Honoring Master Sergeant Armando Marino

On a warm summer afternoon in a modest home about a block from the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, one man’s family and hospice team gather to honor him for his service to our country.

Master Sergeant Armando Marino spent 26 years in the Air Force and served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.  Today, Armando, 84, sits in his family home with his wife Rita, 78 – he is living with cardiac heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.

Armando and Rita Marino

Armando and Rita Marino

However, today is no ordinary day for Armando and his family. Today, Armando will be honored for his dedication and service to our country.

Armando’s Samaritan hospice team, with the help of Samaritan volunteer Lance Corporal Chris Mora, stand proudly before him and surprise Armando with the Burlington County Military Service Medal as a Thank You for his military service to our country.

Armando with Samaritan volunteer Lance Corporal Chris Mora

Armando with Samaritan volunteer Lance Corporal Chris Mora

Hospice Social Worker Colleen Fritsch begins the moving tribute to Armando, “You answered the call to duty by enlisting in 1951… and serving in Korea, Vietnam, and Guam, and at bases in Hawaii, California and North Carolina.”

“We thank you for your integrity, discipline and obedience,” adds Nurse Angela DeNight.

Overwhelmed by the surprise, Armando whispers, “I’m so honored. I’m so honored to have served. Thank you.”

Rita, Armando’s wife, replies with tears in her eyes, “I’m so proud of him.”

“We know you, too, are not without sacrifice, Rita,” says Chaplain Anne Butts. Thank you for all you’ve done to support Armando and care for your family.”

Anne affixes a special Samaritan “We Honor Vets” pin to Rita’s lapel.

Armando with his hospice team. From left: Social Worker Colleen Fritsche, Chaplain Anne Butts and Nurse Angela DeNight

Armando with his hospice team. From left: Social Worker Colleen Fritsch, Chaplain Anne Butts and Nurse Angela DeNight

Armando and Rita have stood by each other’s sides from the beginning. They first met when Armando was stationed in New Hampshire. Both were at the same dance, but they didn’t cross paths initially. It wasn’t until Armando spotted Rita across the local diner after the dance that the two were finally introduced!

The lovely pair will celebrate 58 years of marriage on September 1st.  They have two children, Thomas and Daniel, and 6 grandchildren.

Over the couch in the living area of this 50-year-family home – at its rightful place in the center of the room – is a large painting of a young Rita in a black velvet dress against a water-like, aqua-blue background.

With delight, Rita explains, “This was an 11th anniversary present from Armando. While in Korea, he asked me to send him a picture of myself. So I did.”

She smiles and looks at her husband lovingly.

“When it arrived,” she continues. “I put it in the back of my car and drove all the way to New Hampshire (from Fort Dix) to show my family!”

Armando's painting of Rita. A gift for their 11th wedding anniversary.

Armando’s painting of Rita. A gift for their 11th wedding anniversary.

Turns out, Armando never had art lessons. But, his love for Rita shines through in his delicate, detailed brush strokes.

We Honor Vets

Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice strives to honor veterans as part of a national an initiative, We Honor Veterans, a program created by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Samaritan has been recognized with four-star status in the We Honor Veterans program – one of only 4 hospices in New Jersey — and one of 179 of more than 5500 hospices nationwide to earn this prestigious designation.

Samaritan’s participation demonstrates its commitment to supporting veterans through serious illness and end of life and honoring their service to our nation.

Thanks to the work of a dedicated hospice team and Samaritan’s mission to honor veterans, one family is able to gather together today to honor their patriarch for his service to our country – and, in the process, celebrate the ever-lasting love of a husband and wife.

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Armando holding his Burlington County Military Service Medal

Armando holding his Burlington County Military Service Medal

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Honoring Staff Sergeant Phillip Marcantonio

We honored Samaritan hospice patient, Phillip Marcantonio, with Camden County and New Jersey Military Service Medals. The medals were presented to him by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Al Bancroft of the Camden County Veterans Service Office.

Mr. Marcantoni was an Air Force Staff Sergeant during the Korean War.

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Lt. Col. (Ret.) Al Bancroft from the Camden County Veteran Services Office

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Lt. Col. (Ret.) Al Bancroft presenting Samaritan patient Phillip Marcantonio with military service medals from NJ and Camden County

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Phillip with Lt. Col. Bancroft

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Phillip with his Samaritan hospice team. From left: Sue Tigue, RN, Chaplain Chuck Mitchell, Social Worker Sherri Brake

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Phillip with his loving wife of more than 40 years, Carol.

