News and Media

Ascend Hospice News

The Power of Personal Narrative


By Joshua Braman, Volunteer Coordinator Kansas

Stories are important. Many times the stories we hear or even the stories that we tell are not first-hand accounts but rather passed along from those who were present when the events took place. Even if I hear the story directly from the one who experienced it, I often question the details of the story pondering, “I don’t know if I believe this or not.”

A place that’s filled with stories like this is the museum Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I remember as a kid going to one of these museums in Orlando, Florida and looking at all the different stories that were being told. The name of the museum begs us to question what we actually believe to be true. One such story is about a man who had brain surgery while he was playing the violin! Now without much detail surrounding this one statement, it’s difficult to believe without questioning, but it did in fact happen. A concert violist developed a tremor in his hand. In order to locate the area in his brain that was causing the tremor, he had to play the violin as the doctors performed the surgery. It’s an amazing story but upon hearing it for the first time with limited details, it does in fact seem like an idle tale.

How often are we with patients or families and hear a story that simply seems unbelievable? I know for me, when I am with someone who is generations removed, I sit and listen and sometimes find it hard to relate or connect; yet, it is through listening and affirming their story that I can best be present, not for me…but for them. I have a deep fascination with narratives and stories because it allows me a glimpse into their story, if only for a paragraph within their entire story.

Deep listening can be difficult, especially when I am tired, distracted, or disinterested…basically when I am feeling human! It has been important for me to develop tools so that I can continue to listen and be engaged. That said, I must be careful not to allow the tools in my tool bag to dominate the way I am present. For instance, I may use my “conversation summarization” tool to acknowledge what was just said, but this method can quickly become robotic and I can fail to be truly present for another. The tools we use to help us with active listening must be a vehicle for deeper connections and not be the connection.

Stories and narratives that are shared around the bed of someone who is nearing the end of their life plays a powerful role in processing, grieving, and healing for the patient and family. Recently, I had the opportunity to be welcomed into the room and sit beside a patient and their family as we provided vigil. The daughter began to recount to me the many stories that her father would always share with others, as if she knew that I was curious what this man’s life had been like. She shared with me story after story about her father’s childhood in Nebraska, his experience in WWII, then his time as a “professor” teaching at a military academy. The daughter leaned in towards me and said in a low, quite voice, “he wasn’t a professor but that’s what he always told us. He was actually still in the military well into his 70s helping with secret plans, education, and calculations.”

This revelation and secret information drew me in closer, my mind began to race with curiosity as I began to wonder what plans and calculations she was talking about. I am not a great historian, but I tried to pin point what time frame this dying man would have been a “professor” and what world conflicts were going on. I was somewhat taken back by the daughter sharing this confidential information, while at the same time, I was giddy with excitement as I had just fallen into what sounded like gossip. My mind spun as I was half listening, still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was in the presence of someone whose story was so exciting and filled with such legacy,when all of a sudden, the man who had laid still, unresponsive for 3 days, began to clear his throat and moan. His eye lids were still shut, but we could notice that he had some eye movement. His daughter moved from her chair at the foot of the bed to his side and held his hand. She turned to me and ask if I thought he was moaning in pain. I am not a clinician, I was unsure, but looking at his face, I believed he was still at peace and resting well. I remarked to his daughter, “Perhaps your father is trying to communicate his own story as he heard you sharing with me.” The daughter remarked, with tears welling up in her eyes, “That’s probably true, he always wanted to share his own stories because we never could get them just right.”

I thanked the daughter for sharing with me all about her father. I also thanked the “professor,” who was lying in bed on vigil, for allowing me to be present and to hear his story. I stepped into the hallway to allow this family time to be together, without the presence of a guest, knowing that I had only heard a glimpse of the remarkable life story that this father and daughter had written together.

I was honored to be a witness to the power of personal narrative. To hear, affirm, and thank them for allowing me, a complete stranger, to hold in my heart a paragraph of a much larger book. I was able to navigate the pitfalls of curiosity, wonderment, and over indulgence into a fascinating story about this man and his life and remain grounded in presence and affirmation that brought healing and a deeper human connection. This could have otherwise been missed if I didn’t slow down, listen intently, and give up my own need to know all the details so that I could believe it, or not. Listening to a personal narrative is for them, not for me. For the “professor,” not for me. For the daughter, not for me. It’s for them. Not me.

Lessons Learned through Hospice Volunteering

By Sally Lee, Princeton University – 2019

Canva - Elderly care (1)

During the course of my Hospice experience, I have only met closely with just one Hospice patient. Initially, I could not help but be taken aback – my past experiences in medical care and volunteering had always stressed quantity over quality; I was used to the constant passing-by of numerous faces I could barely put a name to, with the only commonality being that I was a mere passerby of their life, as they were to mine. Regardless of how much we impacted each other in our short encounter, there was always the sensation that this was a transient experience. Hospice was different. Hospice care meant visiting “Jane”, and soon, hospice care just meant Jane. The visitations took a certain repetitive comfort: entering in the familiar room, seeing Jane wrapped in her colorful threaded blanket, asking about her day and her life, then chasing every comment with intense curiosity about this stranger’s life.

I also learned to take the rose-colored glasses off about this experience. Jane was old; this meant she was hard of hearing, had difficulty speaking, and preferred to be asleep more times than not. The number of times I had driven half an hour just to be turned away by angry outbursts of “Let me sleep!” hurt, every single time. But through these moments, I learned all the more that it truly was not about me. This experience was not for me; I did not deserve to have a meaningful conversation, a life-changing realization, an experience that transformed me that I could rave about on medical school interviews. It was about Jane. It was about doing whatever I could for a person that had lived out their life, and calmly approached death with as much comfort and dignity they wanted. If that meant they wanted conversation, I was happy to provide it. If that meant they wanted a warm hand to hold, a person to wrap them with a blanket, or a person to fetch the nurse if the room was too cold, I was happy to do so. If that meant they wanted to be alone, I was equally happy.

