous in a winter white gown that she got for a granddaughter’s wedding.

“I couldn’t do this every day, but I love it!” she said.

Dancing with her was Kathy Griffey, daughter of a Homeland resident. As they danced to “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” Kathy called the prom “a wonderful thing for the folks that live here.”

Homeland’s reputation for excellent care attracted Kathy’s mother. She chose Homeland after the family studied their options extensively.

“It’s a good way to welcome the new people that have moved in,” she said of the prom. “Homeland has a wonderful reputation, and this is a nice affair. I thought it was really sweet.”

 

 

Homeland Director of Emergency Preparedness and Purchasing Kelly English: A passionate steward

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When buying Homeland equipment — from large purchases down to the right chair a resident needs to live and move comfortably — Kelly English makes one thing clear.

“I will never sacrifice quality to get a better price for something,” he said. “I’m never going to skimp on quality just to get a cheaper price.”

Kelly English joined Homeland in July 2023 in the dual role of Director of Emergency Preparedness and Purchasing. His career and degrees in law enforcement and homeland security prepared him for his crucial responsibilities in emergency preparedness. Still, he also takes his purchasing responsibilities seriously for their power to save money while upholding Homeland’s renowned quality and consistency in care.

English graduated from Penn State University, main campus, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He spent 20 years with the Harrisburg Police Department, retiring in July 2022. For 15 of those years, he was a detective handling the city’s bomb-detecting K9. The role familiarized him with the city’s institutions, including Homeland.

His immersion in homeland security training inspired him to earn a master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security, with a concentration in cybersecurity policy, from Arizona State University’s top-rated program. Upon retirement from policing, he started talking with Homeland about bringing his skills and passion here.

Since joining Homeland in July 2023, English has overseen upgrades that directly impact the lives and wallets of patients and their families. With his knowledge of emergency preparedness and security procedures, he procured systems that leverage the latest technology to ward off threats and protect residents, staff, and visitors of Homeland Center and Homeland at Home.

In purchasing, English has renegotiated contracts to enhance Homeland’s buying power and, by extension, save money for the families of residents. Recently renegotiating the contract for alternating pressure mattresses – a fundamental need to keep residents safe and healthy – he helped Homeland retain the same high-quality mattresses but brought down the monthly fees.

He also ensures that vendors share Homeland’s commitment to the residents and their quality of life. After joining Homeland, he scheduled one of his first meetings with a local medical device supplier who, he knew, could provide the necessary pieces at a moment’s notice.

“This is a 24/7 facility, and our residents can arrive at any time with a new condition that requires specialized equipment,” English said. “I need to know that 24 hours a day, I can get a hold of something no matter where it is. It goes back to never skimping on the quality of care for our residents, so I believe in creating relationships locally with businesses to ensure that the supply chain remains strong.”

The team at Homeland has welcomed him.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Everyone has been extremely welcoming. It is definitely a family atmosphere, which is nice. It’s very supportive. People have been very receptive to me and to what I can bring to the table. It’s a very, very good working environment.”

Outside of Homeland, English and his wife have two kids – a 15-year-old son who plays ice hockey including with the Hershey Jr. Bears and lacrosse, and a 17-year-old daughter who plays lacrosse and field hockey. The busy family lives on a 4-acre farm in the Hershey area. There, they raise pigs, sheep, chickens, and ducks.

The farm is his wife’s passion, but a team effort, caring for livestock – another 24/7 venture – and slaughtering and curing their charcuterie meats. About twice a year, they team with a pair of Ohio butchers who come to the farm and teach interested students, such as organic farmers, their traditional curing processes learned directly from elderly artisans throughout Europe.

English likes taking on challenges, embracing them with his role at Homeland.

“I definitely come to work every day with a passion to keep all of our residents and staff secure and try to make the next day better than the last,” he said. “There is a lot of support throughout central Pennsylvania for Homeland, and I want to be a good steward of that and help Homeland be around for many years to come.”

