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Edwin Alward and Bob Sweeney

A Wonderful Life for Edwin Alward

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Edwin Alward and Bob Sweeney

Edwin Alward and RHHC Volunteer, Bob Sweeney

Edwin Alward grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. It was there that he met the love of his life, Katherine, with whom he enjoyed 61 beautiful years of marriage.  With a chuckle that beams with pride, Edwin explained how together the couple raised four children who, “are the smartest, best looking children ever born.” Although Edwin admits, “I have a lot of problems – Parkinson’s, diabetes, cancer and a few other things in between,” his steadfast sense-of-humor and infectious love of life make him seem invincible. Still, at 83 years of age Edwin understands that his life is nearing an end, and he embraces the additional joy that hospice care brings to his final days.

A Life of Quality

“I have had a wonderful life. What I have done I will never regret,” Edwin proclaims. A vocal proponent of living a life of quality vs. quantity, Alward has chosen to forgo chemotherapy and other curative measures for treating his melanoma, which returned after a surgery 10 years ago. He understands the challenges of aging after having cared for his beloved Katherine before she passed away from Alzheimer’s disease nearly 3 years ago.

Embracing Life’s Changes

Edwin’s life speaks of an ability to transform change and loss into beauty. He was raised with two brothers, one who died from Leukemia and the other who had gone to West Point. Edwin served in the Air Force for four years, after which he worked at Travelers in marketing for 30 years before he was let go in 1986. He then served as a Financial Consultant for a few years. Upon reading a book that suggested if you lose a job you should try something that you’ve never done before, Edwin took a leap and began working in education.

The Highlight of His Career

Teaching as a substitute at a technical school became the unexpected highlight of Alward’s career. Although he taught at a difficult school where drugs and gangs were prevalent, Edwin embraced his role, dressing up every day, sometimes wearing a boutonniere. He wanted to expose the kids to sophistication and teach them the importance of respect by serving as a disciplinarian. The experience was very rewarding for Edwin who was able to help countless kids over the 9 years he served in that role, even inspiring some to get off of drugs.

An Open Mind and Open Heart

Last year Edwin’s illnesses had him in the hospital and several nursing homes for over 100 days. It was at that point that he was referred to Regional Hospice and Home Care (RHHC). Edwin fully embraced the assistance stating, “I take advantage of all the wonderful services offered to me.” Those services have included visits to the Center for Comfort Care and Healing and in-home Art Therapy with RHHC’s Art Therapist, Briah Luckey. He has also been regularly receiving Reiki and Therapeutic Touch treatments from RHHC volunteer, Jean Handler. Edwin explained, “It really works. There is something between Jean and me – the energy,” further detailing that following the energy treatments he is able to sleep soundly for hours.

New Forever Friends

One hospice service that has been particularly rewarding to Alward is the friendship he has received from his Family Support Volunteer, Bob Sweeney. The feeling is mutual as Bob indicates, “We have a real bond. It’s been great.” When asked what they do during their time together, both men said with an air of mischief in their voices, “We sit and tell each other lies.” Truth is, the two friends banter as though they have known each other for years. They are both quick-witted and well-read with an ability to talk freely on any topic from sports to politics. One of their favorite activities is to sit on a bench in Kent where they “watch the world go by.”

Unexpected Gifts

Katherine Alward

Photos of Katherine Alward

They have met a variety of interesting people from that post including hikers making their way to Maine via the Appalachian Trail. One afternoon they started chatting with a woman who turned out to be a local artist. Edwin mentioned that he had hoped to have a replica of Katherine’s engagement photo created. Much to his surprise his new acquaintance completed the request as a gift – proof not only of the kindness of strangers, but also of Alward’s ability to inspire such acts.

Praise for Hospice

Edwin greatly appreciates the care he’s received from Regional Hospice stating, “I have nothing but praise. I have a fond feeling for everyone I have been associated with,” further emphasizing, “and I have never been more pleased to be associated with an organization.” When asked what he would tell anyone considering hospice care, he said, “Anyone who has any feeling for themselves and their family needs to take advantage of the opportunity [of hospice]. They need to understand how lovely and accommodating they are. The facility is wonderful.“

We are so blessed to care for Edwin Alward. His enthusiasm for life and gracious nature uplifts all of us at Regional Hospice and Home Care.

Briah Luckey

Art Therapy Empowers Hospice Patients

Thanks to Regional Hospice’s Briah Luckey, M.A.A.T

Briah Luckey

What illness strips away from a person; art has the power to replace. Through the many mediums of art – drawing, painting, writing, or simply coloring – an individual is able to reconnect to themselves and their world. According to Briah Luckey, M.A.A.T, art therapy, “Is really a mindfulness or deep listening that ultimately uses color and form to express a story. It is very powerful.”

Art – The Power to Transform & Connect

The power of art is now readily available to Regional Hospice and Home Care’s (RHHC) patients, since Luckey joined the staff as an Art Therapist. Her gentle, compassionate approach to art therapy is offered in a, “context of life review,” guided by the belief that art is, “a healing, alternative expression that allows a person to witness themselves and their relationship to others.” Her beliefs come from personal experience, as she utilized photography and painting to connect with her Great Aunt and later her Grandmother, while serving as caregiver to both women in their final years.

A Personalized Art Therapy Session

Briah utilizes here experience and passion for art, teamed with a Master of Arts in Art Therapy degree, to foster the therapeutic benefits of art including increased confidence, improved self-awareness, reduced anxiety levels and a greater sense of connection. Briah focuses on building rapport with patients by listening deeply to them in order to get a sense of, “how they see the world.” She also tries to attune to the person so that she can offer the art medium that is most appropriate. That combination of active listening and holding space for an individual helps them to feel safe even when difficult emotions arise. Patients are thoroughly supported throughout the process, and also encouraged to play, which helps them to, “experience their vitality.”

Everyone is an Artist


A mandala courtesy of www.briahluckey.com

Many people think they can’t make art, so Briah provides multiple options for expression. When asked for an example, she dug into a bag brimming with supplies and pulled out a beautiful paper art frame, explaining that she suggests art projects that have success built into them. The art frame example includes a blank white circle of paper that the participant can use to craft a mandala. Mandalas are free-form, circular shapes that have been shown to promote relaxation and grounding. There is no wrong way to complete one. If a patient is having a hard time embracing the art, Briah will guide them through a meditation to help them tap into their intuition and feel comfortable in expressing themselves with compassion. Sometimes it is as simple as having the person pick a color that appeals to them and then they use that color as a base. There is no need for prior experience and no rules which gives the participant complete freedom.

A Gift that Keeps Giving

Patients usually cherish their final artwork as those pieces help them establish identity beyond their illness. The artwork also fosters conversation between RHHC staff and volunteers, along with the patient’s family members, who often connect with the works as treasured keepsakes. For Briah, “Art therapy enhances the dimension of hospice care provided. It also gives patients their individuality – to be seen more broadly, deeply – as a whole.“ She is happy to be working at Regional Hospice and Home Care where she can, “support people on their journey as opposed to treating symptoms.” Such patient-centered support is at the heart of our hospice care, making Briah Luckey a wonderful fit for the RHHC team.

Welcome Briah! We look forward to the beautiful, healing art you will inspire. For more on Briah, visit her blog, www.briahluckey.com.

Learn more about the many Complementary Therapies offered through Regional Hospice and Home Care.