This experience taught me a lesson in selflessness. It taught me to put down my own responsibilities and commitments to carve out 2-3 hours for a stranger who can benefit from my presence. It taught me to provide comfort in ways both verbal and nonverbal, and to read the patient for things they may not be able to express. It taught me to read between each line, to figure out the person’s story using every clue I have and use it to connect to them. The family portraits on the dressers, the bible on the nightstand, the colorful, well-worn blanket draped around their shoulders – to them, it was a collection of their entire lives strewn out across the room. This experience helped me to take my head out of the whirlwind of my own personal concerns, and to truly listen and learn about another’s while they were still here.

My heart still catches in my throat when I hear a patient has passed – terrified that it might be Jane. It’s a reality that I have been trying to face, but still scared to truly grasp until the time comes. I know, however, that Jane will teach me lessons until the very end. Until then, I hope to do whatever I still can.

Virginia Volunteer Spotlight: Sandy Fok

Volunteer Spotlight Sandy Fok

Location: Glen Allen, VA
Volunteer Role: Administrative Volunteer
Volunteering since: February 2019 – Current

Sandy is an administrative volunteer in the Virginia Agency.  She came to us in February 2019 and hit the ground running! Since then, she has become a wiz at assisting with volunteer paperwork, making bereavement cards and letters, filing and making packets in the office. Additionally, she is the type of person that you show how to do something once, and she is a master of it.

Sandy migrated to the United States on February 22, 2017 from Hong Kong with her entire family.  She spends most of her time assisting with her mother and taking care of her twelve-year-old daughter.  When I asked Sandy why she wanted to be a volunteer with Ascend Hospice, she explained that she “had a lot of time on her hands, and wanted to help people and be productive.”  She added that “she likes to learn and this volunteer experience offered her to the opportunity to not only help people, but learn office systems along the way.

Sandy has become a valuable member of the team and is always eager to help in the office in any capacity. We are very happy to have her on our team, and thank her for her service!!


Grace Hospice of Puerto Rico speaks at the Social Welfare and Family Commission

Kevin and Dr. Suri
Grace Hospice of Puerto Rico was invited to speak at the public hearings of the Social Welfare and Family Commission to discuss Senate Resolution 1081. It seeks to investigate the abuse and neglect of the elderly in Puerto Rico. As an agency, we presented the positive impact palliative care has on the lives of patients and family members. Our leadership explained that palliative care works in cooperation with the government and attends not only to the patient’s physical needs, but to the person as a whole.
Dr. Ritu Suri, National Medical Director of Ascend Palliative Care and Kevin Leon, Director of Business Development spoke about the importance of establishing regulation, so that in Puerto Rico it becomes a reality and we can provide better services to the elderly of the island.
Grace Hospice de Puerto Rico fue invitada a hablar en las vistas públicas de la Comisión de bienestar social y familia para discutir la Resolución del Senado 1081. Esta resolución busca investigar el abuso y abandono de las personas mayores en Puerto Rico. Como agencia, presentamos el impacto positivo que los cuidados paliativos tienen en la vida de los pacientes y los miembros de la familia. Nuestro liderato explicó que los cuidados paliativos funcionan en cooperación con el gobierno y asisten no sólo a las necesidades físicas del paciente, sino a la persona a todo el entorno familiar y social.
La Dra. Ritu Suri, Director Médico Nacional de Ascend Palliative Care y Kevin Leon, Director de Desarrollo de Negocios, hablaron sobre la importancia de establecer la regulación, para que en Puerto Rico el cuidado paliativo se convierta en una realidad y podamos proporcionar mejores servicios a los ancianos de la isla.

Grace Hospice Launches in Puerto Rico

Grace Hospice Logo

June 3, 2019 San Juan, PR– Ascend Hospice, a top hospice and palliative care provider with offices in 7 states, is extending its services into and across the island of Puerto Rico with the acquisition of Grace Hospice, based in San Juan.

Ascend Hospice is dedicated to providing innovative, quality hospice and palliative care to the communities we serve to help our patients live better lives. The acquisition of Grace Hospice allows Ascend Hospice to provide the communities of the commonwealth with the care and compassion Ascend is known for. The business will operate across the island under its new name, Grace Hospice Puerto Rico, and will provide hospice care to those with terminal diagnoses and palliative care to those suffering chronic pain.

The need for quality hospice care in Puerto Rico has never been greater. Grace Hospice Puerto Rico will be able to provide quality healthcare to the communities and families on the island by providing the supportive care they need.

Anthony Spero, President and CEO of Ascend Hospice stated, “our decision to extend our brand of hospice care to Puerto Rico came from a sincere desire to help by providing quality healthcare services on the island. We are confident that Ascend’s unique hospice programs will be embraced and help those who need our care. Our programs are person-centered, so that each and every patient under our care receives services that are supportive, compassionate and meaningful. This holistic and personalized approach will bring comfort to patients, as well as their loved ones.”

For more information regarding Grace Hospice Puerto Rico, please visit our website at:

Please follow Grace Hospice Puerto Rico on the following social media channels – don’t forget to like and invite friends and family to follow us too!

Twitter: @GraceHospicePR

LinkedIn: Grace Hospice of Puerto Rico

IG: @GraceHospicePR

FB: Grace Hospice of Puerto Rico

About Ascend Hospice

Ascend Hospice is committed to providing extremely exceptional care and services with integrity and compassion. Founded in 1995, Ascend Hospice is a non-denominational, multi-cultural hospice and palliative care provider built on the belief that hospice services should reflect the life we live – fully and with dignity. With offices in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri, California, Virginia, and Puerto Rico, the company currently provides care for patients in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, hospitals and private homes. Dedicated to a holistic approach, Ascend Hospice’s expert interdisciplinary teams provide state-of-the-art hospice care, including pain control and symptom management through holistic and traditional therapies, as well as emotional support for patients and families.