We Honor Veterans

Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice has been recognized with four-star status in the national We Honor Veterans program – one of only 4 hospices in New Jersey — and one of 179 of more than 5500 hospices nationwide to earn this prestigious designation.

We Honor Veterans is an initiative of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Samaritan’s participation demonstrates its commitment to supporting veterans through serious illness and end of life and honoring their service to our nation.

The We Honor Veterans campaign (www.wehonorveterans.org ) awards tiered levels of recognition to organizations that demonstrate a pervasive commitment to improving care for veterans. Achieving the highest four-star status required that Samaritan implement ongoing training for staff and volunteers to support the special needs and challenges which veterans and their families may face at the end of life. The organization was also required to incorporate recommended “best-practice” protocols and procedures internally, and engage in community outreach and education with veterans, community organizations, healthcare providers, and local VA representatives and facilities.

For more information on our programs and services, please call (800) 229-8183.

Meaningful Ways to Serve Others

When Lynne Shapiro’s dad started volunteering late in life for a Delaware hospice, she and husband Alan honored – and imitated – his commitment to community service by volunteering with Samaritan.

The saying goes, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” That’s certainly the case for Lynne and Alan Shapiro, DMD, who started volunteering while they held demanding jobs, and have continued their community service into their retirement.

Lynne and Alan Shapiro

Lynne was a 4th grade teacher for 24 years at Medford’s Cranberry Pines School, while Alan had a dental practice in Haddonfield for 38 years.

They could have contributed their talents to any number of organizations, but it was Lynne’s 90-year-old father, Sig Ettinger, who sparked their interest in volunteering for Samaritan more than five years ago.

Lynne said, “When we saw the satisfaction he was getting from his volunteer work with Delaware Hospice, we investigated volunteer opportunities with the hospice closest to our home.” What sealed the deal, said Lynne, was finding out that “Samaritan would care for everyone, whether you could pay or not.”

A volunteer for more than 10 years, Lynne has chosen – and changed – assignments that fit her schedule. While still teaching, she chose flexible evening or weekend tasks. “I sold wreaths back when Samaritan did that as a winter fundraiser. I solicited auction gifts for the Golf Committee.”
After retirement, she completed patient volunteer training. “Sharon Wenner [Volunteer Coordinator] made it fun,” said the woman who spent years in front of a classroom. “No question was too silly.

Sharon stressed that everyone had strengths; she made us feel very confident to visit Samaritan’s patients and families.”

Lynne has been assigned to two patients so far. One woman, with Alzheimer’s Disease in her eighties, is cared for by her 81-year-old husband. “I’m in awe of this man’s amazing patience! I provide company for his wife so he can do the gardening he enjoys; he still goes to the gym so he can stay strong enough to take care of his wife!”

Alan’s Samaritan journey began in October ’06 as a patient volunteer. He came into the program, “by the seat of my pants – not very knowledgeable regarding the why’s and wherefore’s of hospice care.”

Like his wife, he found the training materials organized and helpful. With prodding from Lynne, Alan humbly shared that he would get “wonderful notes from appreciative families.” After his first six weeks of volunteering he was “even asked to do a eulogy.”

He visited about 25 patients and families over two and a half years before his doctors advised him to stop due to his own cancer diagnosis requiring chemotherapy.

But, as soon as he felt up to it, “I switched from patient volunteering and became one of the ‘guinea pigs’ for a new volunteer program called ‘Tuck-In’.” Each Thursday morning, Alan and other volunteers call each hospice patient or caregiver to find out if they need any medications or supplies that might otherwise run out over the weekend. “It’s very rewarding,” said Alan. “All the people are so happy to know that we care and are so relieved to have one less thing to worry about over the weekend.” Some weeks, Lynne joins Alan as a “substitute” caller.

For the investment of just a few hours a week, Lynne and Alan have found a win-win way of life. Said Alan, “I always get more out of this than I am giving. Through my Samaritan work, I’ve felt better about myself and my life.”

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact Sally Cezo at (856) 552-3235.

Summer Turns Up the Heat and Puts Seniors at Risk

Here are some cool ways to keep yourself and the elders you care about safe in the summer heat.

Stay Cool

As we age, our bodies do not adjust as well, or as quickly, to sudden changes in temperature. Also, some medications may affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Here are several ways to keep cool:

  • Spend at least a few hours each day in air conditioning.
    This will drastically lower your chances of having a heat-related illness. If you do not have air conditioning at home, consider visiting a mall, library or your local senior center.

