Stella’s Dream Comes True

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

Boardwalk Cropped with Inset

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.


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.


Free Family Fun at Car Show Event benefits Samaritan veterans programs

Looking for a great way to spend a Saturday? Check out the 7th Annual Veterans Car, Truck & Bike Show on June 21.

This delightful day features cool vehicles, tasty food, and an inspiring awards program honoring local vets.

Running from 9 am to 2 pm at Cherry Hill High School West, the free event donates 100 percent of its proceeds to Samaritan’s programs for veterans and their families. A ceremony at noon will include a military color-guard marching to the National Anthem, and the firing of a real Civil War cannon. Three living and three deceased veterans will be honored for their sacrifices.

DSC_2814“It’s a fantastic event,” says Marcy DiBlasio, Samaritan’s associate director of development. “People really enjoy the day, and it raises vital funds and awareness of our veterans’ programs.”

The event is run entirely by volunteers, under the leadership of John Giacoboni and his wife Deborah, a longtime Samaritan home health aide.

“We owe our veterans everything,” says John, who gives countless hours each year, organizing the event and soliciting sponsors. “Without our veterans, we wouldn’t have our freedom. If I can help them at the end of life… anything I can do for them.”

That sentiment is shared by Samaritan, which recently earned the highest possible rating – four stars — from the national We Honor Veterans program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Last year, Samaritan provided care with dignity and a final “welcome home” to 300 veterans and their families coping with physical, emotional and spiritual issues at the end of life. Thanks to generous community support — including funds raised by the Veterans Car Show — Samaritan delivered more than $1.2 million in essential, but non-reimbursed, services.

This year, show organizers expect to raise more than $7,000, primarily from business and individual sponsorships. (Sponsorships carry multiple benefits. For details, call John at 856-528-2868.)

“Our veterans’ services provide comfort, peace, and a feeling of being appreciated at the end of life,” says DiBlasio. “For veterans and their families, that’s priceless.”

To show a car or become a sponsor, please contact John at 856-528-2868.

Flyer JPEG

When Distance Makes the Care Grow Tougher

In days gone by, it was very common for extended families to live in the same neighborhood, on the same block, or even in the same house. Not so today! Advances in transportation and technology have made far-flung families far more common.

Fortunately, cell phones, email and Facebook allow us to keep in touch from anywhere in the world. But long-distance relationships can be tough — especially when an elderly parent gets seriously sick or needs caregiving help to remain safe and independent. Adult children or other family members may find themselves hard-pressed to maintain job and home responsibilities while providing care from afar.


Bridging the Gap with Local Help

Here are some ways to play an active role and minimize the stress of long-distance caregiving:

  • Enlist local resources including the services of a local geriatric care manager. He or she can coordinate your loved one’s care, and keep you and other family members involved in key decision-making processes.
  • Assume management of medical bills, legal documents, and finances.
  • Provide periodic respite care, or ongoing emotional support, for a primary caregiver.
  • Help aging parents understand their current situation and needs, and the importance of accepting outside help or consultants in the home.

Staying Involved – Cross-Town or Cross Country

  • Rely on an expert. A geriatric care manager can serve as an impartial communication link between you, your elder, and other concerned family members.
  • Schedule a conference call with family members to discuss care goals, express feelings, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Stay organized when managing your elder’s medical, financial or legal affair. Compile notes including contact information, account numbers, and any login information or passwords.
  • Have your parent sign a medical power of attorney allowing his or her doctors and other care providers to discuss medical information with you.
  • Reach out to your parent’s friends and neighbors. They may be able to provide insight on how your parent is really doing or be willing to lend a hand with household or respite needs.
  • Plan for emergencies. Set aside time and money to make unexpected visits for medical emergencies or a sudden change in health status.
  • Balance your roles. Try not to get so wrapped up in the responsibilities of caregiving that you forget to have a son/daughter relationship with your parent.

SeniorWise Can Help

If you’re a long-distance caregiver concerned about your elder’s needs, safety, or ability to live independently, the certified geriatric care managers at SeniorWise Care Management can help.