Using Language Deliberately to Combat Discrimination

By Kelly Kowalchuk, Volunteer Coordinator-PA

Ageism is not a publicly recognized problem, and assumed by most of the public to be less serious than other forms of discrimination. It is a quiet form of discrimination that sort of runs in the background, absent from our daily thinking and global media. It seems to be universally accepted that our workplace policies, transportation systems, and other features of daily life prevent older people from thriving and contributing to society and rather cause isolation and marginalization. Ageism begins with implicit biases and ends with social injustice, unequal treatment, and exclusion. The unique irony of ageism is that we all get old (if we are lucky enough), making it a universal concern. People are living longer than ever, and life expectancy is rising. It is vital to update our systems and structures to match this reality to prevent increased health risks and segregated communities.

Like with any form of discrimination, in order to battle we have to understand where the discrimination comes from. Discrimination refers to those behaviors directed against a certain group of people, and grows from biases and prejudices – preconceived subconscious or conscious positive or negative beliefs about a group and their cultural practices. Sociologists and psychologists have a long list of “sources” of biases, but to put most simply: biases come from our direct and vicarious life experiences, and form our worldview starting from a young age and continually evolving throughout our lives. Think back to when you were a child. Most of us read stories or watched films with the same basic plot-line: a lovely-looking child protagonist is opposed by an uglier, older antagonist. If you visited a grandparent in the hospital – it was a sterile environment traumatizing for any child. Add to that discomfort a vulnerable and unhealthy bed-bound loved one attached to machines and tubes, it is a perfect recipe for a nightmare. Think even of what you see in the media today: “the Silver Tsunami,” “the aging crisis,” “burden of care,” “older people at risk,” – all of these experiences perpetuate the perception that age is a “bad thing” to be feared, avoided, and tucked quietly away whenever we can. Biases that foster ageism form from these experiences.

Based on these biases, we all walk around subconsciously forming immediate judgments about people based on their age, be they positive or negative judgments. Cognitive psychology research has demonstrated that human introspection is generally lousy without guidance, so many of us go about our lives completely unaware we even have these biases. Being aware of these biases makes us less likely to act on them, more likely to treat people fairly, and allows us to begin to make small changes to help reshape society. To examine your own implicit biases, try free association. Put pen to paper for one minute and write down as many words as you can that you associate with the word “age.” Go ahead. Let’s look at some of your words and where they fall on the list.  Would these words be judged as positive, negative, or some of both? I bet you have words like elderly, senior, decline, senile, arthritis, tsunami, perhaps even death and dying. Did words like lifetime, maturity, experience, wisdom, knowledge, longevity, resources, or opportunity make it on to your list? Can you see your worldview from here?

The words we use are important, and we need to be deliberate with how we use them. Researchers at FrameWorks Institute ran an experiment with a sample size of over 12,000 which explored the public’s associations with certain descriptors to determine the most positive and appropriate term for the population affected by ageism. What they found is that terms like “elder” and “senior citizen” are actually associated with lower levels of competency and maturity compared with “older person” and “older adult.” Their ultimate recommendation is to use the term “older person/people” to name the population ages 60 and better, which will prompt individuals hearing the term to associate that group with higher rates of competency and level of maturity. You can learn more about the FrameWorks research projects at

This is only one piece of the puzzle. We must be deliberate with our language in every way in order to advocate for the equal and just treatment of all people. Instead of telling a story with the intent to communicate an outcome, think of what the outcome of that communication will be. Revisit your list from earlier, and you will likely identify many words that should be eliminated from your vocabulary with respect to older people. Carefully consider how you are presenting information – what are you emphasizing, how are you explaining it, and what are you leaving unsaid? Share stories that reflect on the opportunity age brings, focusing on the positive aspects of aging and how people of all ages can contribute to society unique knowledge, skills, and values. The future is a time for improvement, and interventions can change outcomes. These are just some of the small changes we all can make today to collectively change the frame of aging, and promote the necessary big changes to societal policies and practices.

This article was featured in Ascend Hospice’s Spring 2019 Volunteer newsletter.


Sal Moreno

Sal Morano is enjoying his volunteer experience at Ascend Hospice and the Alzheimer Facility, where one of his Ascend Hospice patients resides.  The patient, who he visits, has been living at this facility for a few years now.  After Sal visits with him for about half an hour, he brings out his acoustic guitar and entertains him and the dozen other residents for nearly an hour.  The music really has an effect on all and a couple of times one particular resident, “Pete,” gets up to dance for one particular song, “Johnny B. Goode.”  “Pete” is not the only one, another resident, “Betty”, who is very serious, has stood up to dance a few steps.  Everybody else either taps their feet, claps their hands or closes their eyes and just nod their heads to the rhythm of his music.

It is no surprise for it is well known and documented that music plays an important role in one’s personal life, culture, religion, and so on.  For those facing terminal illness and their loved ones, music can promote emotional support, improve quality of life, inspire feelings of peace, spirituality and hope, and sometimes reduce pain.

Music Therapy is defined by the American Music Therapy Association as the “clinical and evidence based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”  Ascend Hospice has several board certified music therapists working with their hospice patients providing clinical music therapy, however, music provided from volunteers like Sal can provide noteworthy support and benefits too.

If you know of anyone able and willing to provide music to the patients and families at Ascend Hospice, please let them know of our opportunities and needs…as existing hospice volunteers you are well aware of the positive benefits you receive from volunteering.

“I enjoy sharing my love of music with clients.  I feel I’m on a type of ministry when I sing and play my acoustic guitar during visits. Some of them have even gotten up and danced by themselves.  Few things can compare to bringing a smile to a person whose days are very limited! Thanks for the opportunity to volunteer.”

-Sal Morano, Volunteer (California)

This article was featured in Ascend Hospice’s Spring 2019 Volunteer Newsletter.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT – Reverend Kathy Medeiros

Kathy - employee spotlight

Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts

Volunteer Role: Reiki & AsEND of Life Doula Volunteer

Volunteering since: March 2018-Current

Why did you choose to volunteer with Ascend Hospice?

I was looking at a few avenues in volunteering my time and volunteering with Ascend Hospice was the most flexible and closest opportunities to me. I was also very interested in learning and working with the aromatherapy and holistic programs offered by Ascend Hospice to incorporate with Reiki sessions.

