Marianna Bjurstrom doesn’t let severe arthritis keep her from enjoying the day trips and activities that Homeland has to offer. Her rehabilitation services have helped her retain as much mobility as possible and even taught her to use a power wheelchair

Marianna Bjurstrom and Margaret McCabe Homeland Center
Homeland resident Marianna Bjurstrom and Occupational Therapist Manager Margaret McCabe.   

“I don’t want to be a couch potato,” she says.

Homeland partners with Genesis Rehab Services, a national provider, to offer rehab for Homeland guests. They may be long-term residents, or they may choose Homeland for rehab stays of a few days or weeks while recovering from a hospital visit or injury. Some are Homeland Hospice patients and receive rehab services in their home.

All get the same level of quality service that’s infused into the spirit of Homeland.

Unintended weight loss in the elderly is serious business. When the body is forced to draw on stored protein for

Lorraine Englander and Christina Dinger
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.  

energy, the antibodies that ward off illness are diverted, and a cascade of negative health consequences can follow.

“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.

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.

F.M. Richard Simons
"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.’’ 

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 singalong
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.

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

Barry S. Ramper II addresses board
"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.


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