  • Be equipped with a portable fan or handheld water mister for hot days inside and outside your home. When using an indoor fan, make sure your windows are open.
  • When outside, seek shelter in a shady area.
  • Take a cool shower or bath to quickly reduce your core temperature.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light colored lightweight, breathable clothing and a wide-brimmed hat outside to allow perspiration so the body can cool itself.
  • Avoid going outside during the peak hours of the day (11 am – 4 pm) when it is typically the hottest.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration occurs when the body is expelling more water than it is taking in. To stay properly hydrated, it is recommended that the average person drink between 64 and 96 ounces of fluid a day (8-12 cups). Try to avoid alcohol, sugary drinks and caffeine.

An easy way to get your recommended daily amount of water is to drink a glass of water at each meal and between each meal. Many fruits and vegetables are a good source of fluid because they are mostly water. So, if you’re bored with drinking water, reach for a juicy Jersey tomato or a refreshing slice of watermelon.

Symptoms of dehydration are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle cramps
  • Light-headedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of sweating and tear production

 

Be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms of heat stroke (a serious life-threatening heat-related illness that requires immediate medical attention):
• Body temperature of 103◦ F or above
• Strong, rapid pulse.
• Profuse sweating – or no sweating at all.
• Hot, red, dry skin.
• Dizziness
• Nausea
• Throbbing headache
• Confusion or hallucinations
• Weakness
• Fainting
• Rapid breathing
• Seizures


 

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration occurs when the body is expelling more water than it is taking in. To stay properly hydrated, it is recommended that the average person drink between 64 and 96 ounces of fluid a day (8-12 cups). Try to avoid alcohol, sugary drinks and caffeine.

An easy way to get your recommended daily amount of water is to drink a glass of water at each meal and between each meal. Many fruits and vegetables are a good source of fluid because they are mostly water.

So, if you’re bored with drinking water, reach for a juicy Jersey tomato or a refreshing slice of watermelon.

Symptoms of dehydration are:

• Increased thirst
• Dry mouth
• Muscle cramps
• Light-headedness
• Heart palpitations
• Nausea and vomiting
• Lack of sweating and tear production

Protect Your Skin

It is important to spend some time outside in the sun to absorb some vitamin D and also increase serotonin levels (natural mood-elevating chemicals) in the brain. Be sure,
however, to take these precautions to protect your skin when soaking in summer rays:

• Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher; this includes wearing lip balm with sunscreen to protect against sunburn.
• Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck from the sun.
• Wear tightly-woven, loose-fitting clothing.
• Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV absorption

Save Energy

Do not hesitate to turn on your air conditioner because you’re afraid of running up your energy bills. Instead, try these ways to save on your monthly bill:

• Set your thermostat to 80◦ F when you are not home and then adjust it to a cooler temperature when you are home.
• Turn off any lights or electronics that are not in use.
• Use the microwave instead of the oven to heat food because it creates less heat.
• During peak-heat hours of the day, avoid using appliances because it requires more energy.
• Use energy-efficient appliances and electronics.
• If finances are an issue, contact the NJ Low Income Home Energy Assistance program at (800) 510-3102.

No matter what you’re doing this summer, stay safe, stay healthy and have fun!

A Geriatric Care Manager can provide help addressing this and other challenging caregiving issues.

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For more information contact SeniorWise Care Management at (856) 552-5166.

Stella’s Dream Comes True

Her Samaritan social worker and Dream Foundation team up to create one more day at Jersey Shore

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Stella at the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk with her daughter, Susan DieMidio, and son-in-law Rich. Inset: Samaritan Social Worker Colleen Fritsch with Stella

Like many South Jerseyans, Stella Shields looked forward to her time “at the shore” each summer. She enjoyed her yearly ritual – singing “On the Way to Cape May” with family during the 90-minute car ride to Ocean City, “walking the boards” to shop for souvenir lighthouses, ordering the crab cake sandwich and dessert  (every time!) at her favorite, Clancy’s,  — and setting her beach chair so she could sit “calf-deep” in the surf!  Simple pleasures … until her advancing COPD and Parkinson’s disease made these treasured outings not so simple anymore!

Stella’s long struggle with COPD made her oxygen-dependent about five years ago, about the same time her Parkinson’s was causing her to fall. In February 2013, when she could no longer live safely alone, she moved into the Medford Care Center. It was a difficult but necessary decision for this nurse of 60 years who had “dedicated my life to taking care of others and now needed care myself.”

Stella’s nursing career at Virtua Memorial Hospital included assignments in the ER, ICU, CCU, Preemie Nursery and many supervisory positions. On the home front, she cared for her parents, her in-laws, her husband and her son. “My husband died two and a half years ago with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease and kidney failure. Just after that, my son died with a cardiac-related illness.”