What are some of the benefits of Reiki with End of Life?

During my time volunteering with hospice, I have worked with many clients at various stages of their journey. Though each journey is different, I find that providing Reiki to end of life clients benefits with releasing stress, relieving tension, relieving depression, and also reducing anxiety.

Describe your favorite memory while volunteering:

Currently I visit with an older female client that has been on service for over 6 months. This patient is known to have difficult days and will yell at everyone, becoming extremely upset and agitated. During these difficult episodes when I am there visiting, I always take her to a quite area and provide Reiki. It never fails after having a reiki session, the client then always eases into calmness and allows herself to relax.

Tips for new Volunteers:

Never take the mood of the client as they’re taking it out in you. It’s never you. Same thing with their memory. They don’t mean to forget us, they just can’t help it. Kind of like kids that have challenges, it’s never us they mean to be difficult with, they’re just simply having a bad day.

This article was featured in Ascend Hospice’s Spring 2019 Volunteer Newsletter.

Coping with Loss and Grief during the Holidays

By Sharon Grau, AsEnd of Life Doula-NJ

The holidays are a time full of expectations and memories, familiar smells, and traditions that center on our loved ones. So it is painful when loved ones are no longer with us because these traditions go on but their presence feels gone. I’ve found the best way to deal with the absence of loved ones, whether through death or distance, is to allow ourselves to miss them, while keeping their memory alive.

It’s okay to feel sadness and grief; these feelings need permission to enter so they are acknowledged and honored. Whatever helps you to move through these feelings, whether it be music, or writing, or spending time in nature…whatever helps you wade through these emotions is appropriate during the holidays. You don’t have to be festive and cheery! Supportive friends, community, and/or family will understand this and accept you where you’re at.

And if you can gather together with friends and family to tell a story about your loved one, look through photographs, and/or carry on traditions that he or she upheld, then that is icing on the cake… because I’m always reminded that a loved one’s absence is only an illusion when you honor their memory and feel them again in your heart.

Sharon Grau is an AscEnd of Life Doula and has been a volunteer at Ascend Hospice since 2013 and supports patients and families in Monmouth County, New Jersey. This article was seen in our Winter 2018 Volunteer newsletter.


Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays from What’s Your Grief

Read the full article:

This article was featured in our Winter 2018 Volunteer Newsletter.


The Fidget Blanket

By: Vanceen Langkamer, Pennsylvania Volunteer Coordinator

Fidget Blankets are an excellent resource for people living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, those recovering from strokes, and children with ADD or autism. Its purpose is to sooth fidgeting fingers by providing sensory and tactile stimulation helping to reduce anxiety and agitation, especially with those suffering from middle/late stages of dementia.

Pam Rice, a craft volunteer for the Pennsylvania volunteer program, has been crafting fidget blankets for Ascend since 2015. Each blanket provides activity and stimulation through textured fabrics, large wooden beads, Velcro, zippers, ribbons, snaps, closures and Pam’s creativity. At Ascend Hospice we always recommend patients to be supervised when using the blankets.

Pam recently created a blanket for Bob, a huge Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles fan.  His blanket includes material with the team logos, ribbons, a football helmet, baseball cap, goal post, football, baseball, and zipper pocket. Ribbons on the blanket have large wooden beads to slide up and down.  When the blanket was presented to Bob, the joy was seen in his face.  Anna, Bob’s wife, says that he fidgets with the blanket all the time.

Thank you Pam for the time and creativity you put into each of your Fidget Blankets.  We appreciate all of the project you provide for Ascend!

To learn more about fidget blankets and other activity tools please visit

This article was featured in our Winter 2018 Volunteer Newsletter.


Volunteer Spotlight – Natalie Leonard

Hometown: California

Volunteer Start Date: July 2018

Type of Volunteer: Comfort Volunteer

Submitted by: Debbie King, California Volunteer Coordinator

Why did you become a hospice volunteer? 

My mom passed away in a nursing facility in another state. Thankfully my brother lived nearby and tended to her needs. He couldn’t always be there because of his responsibilities with his job and young family. Our younger brother and I lived three states away, so visiting regularly wasn’t possible. Also, I was the caregiver for my mother-in-law until she passed away. Her family lived in her city. These ladies are the reason why I became a hospice volunteer. I know what it’s like on different sides of family situations. I wanted to be able to support people who are going through the hospice process and let them know they aren’t alone.

What has been most rewarding?

Even though I have a couple examples my most rewarding is when I get a big smile from the patient when I arrive to visit and when they tell me they don’t want me to leave!  That warms my heart!

Have you experienced any difficult situations and if so did you learn anything?

We know that eventually our patient is going to pass. I didn’t realize how much this would bother me. I’ve been with a female patient for quite some time and she recently passed away. She was one of the sweetest people I know. I visited her regularly, we sang songs, laughed, complimented each other, and had wonderful visits. I always looked forward to seeing her.  The difficult part was her passing was unexpected and I hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks because I was out of state visiting my family. I was quite sad I hadn’t seen her “one more time.” What I learned is this is going to happen, plain and simple! There is no reason for guilty feelings. I have to be happy and thankful that my patient is not suffering anymore.

What advice do you have to share with new volunteers?

My advice to new volunteers is to breathe….listen…listen….listen! I’ve had to say to myself, “Natalie, shhh, listen!” Sometimes I’m thinking about what I want to say next before my patient has finished their sentence. So, in your mind say…..”All eyes and ears on the patient!”

This article was featured in our Winter 2018 Volunteer Newsletter.


Staying Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

It’s that time of the year again and many have probably already had some mild or severe colds or the flu already. There are many practices one can incorporate in their daily routine to keep immune systems strong and colds away. The number one practice in staying healthy is to wash your hands and to do it a lot.  Other practices you should practice are:

  • Disinfect surfaces that are touched often.
  • Exercise
  • Consume foods rich in vitamin C and E.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Diffuse immune boosting essential with in your home.

Immune Support Blend

  • 2 drops Cinnamon
  • 1 drop Clove
  • 4 drops Orange
  • 3 drops Rosemary


This article was featured in our Winter 2018 Volunteer Newsletter.