Homeland’s Founding Churches and Visionary Women Featured in 2024 Lottery Calendar

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More than 156 years ago, nine churches and 18 women came together to find a way to meet the growing humanitarian needs in our community after the Civil War. Their work made history and led to the creation of the “Society for the Home for the Friendless” which is now Homeland Center. Historic photos of the churches along with insight about the founding female leaders are featured in Homeland Center’s 2024 Lottery Calendar which is now on sale.

The lottery calendar has become a tradition for friends, volunteers and supporters of Homeland’s work. The monthly calendar costs $25 and supports the organization’s benevolent care programs. More than 1,000 calendars are produced and sold and everyone who purchases a calendar is eligible to be entered into daily drawings for cash prizes.

“This year’s calendar is exceptional and truly unique,” says Homeland Board of Trustees member Marion Alexander. “It offers far more than dates and potential prizes.”

The calendar tells a story about the power of faith and purpose coming together to serve Harrisburg families and lay the groundwork for today’s Homeland Center. Plans for the calendar began more than a year ago with the help of David Morrison and Jeb Stuart of the Historic Harrisburg Association, along with Homeland volunteers including Marion.

“Homeland’s foundation was built by the compassionate leadership of 18 women,” Marion adds. “This vision continues today through the Board of Managers.”

When the “Home for the Friendless” was formed, the Board of Lady Managers, as it was called, served to help meet the needs of its orphans and widows. More than 156 years later, the Board of Managers includes 18 women who work to make Homeland a home for all residents.

Proceeds from calendar sales provide financial support and additional services to Homeland residents, patients and clients in need. Homeland provides more than $3 million in benevolent care annually to ensure all residents, patients and clients receive high-quality, supportive care when they need it most. Through the Lottery Calendar more than $70,000 has been raised since 2015 to support Homeland’s benevolent care program.

To learn more about our nine founding churches, please visit HomelandCenter.org/Nine-Founding-Churches.

Homeland Center and Homeland at Home Earn Deficiency-Free Survey Results from Pennsylvania Department of Health

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Homeland Center and Homeland at Home, which provides a full continuum of services to care for residents, patients and clients, has earned deficiency-free survey results across all five of its care services based on routine annual examination by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) for the survey year 2022-23. The results signify 100 percent survey compliance with all federal and state standards of care.

The five health care services earning the deficiency-free rating are Homeland Center Skilled Nursing and Personal Care at Homeland Center; and Homeland HomeHealth, Homeland HomeCare and Homeland Hospice.

“Our deficiency-free survey results are a testament to our sincere and endless commitment to our Residents, Patients and Clients, and the Families who entrust us to care for them,” said Homeland Center and Homeland at Home President and CEO Barry S. Ramper II. “Having all five of our service lines earn this outcome in the same licensure and certification survey period makes this achievement even more outstanding. It is our privilege to provide compassionate care to those whose lives we have been entrusted, and we will continue to relentlessly strive to maintain the standards that earned these deficiency-free results every moment of every day.”

Occupying a full block in uptown Harrisburg, Homeland Center is a licensed not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community offering personal care, skilled nursing care, memory care, and short-term rehabilitation. Homeland at Home provides hospice care (compassionate end-of-life care), home health services (in-home physician-ordered medical treatment), home care services (in-home non-medical daily living assistance) and palliative care (comfort and relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness).

Earlier in 2023, Homeland HomeHealth and Homeland Hospice were named 2023 CAHPS Honors Award recipients by HEALTHCAREfirst, a national provider of services for hospice and home health agencies. The awards recognize Homeland for continuously providing a positive patient experience and high-quality of care based on results of the Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey, a nationally recognized tool to assess and improve patient care and patient and caregiver satisfaction.

Homeland’s tradition of care began 156 years ago after the Civil War. Eighteen women from nine churches in the city of Harrisburg came together to consider what could be done to help orphans and widows. In 1867, the group chartered the “Society for the Home for the Friendless” and raised funds to begin operating what today is Homeland Center and Homeland at Home.