Last year, she turned to Samaritan for hospice care for herself. Her Samaritan doctor, nurse, social worker and chaplain provide medical expertise and emotional and spiritual support, as well as the medications, medical equipment, and supplies she needs. Her Samaritan volunteer offers welcome companionship each week and always arrives with room-brightening flowers, she says.  “Other residents asked if my being on hospice care meant that I was going to die in the next few days, but I explained how Samaritan can provide much needed help for those of us who are declining but are still trying to live the best quality of life with the time we have left,” she said.

For Stella, that included visiting Ocean City at least one more time in what could be her last summer – an unfulfilled wish her Samaritan Social Worker Colleen Fritsch hoped to make a reality. Colleen helped Stella draft a letter to the not-for-profit Dream Foundation in California requesting help with all the arrangements. Stella  wrote, “When I think about the perfect day, it starts with being picked up in a white limo with my daughter and son-in-law and a nurse….I have never been in a limo and I think it’s about time!”

Stella and Colleen were delighted when the Dream Foundation agreed to fund her dream on Friday, June 20 – a perfect day that exceeded her expectations. “I felt like a queen in the limo,” she said, confirming that she and her family did indeed sing “On the Way to Cape May,” The weather on the boardwalk was beautiful, she enjoyed window shopping, and relished her crab cake lunch which was as good as she remembered. The best part, however, was picking up her surf chair from the Ocean City Recreation Department for her triumphant entry – calf-deep – into the ocean for the first time in several years.  “I’m never leaving,” she told her family with a huge smile.

Back at Medford Care, Stella said, “I cannot tell you how much this meant to me,” as she wrote thank you notes, with Colleen’s help, for her dream come true.

 

Grumpy Old Men: When Dear Old Dad Becomes Difficult

If your usually even-tempered Dad just doesn’t seem so pleasant most days  – or is downright cranky –  you may find yourself wondering, “Where’s the Dad I used to know?”

Normal aging can bring many compromises and readjustments. For the Dad who prided himself on “doing it all,” seemingly  small losses, such as having less energy to make it through his full round of errands, may get him down. Even normal age-related memory lapses – those dreaded “senior moments — can be worrisome.

And handing over some of the decision-making, or the driving, to an adult child, after decades of proud independence, can create tension.

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When Dad’s (or Mom’s) snappish behavior begins to cause concern, here are some tips that may help you be sensitive and supportive:

  1. Acknowledge the grump– The challenges of aging can be a tough transition for some people. Validating Dad’s feelings — with a hug, gesture, or simple acknowledgment — can be therapeutic, and sends the message that it’s okay to feel angry or frustrated.
  2. Listen and learn – In today’s fast-paced society, many older people feel they are invisible or a burden to their family. Taking the time to ask your father simple questions,  like “What did you do for fun growing up?” can start a storytelling session, taking the elder back to days gone-by. Flipping through  an old family photo album is a great way to encourage conversation and relive happy memories together.
  3. Do something different – If visits with Dad have become a hum-drum routine, shake things up and suggest going out for a bite to eat, a walk or even a short drive. Changing the scene can help change the mood.
  4. Music to soothe the soul – Studies have shown that upbeat music can be a mood booster. Get your dad smiling (and maybe even dancing?) with music he enjoys.
  5. Activities galore – Boredom can be a cause of grumpiness. Identify activities Dad enjoys – whether it’s reading, crossword puzzles, playing card games or watching his favorite team on TV — and encourage him to do them. Pick up some new books, offer to play a round of cards or buy tickets to see a baseball game together.
  6. Take a deep breath – Crankiness can be contagious and sometimes it may be hard to distance yourself from your Dad’s angry emotions. Take a moment to catch your breath, and focus on your time as together as parent and child.
  7. Watch for more serious problems – Depression among the elderly is very common and often presents itself with symptoms such as agitation, restlessness and memory issues. You may think Dad is just irritable when he’s actually depressed and could benefit from treatment. An experienced certified geriatric care manager can help you recognize serious aging issues and guide you  in finding the most appropriate care and support.

 

SeniorWise Care Management can help

SeniorWise Care Management’s staff includes certified geriatric care managers and licensed social workers with years of experience providing caring advocacy and guidance for frail elders and their adult children. As a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM), SeniorWise Care Management follows NAPGCM’s Standards of Practice and Pledge of Ethics, ensuring the highest quality services for each senior in our care.

To learn more about SeniorWise Care Management, a member of the Samaritan Family of Services, contact us at 1-888-552-5166.

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