September 2018

It’s so important to apply self-care into your daily living routine and especially so if you are a caretaker.  An activity that is fun, easy, and relatively accessible is mandala coloring.  You can find endless varieties of mandalas on the web or you can create your own.

To be brief, a mandala is a Sanskrit word for “healing circle,” and it symbolizes the universe and one’s connection to it. Mandalas have been in use since the 4th century in the Buddhist and Hindu religions. Their purpose is to aid in meditation and relaxation.


To make your own mandala follow the four easy instructions below:

  • Gather your supplies: pencil, paper, crayons or colored pencils, and a quiet spot.
  • Play soft soothing music.
  • Set your intention and breath deep.
  • Fill your circle with whatever shapes and colors come to you.

If you don’t want to make your own mandala you can color the one below or choose from endless designs on the web.  Remember when you finish, place your mandala where you will see it every day to be a daily reminder of your intention.

Colors have symbolic meaning.  What you want or need use often in your design.

Red – strength, energy, desire

Pink – love

Orange – self-awareness, creativity

Yellow – learning, wisdom, laughter

Blue – Peace, emotional health

Green – love & respect for nature, physical health

Purple – spirituality

White – focus, concentration

Black – individuality, deep thought




Jordan Peek - volunteer spotlight

September 2018


Hometown: Odessa Kansas

Volunteer Start Date: 5/7/2018

Type of Volunteer: MSW intern and AscEnd of life Doula

Jordan is truly a valuable addition to our team here at Ascend Hospice Kansas.

She is honest, dependable and incredibly hardworking.  Our staff and our patients absolutely adore her!

-Adeng DeWarabeck, Volunteer Coordinator-Kansas & Missouri

Why did you become a hospice volunteer?

I became a hospice volunteer when my master’s degree program required an internship and I had previous experience volunteering in pedantic hospitals and then pediatric hospice.

At the pediatric hospice setting, I really fell in love with the beautiful work done through hospice with a very collaborative team approach.

What has been most rewarding?

The most rewarding thing has been in being able to reach out to families through the bereavement program and hearing how much they appreciated the services; expressing so much gratitude.

This is rewarding in and of itself, but then being able to be present and part of the team that provides that support is even more rewarding.

Have you experienced any difficult situations and if so did you learn anything?

The major difficulty I have faced in volunteering would have to be the realization that a patient that I have built a relationship with has experienced major decline and will soon pass.

I have learned to switch my mindset or I guess remember that hospice serves those who are dying and that relationship will possibly end sooner than I would choose.

Despite this difficulty, I value these relationships I am building and strive to help people share their memories and have important conversations.

What advice do you have to share with new volunteers?

I think my biggest piece of advice to a new volunteer is you are stronger than you know and your interactions with people are often more valuable than you would guess.



September 2018

I just got home from what I would say is a Perfect Day! I couldn’t have scripted a better day fishing with my Ascend Hospice patient, Mr. Paul Wendolowski (Mr. W). I just wish I could express the words to paint the picture of how this day unfolded.

The Pequest Fish Hatchery in Oxford, NJ is a peaceful and relaxing place in nature where they raise rainbow trout from eggs to eventually release into the wild in various streams and rivers in the state of New Jersey.  At this wonderland, they have a pond that they stock with fish for various groups, seniors, scouts, and school-age children to come, visit the Educational Center & Museum, and to participate in fishing at the pond.  They have a brilliant group of volunteers that are attentive and helpful to the needs of those who would like to fish in the pond.  Everyone catches fish regardless of his or her skill level or ability.

Mr. W was in his element!  We have been talking for months about his past memories of fishing with his father and his own children in long past years.  Besides the highlight of him being out at this peaceful place in nature with plenty available fish to catch, Mr. W caught the largest rainbow trout in the pond according to all of the volunteers and fish hatchery staff.  Without an actual measurement and scale, they said it must have weighed about 8 1/2 lbs. and the fish looked in the net to be about 23 inches in length “the Grand Daddy of the Pond”!  Mr. W was elated, to say the least.

You couldn’t have asked for a better day with great weather and a supporting school of rainbow trout!  Some brand new memories and a few new fish tails were made for a hospice patient and grateful hospice volunteer.

Thank You for a Perfect Day!


Gregory Sladovich has been a hospice volunteer for 3 years at Ascend Hospice of New Jersey, covering Bergen, Essex, Passaic, and Morris counties. He is an Ascend of Life Doula, Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Reflexologist, and Aroma therapist.  Gregory is an absolute blessing to our hospice and we are all so thankful to have him on board!


September 2018

Ascend Hospice President and CEO Anthony Spero is quoted in ENC Magazine from his MedTech Conference Panel. Click on the link below to read his quote.


August 2018

At this summer’s Ascend Leadership meeting, Key Note Speaker Les Cavicchi, MPA, NHA of the Brookings Group, shared an inspiring message  …“Let’s Talk Team!”

He engaged the Ascend Hospice, Home Health and Concierge leaders with exploring how we motivate, communicate, and hold ourselves, each other and our direct reports accountable to achieve results.

Through examples of accomplishments of great leaders including long ago politicians, and their teams, he emphasized the importance of being effective at facilitating and using creativity. Everyone was in awe of the story of Arthur Fry who invented the non adhesive glue which we would all come to learn as the “post it” note.

He closed with all the various ways people like to be rewarded and to understand the different motivators when it comes to recognizing people for their contributions inside and outside of the organizations where we work.

BeFunky Collage

July 2018

Carmella Libolt Executive Director for Ascend Hospice extended a heartfelt welcome to our community during Ascend Hospice Summer Cooler Open House on July 12, 2018 at the Ascend Hospice location in the Irish Branch Shopping Plaza on 70 Lacey Road. Education, prizes, lots of fun and most important ice cream was running freely that day. If you were unable to participate this time around, please reach out to us at 866-821-1212.

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Read the June 2018 edition of Ascend Hospice’s Volunteer Newsletter, which highlights our Ascend of Life Doula program.


