Spiritual guidance, meditation and wellness keep Homeland staff in top form during crisis


Chaplain Dann (seated) visiting with a member of our staff and a resident

At Homeland, even the heroes on the frontlines and in core services need inspiration to get through hectic days. Fortunately, they have heroes of their own to turn to, in the form of four chaplains and a wellness adviser.

While Homeland Center’s stringent actions are protecting residents from COVID-19, leadership also is safeguarding the well-being of employees. Meditation and spiritual guidance are equipping staff with the endurance to maintain Homeland’s renowned quality of care.

Even Homeland residents are joining the effort, with meditation sessions that tap into their sense of gratitude.

“Homeland is doing very well with all the physical precautions needed to prevent infection, but we also make sure that people’s minds and hearts stay strong,” says Homeland Hospice Chaplain Reynaldo Villarreal.

Physical protections, mental wellness

Homeland’s strict containment measures include prohibiting entry to all but essential staff (with exceptions for end-of-life situations), mandatory health screening of staff, and maintaining social distancing.

But there is another aspect to protection — the well-being and emotional resilience of staff. Homeland is helping all employees perform at their best through:
• Spiritual and emotional support from Homeland Hospice chaplains.
• Five- and 10-minute meditation sessions.
• Meals provided daily for Homeland Center employees – another step to seal the physical facility from encroachment of the virus.
• Purchase of two cloth face coverings for each employee to wear outside of work and remain protected at all times.

“When employees feel appreciated and supported, it reflects in everything they do,’’ says Homeland Director of Human Resources and Corporate Compliance Nicol M. Brown. “We look at the whole employee — mind, body, and spirit.”

Reflections on togetherness

Chaplain Rey can sense Homeland Center’s calm efficiency when he walks in the door.

“The character of Homeland’s leadership, their uplifting spirit, and their determination really is amazing,” he says.

Homeland’s chaplains – Dann Caldwell, Mark Harris, and John Good, along with Villarreal – had been offering prayers during Homeland department-head meetings. The devotions were so well received that the chaplains extended the opportunity to staff. During shift changes, the chaplains visit nurses’ stations and stand with those who choose to gather. Each chaplain says a prayer, and they offer time to anyone who wants personal prayer.

Chaplain Rey often shares a message of togetherness.

“This is a team effort, and you can’t do it on your own,” he tells listeners.

Sometimes, residents join in. So do staff who don’t consider themselves religious.

“They’ve told me that they feel a tremendous change in the atmosphere,’’ Chaplain Rey. “Words of encouragement are given.”

The chaplains submit encouraging thoughts for the internal employee newsletter and created fliers with uplifting texts and scripture. They also set up an email account for direct contact, and wrote a questionnaire allowing staff to self-check their mental well-being that includes resources to contact for any help they need.

“We call ourselves the beacon of hope,” says Chaplain Rey. “There are different ways of sharing hope. For some people, hope is getting through this with somebody. For others, it is knowing there is a rainbow at the end of the storm. We’re all going through the storm, but the storm passes.”

Easing stress with Dr. Rox

Dr. Roxanne Hearn leading a relaxation session.

Five or 10 minutes. That’s all it takes to “Relax, Relate, and Release with Dr. Rox.”

Employee Wellness Program Coordinator Dr. Roxane Hearn leads Homeland Center staff in mid-day meditation sessions. These allow staff to relax from the bustle of the day, relate to everything going on around them, and release any anxious thoughts.

“The sessions are about calming the mind, which helps staff focus on providing quality care for residents,’’ says “Dr. Rox,” as she’s known around Homeland. A 20-minute Zoom version is launching for Homeland at Home employees.

The positive response from the staff inspired “Calm My Mind Teatime” sessions for skilled-care residents. Residents affirm the positives in their lives, meditate on what makes them grateful, and discuss their revelations over tea and Lorna Doone shortbread cookies.

Residents say they are grateful for three meals a day, the attentiveness of Homeland staff, and the fact that even though loved ones can’t visit, they can still drop off items.

“One resident was happy for her new pink slippers,” says Dr. Rox. “It made her day.”

Dr. Rox has always witnessed the compassion of Homeland staff, but that empathy has heightened during the challenging times.

“The level of compassion I see through all this warms my heart,” she says. “It’s like chicken soup for my soul.”

A positive atmosphere shields Homeland residents from stress during crisis, says Chaplain Rey. The chaplains are doing their part.

“That beacon of hope is where our heart is,” says Chaplain Rey. “People can look toward the lighthouse and find there is hope in the storm. Somebody has to hold that lantern.”