Our experienced staff members serve as your professional surrogate family members. They’ll keep you and others involved in your parent’s care – whether near or far – informed and involved. They’ll provide you with the peace of mind that your loved one has the help and community resources needed to live safely and independently.

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


Samaritan Named Prestigious 2014 HOSPICE HONORS Recipient

Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice has been named a 2014 Hospice Honors recipient, a prestigious award recognizing hospices providing the best patient care as rated by the patient’s caregiver.

Hospice Honors

Established by Deyta, this prestigious annual honor recognizes hospices that continuously provide the highest level of satisfaction through their care as measured from the caregiver’s point of view. Deyta used the Family Evaluation of Hospice Care (FEHC) survey results from more than 1,700 partnering hospice agencies contained in Deyta’s FEHC database with an evaluation period of October 2012 through September 2013. Deyta identified Hospice Honors recipients by evaluating hospices’ performance on a set of eighteen satisfaction indicator measures. The set of questions included only indicator measures, omitting qualifying, leader and demographic questions. Individual hospice performance scores were aggregated for the evaluation period and were compared on a question-by-question basis to a national average score calculated from Deyta’s FEHC database.

“We are thrilled to present Hospice Honors for the second year in a row. We are honored to serve such a dedicated industry, and we look forward to recognizing top performers each year for their hard work and dedication,” said Kevin Porter, President and CEO of Deyta.

Mary Ann Boccolini, Samaritan President/CEO said, “This prestigious honor validates our staff’s daily commitment to excellent patient care and family support. It validates Samaritan’s deep commitment to quality.”


About Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice

Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice is a not-for-profit, non-sectarian, independent organization accredited by The Joint Commission, a member of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and its We Honor Veterans program created in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Samaritan is the regional leader for hospice care, palliative (comfort) medicine, geriatric care management, grief support and counseling and end-of-life education, research and advocacy. Samaritan serves people in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer counties who are coping with the stresses of aging, serious illness or grief. For more information, visit .

About Deyta, LLC

Partnering with thousands of hospice, home health, and healthcare organizations, Deyta simplifies data-driven management, enabling our clients to overcome the mountains of data that cloud good judgment. With Deyta’s High Definition Success Guidance solutions and services, healthcare leaders make proactive decisions that strengthen financial performance, improve operational efficiency, assure CMS compliance, and provide better patient care.

Buddies Get Loud Fore A Good Cause

Buddies since age eight, Roy T. Fazio (left) of The Protocall Group and Cliff Mancine (right) of Mancine Optical have teamed up for the last seven years to co-chair Get Loud Fore! A Good Cause, the  Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice Annual Golf Tournament.

Roy Fazio_Cliff Mancine


The tournament, sponsored by The Richardson Family Dealerships, takes place on Monday, June 23rd at Little Mill Country Club, Evesham Township.

Golfers are encouraged to dress as loudly as their inhibitions (and club rules) permit to win the distinction of Most Flashy Dresser  in the tournament’s signature Loud Pants Contest.

“It’s a fun way to help us spread the message ‘loud and clear’ that Samaritan’s Family of Services are here to serve all who need us,” said Chief Development Officer Chris Rollins. For sponsorship and ticket info, contact Julie Weitzman at 856-552-3239.

Why Bridget Became a Hospice Nurse

“I was working at another hospital one night and had a comfort care patient. I sat with her, talked with her, prayed for her, and watched a lone tear roll down her face moments before she passed. I had the privilege of spending her lastly earthly moments with her and helping her on her journey. It was that night that made me realize I needed to pursue my hospice dream.

I then applied at Samaritan.

Two hands - one age spots


On my first day here, I came out of the med room {at the Inpatient Center} and the family member of my patient who had recently passed at the other hospital was there. He said “Bridge- What are you doing here?” I explained that it was his family member’s passing that led me to pursue my hospice dream. He was now at Samaritan with his father who was now on hospice. It was my very first day, and had only been on the unit {Inpatient Center} 3 hours when I saw this family member.

This validated to me, that I was in the right place. I LOVE my job with Samaritan and look forward to every shift. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your amazing company.”   Bridget DeMore, RN

Samaritan appreciates their dedicated and passionate nurses. Happy Nurses Week!