National Nurses Week 

Ascend is grateful for the work our nurses do every day. National Nurses Week is a great opportunity to take the time to honor and give thanks to our nursing staff. 

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. These permanent dates enhance planning and position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event.

For more information on the history of National Nurses Week, visit

To participate in National Nurses Week, please visit


April 2018

Ascend Hospice trains its first group of doula volunteers in NJ

Rahway, NJ: Ascend Hospice, the only national hospice to have all volunteers’ doula certified, held its first New Jersey training of Ascend of Life Doula volunteers on April 13th, 2018. This program, that has been in the works for almost two years, is giving life to the company’s Ascend of Life Doula volunteer program.

Ascend Hospice partnered with Quality of Life Care and their unique, end-of-life doula training to provide comprehensive holistic training to volunteers willing to take on an end-of-life doula role. All doula volunteers received training on aromatherapy, pet therapy, reiki and massage therapy in the full-day program. This allows the doulas to be able to enhance the hospice experience for all of our patients.

The Ascend of Life Doula volunteer program provides the necessary tools for the doula to provide support and guidance during an individual’s end-of-life journey. “It’s very exciting that we are able to bring a specialized group of volunteers to our patients and families. Ascend Hospice is one of only two hospices in NJ that has this program,” says Carmella Libolt, Executive Director of Ascend Hospice-NJ.

The Ascend of Life Doula volunteer program began in Pennsylvania this past January, and will be holding a training session in Massachusetts this May. The program will expand into other states in the next few months as it continues to grow.

Our volunteer coordinators are actively recruiting throughout NJ. If you would like to provide support, education, resources, and companionship to those who are entering their end of life journey, please contact us.

April 2018

National Volunteer Week – April 15th to April 21st 

Letter from volunteer, Diya Uthappa, to volunteer coordinator, Kelly Roman.

“Thank you for training me and giving me the opportunity to contribute as part of your hospice care team for the past year. During this time, I have visited and grown close to a handful of patients and their families. I have seen how end-of-life care is best when there is coordinated communication between a network of people, including doctors, nurses, aides, pharmacists, social workers, bereavement counselors, chaplains, care takers and volunteers. In spending time with patients and families during some of their most sensitive times, I have seen firsthand the different ways that people cope with death and dying. I have actively listened to patients and their families to better understand their feelings to offer my support in the appropriate way. Overall, my experience volunteering with Ascend has better prepared me for a career in medicine. Thank you!”


Volunteer Dolores Conlon is pictured both alone and with patient Grace P. at Avita in Newburyport, Massachusetts. At the time of the picture, Dolores was waiting to visit the patients that she visits regularly and Grace happened to come by. Grace wasn’t one of the folks that Dolores visited, until this day. Grace was enamored with Dolores’s badges. Since the day she started, Dolores goes to Avita twice weekly and visits with different patients each visit. She has a heart of gold and smile that fills the room.  Everyone knows when Dolores is in the house.

Dolores DoloresandGraceED

Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers! We truly appreciate the work you do and the difference you make in our patients lives. (1) (Click for a gif with all National Volunteer Week photos!)

March 2018


Ascend Hospice is seeking compassionate individuals to join our End of Life Doula volunteer program. Our End of Life Doula program equips volunteers eager and willing to accompany the dying and their families, through an intensive, practically based model of care, preparing doulas to provide emotional and spiritual support and guidance in the final days of life service. End of Life Doula Certificates are awarded once training and required service is completed. To learn how to become an End of Life Doula volunteer at Ascend Hospice please contact Marina McGough at 866-821-1212

Join our End of Life Doula volunteer program at Ascend Hospice. This program equips volunteers eager and willing to accompany the dying and their families to provide emotional and spiritual support and guidance in the final days of life. Please contact Marina McGough at 866-821-1212 to learn more.

September 2016

Ascend President and CEO Anthony Spero, Ascend Hospice Executive Director, Carmella Libolt, and Ascend Home Health and Concierge Executive Director, Serena Niehaus present Chrissy Buteas and Don Pendley with the NJ Homecare and Hospice Association a donation for Aides Scholarships at the Ascend Leadership meeting held in NJ the week of September 26.

September 2016

Last week, the Ascend Leadership Team gathered in NJ to discuss and celebrate many milestones. Quality, new programs with commitment to the essence of the human experience at the end of life were just two topics. Jim Avery, MD, Palliative Care Specialist and Professor from the University of Virginia spoke about transformational leadership and the future of hospice in the United States. Many of the Ascend Medical Directors were in attendance along with Clinical Directors from California to Pennsylvania. President and CEO Anthony Spero likened his organization to the most in tune crew team similar to the reference from “The Boys in the Boat.” Over the four days, each state presented opportunities to increase access to Home Health, Concierge and Hospice for those patients and families in need.

July 26, 2016

Ascend Hospice meets with lawmakers about Care Plan Act

Last week, our own Kerrie Wallace, Executive Director of Massachusetts was asked to visit the U.S. House and Senate Representatives in Washington, DC to discuss End of Life Issues.
This year, Kerrie started working with the Hospice and Palliative Care Federation of MA as a member of their Education Committee and was invited to attend by the president of this organization.

In DC, she met with Massachusetts Congressman and Senators to review pending upcoming legislation.
She reviewed the proposed Care Plan Act which in addition to increase patient advocacy would allow for concurrent care.

In addition, she participated in reviewing the Rural Access to Hospice Act which would allow patients in rural areas to keep their primary care physicians even after electing physicians.
Currently, in rural areas patients are no longer to keep this relationship and therefor forgo Hospice election. In addition she was part of the group which asked for the Opposition of the MA Carve in of Hospice.

This bill would limit the autonomy of the Hospice Medical Director. Potentially, it could require Hospice to pay for services and or care not related to terminal diagnosis. This would threaten the financial sustainability of hospice.

February 10, 2016

How much do you know about heart disease? Find out now!

At Ascend Hospice, our mission is to increase the quality of life of those living with late and end stage heart failure and cardiac disease with our program, Essence of the Heart.

Test your knowledge about our heart health and hospice services by downloading and completing our informational quiz. Review our test with your physician to see how hospice services can benefit you.

February 9, 2016

Ascend Hospice Launches New Cardiac Care Program

In honor of American Heart Month, we are launching Essence of the Heart, a specialized hospice program for patients living with late and end stage heart failure and cardiac disease. In the program, we develop personalized treatment plans, educate patients on how to monitor their symptoms and eat healthy, and provide heart health supplies and information in order to minimize re-hospitalization and maximize quality of life.

September 21, 2015

Ascend Hospice Appoints Dr. Mark Lebenthal as Medical Director

Ascend Hospice, a leading health care provider specializing in a holistic and personalized approach to hospice care, announces Dr. Mark Lebenthal as a new Medical Director. With more than twenty-nine years of experience in the healthcare industry, Dr. Lebenthal is committed to providing exceptional health care, comfort, and compassion to those affected by terminal illness.


Dr. Mark Lebenthal specializes in cardiology and is certified in peripheral vascular noninvasive interpretation. He brings an unmatched level of industry knowledge and expertise to Ascend Hospice as a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI®). As Medical Director, he will lead and oversee all training in cardiac care for both Ascend Hospice and Ascend Home Health.

Dr. Lebenthal is an appointed staff member at Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center and Somerset Medical Center. He currently holds the role of Director of Congestive Heart Failure Program at several locations throughout New Jersey, including Somerset Valley Rehabilitation & Nursing Center/CareOne Management and Somerset Medical Center.

His previous experience includes serving as the Director of the Department of Medicine and Director of Noninvasive Laboratory at Somerset Medical Center and as a member of the Cardiac Health Advisory Panel (CHAP) for New Jersey. He received his Medical Doctorate degree from Autonomous University of Guadalajara and completed his fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Recently, Dr. Mark Lebenthal has been involved in several projects seeking to advance cardiovascular medicine. He serves as the Co-Director of Cardiac Screening for a Somerset Medical Center community project seeking to prevent sudden cardiac death for young athletes. In addition, he has been active in orchestrating clinical trials for patients with atrial fibrillation on anticoagulation.

Dr. Mark Lebenthal is an active member of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Cardiology. He was previously awarded with the Physician’s Recognition Award from the American Medical Association in 1984 and 1987.

Ascend Hospice welcomes Dr. Mark Lebenthal as the newest member of their specially trained team of professionals and plans to continue providing personalized, holistic care with his industry experience and expertise in cardiology.

September 18, 2015

Ascend Hospice Holds Physician Dinner 

Crista Cardillo, National Director of Business Development and the Riverside, CA team held a physician dinner last night with 30 IPPA and Riverside Community Medical Center doctors to represent the CA team. Guest speakers included Crista Cardillo discussing “CPO Billing” and Dr. Huynh, M.D discussing “ICD-10”.

Happy birthday to Dr. Tan and Crista Cardillo!





September 17, 2015

Ascend Hospice Appoints Carmella Libolt as Executive Director of NJ

Ascend Hospice announces Carmella Libolt as the new Executive Director of its New Jersey location. With more than twenty-seven years of experience in the healthcare industry, Libolt is dedicated to providing exceptional health care, comfort, and compassion to those affected by terminal illness.

Carmella Libolt specializes in healthcare management and is a certified Assisted Living Administrator. She brings an unparalleled level of industry knowledge and expertise to Ascend Hospice with her abilities developing, organizing, and implementing all programs, goals, and policies necessary in providing quality care and support to patients and their loved ones.

Carmella Libolt’s previous experience includes serving as the Branch Director of Loving Care Agency, Inc. and Executive Director of SolAmor Hospice, and managing a Psychology practice.

As the Executive Director of Ascend Hospice’s New Jersey location, she will oversee all marketing, fundraising, program development, and accounting efforts and act as the main representative of the organization to the public.

Ascend Hospice welcomes Carmella Libolt as the newest member of their specially trained team of professionals and plans to continue providing personalized, holistic care with her industry knowledge and expertise in hospice care and healthcare management.

September 10, 2015

Ascend Hospice Promotes Elizabeth Jones to Senior Executive Director

Ascend Hospice announces the promotion of Elizabeth Jones to Senior Executive Director of its Pennsylvania and Virginia locations.  Jones previously served as Executive Director of Ascend Hospice Pennsylvania.

Jones joined the Ascend Hospice team in 2006 serving as the National Director of Volunteer Services. In 2010 she was promoted to the role of Executive Director of the Pennsylvania office. Under her leadership, the Pennsylvania office grew to a census of 90 employees and volunteers and has helped in validating the clinical systems at Ascend Hospice.

With more than 32 years of experience in the hospice healthcare industry, Jones is committed to implementing and managing marketing campaigns designed to empower and develop Ascend Hospice and its mission to provide exceptional health care, comfort, and compassion to those affected by terminal illness.

Prior to her roles at Ascend Hospice, Jones served as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in the inpatient unit (IPU) at Hospice St. John. She has also led several successful marketing campaigns and fundraisers as the Director of Volunteers and Fundraising Events at Mercy Hospital Hospice Inpatient and Home Health before serving as the Marketing Manager for the IPU unit.

Ascend Hospice welcomes Elizabeth Jones to the new position and plans to continue providing personalized, holistic care with her industry expertise and experience.

September 7,  2015

Ascend Hospice Welcomes Dr. Kamran Tasharofi to Team

Ascend Hospice announces Dr. Kamran Tasharofi as the new Senior Medical Director. With more than fifteen years of experience in the healthcare industry, Dr. Tasharofi is committed to providing exceptional health care, comfort, and compassion to those affected by terminal illness.

Dr. Kamran Tasharofi brings an unparalleled level of industry knowledge and understanding to Ascend Hospice as a skilled internal medicine physician. He received his Medical Doctorate degree in Internal Medicine from Seton Hall University and his Research Doctorate degree in Medicine from Ross University School of Medicine.

Dr. Tasharofi serves as the President of Pioneer Medical Group and currently holds the roles of Medical Director and President at Union County Health Care Associates, and Attending Physician at several New Jersey hospitals including Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, and Overlook Hospital. He is an Associate Medical Director at Elmora Hills Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, and a Workforce Investment Board Member at County of Union. His previous experience includes serving as the Medical Director at Cranford Health Extended Care in Cranford, New Jersey.

Recently, the New Jersey Honor Legion (NJHL), a nonprofit charitable organization that sponsors and supports families of fallen police officers, children with disabilities, and more, recognized Dr. Tasharofi as an “Honored Citizen.” The award is given to private citizens who have contributed to the objectives of New Jersey’s law enforcement and to the goals of NJHL. The NJHL has only honored 155 people with Honored Citizen status since 1966.

Ascend Hospice welcomes Dr. Kamran Tasharofi as the newest member of their specially trained team of professionals and plans to continue providing personalized, holistic care with his industry expertise and experience.

June 2015

Everyone, Please join us in Congratulating Stephanie Scott, CNA in Massachusetts, as the recipient of the Ascend Employee of the Quarter award for 1st Quarter 2015!


May 2015

Ascend Hospice Honors our Veterans on Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day on Monday, May 25th, Ascend Hospice honors those that have served for our country and are never forgotten.

Ascend Hospice has an Individualized Veterans program that honors those in need at end of life with our best in class hospice team.

For more information click here.


President Anthony Spero speaking at the Home Care Leadership Summit in Palm Beach, FL

President of Ascend Health, Anthony Spero, will be speaking at the Home Care Leadership Summit, July 13-14, 2015, Palm Beach FL

For more information, click here.

April 2015

You’re invited to the Partners Nation Education Series

Join us at “It’s All in the Stars: Understanding the New Nursing Home Ratings” part of Partners National Education Series. Please click the link below the view the invitation for your state.

New Jersey





March 2015

Join us for an open house in honor of the art work of Carlos Ortiz

Please join us next Thursday at 4:30pm for an open house featuring Carlos Ortiz, Harriet Fink, and John Powers! For more information, please click here.


More blankets donated to Ascend Hospice

Leisure Village Quilting Group donated another 83 quilts to Ascend Hospice. These quilts surround our patients with the warm of friendship and the joy of laughter expressed through the volunteer quilters when they gather together regularly to sew these unique and special gifts.




Our New CEU Programs (Click on the list below) are coming this spring. 

CEU Programs List for Ascend Hospice


Recently, Chaplin Chip Roughton carried out the festivities of Purim at the office and with our patients. Celebrations like this are an amazing example of how our staff truly does provide best in class care!



Our PA Social Workers

We recently honored our social workers at the Ft. Washington office. Manju and her Intern Erica do an amazing job for our patients and their families. We are truly blessed to have such a dedicated staff. Each social worker received a small gift in recognition of their compassion, commitment, and amazing spirit in living the Ascend Hospice mission. On Tuesday, March 17th, we will be honoring our Lehigh Valley social worker. Thank you all so much for the work you do!


January 2015

Ascend Health’s President, Anthony Spero, will be Presenting at the 2015 AHCA/NCAL Symposium

Ascend Health, which includes Ascend Hospice, Home Health and Concierge Home Care, is pleased to announce Anthony Spero’s upcoming speaking engagement at the AHCA/NCAL Symposium February 23– 25, 2015.

This annual event offers healthcare professionals the opportunity to collaborate, learn and challenge each other through thoughtful and inspiring breakout sessions.

Staying true to Ascend Health’s mission, vision and values, Mr. Spero touches on the importance of holistic transparent care when building the patient-provider relationship. Below is a glimpse of what will be presented:

Seeing Care through the Eyes of the Person

Along with Ascend Health’s President Anthony Spero, this session will also be presented by post-acute thought leaders Andi Clark, RN, CEO, Andi Clark & Associates; Ed McMahon, PhD, Vice President, Quality, Sunrise Senior Living; and David Stordy, Chief Operating Officer, Mainstreet.

Session Description:
This session is dedicated to unlocking the power of innovation as the presenters ask participants to “see care through the eyes of the person.” Presenters will examine and discuss with participants a holistic approach to transparent care that embraces the partnership between the person and their family, and the physician and the interdisciplinary team. This partnership team develops a comprehensive plan of care that anticipates and responds to the personal and family needs, including physical comfort, and emotional, informational, cultural and spiritual learning.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Learn how to define transparent care across the continuum as it relates to the emerging new values and expectations of the individual
  • Learn how active listening will develop a trusting-caring-learning relationship with the person and their family, which is needed to develop a holistic, inclusive plan of care and healing
  • Understand how innovative technology contributes to a transparent environment, and encourages learning and independence
  • Imagine and examine how the person sees their healthcare setting today, and what they will see in the future, including innovative concepts and design that present a caring-healing environment

July 2014

Ascend Launches Rebranding Efforts

Care Alternatives, BergenCare Home Health, BergenCare Personal Touch and Total Care of Massachusetts are pleased to announce that they have just completed an exciting rebranding effort with their family of companies to better communicate their services as well as maintain continuity in the care they provide. Although this transformation includes new names, logos and uniforms, Ascend will still continue to provide the same best-in-class service for each and every one of their patients and their family members.

To reflect their commitment to delivering the highest standard of care and to position them as a progressive and high-reaching organization, they have chosen to rename their family of companies Ascend. Meaning “to move, climb, or go upward; to rise to a higher point”, their new name truly embodies their goals as a united company.

The Ascend family of companies now includes:
• Ascend Hospice, formerly Care Alternatives
Ascend Home Health, formerly BergenCare Home Health and Total Care of Massachusetts
Ascend Concierge Home Care, formerly BergenCare Personal Touch
• Ascend Rehab

Ascend strives to be recognized as a trustworthy leader in healthcare and is dedicated to inspiring people to live better lives through innovative, personalized health and wellness programs, products, and services.

View the video below to meet the dynamic team behind this innovative family of companies.

Ascend Launch Party – July 22nd 2014 – Cranford, NJ