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Blog Home > Author: Tara Rogers

            According to Pew Center Research, 90 percent of adults over age 60 are affiliated with a religion. Whether or not we call ourselves “religious” or belong to a particular church, all humans are spiritual beings who need meaning and purpose in our lives. Research shows that tending to our spirituality can strengthen our mental and physical health.

            This becomes increasingly true as we age and become infirm, chronically ill, or unable to live independently. Many people admitted to nursing homes, for instance, report feeling “useless” or “without dignity” after losing their independence, homes, routines, and communities. Incorporating spirituality into care plans can be effective in helping nursing home residents improve their physical and mental health, bringing greater inner peace and joy to this new phase of life.

            At Maria Regina, our approach to supporting spirituality reflects the values of our founders, the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Ranked among New York’s top quality senior care facilities by both Newsweek Magazine and Medicare, Maria Regina is a premier, 5-star, skilled nursing and rehabilitation center dedicated to offering holistic, loving, resident-centered care. We craft personalized care plans for residents that take into account everything from medications to favorite activities and meals. We also offer a full spectrum of superior rehabilitative services on a short-term basis.

            As part of that dedication to holistic health, our compassionate, skilled pastoral care team meets with each new resident and family to learn how to meet their religious and spiritual needs. While Maria Regina is a Catholic-sponsored care center, offering daily Mass in our beautiful chapel (also streamed to residents’ rooms), prayer services, room blessings and other devotions, we’re also committed to meeting the spiritual needs of residents of all denominations in ways that suit their unique needs.

            “Spiritual care is a key component of our mission of loving, holistic care,” says Michelle Boccia, Director of Pastoral Care. “When a person arrives at Maria Regina, we realize that their life has been greatly disrupted from their daily routine. We are eager to learn about their spiritual lives and how we can support them. Our emphasis on tending to the spirit has always been a defining part of our mission.”

            Many research studies have shown that spiritual care is essential to good health:

1. Supporting Spiritual Health Boosts Physical Health

            Including spirituality in the treatment of aging adults generates positive physical health outcomes. Many aging adults who are actively involved in spiritual communities have lower blood pressure, experience fewer strokes, and live longer than aging adults who don’t participate in spiritual activities.

2. Boosting Spiritual Health Improves Mental Health

            Research studies also indicate that spirituality and mental wellness are linked. For instance, older people who actively belong to a church or religious organization report feeling less isolated, and say that religious rituals provide a sense of comfort. Research also suggests that religious practice is one of the most common ways patients cope with medical illness, and predicts both successful coping and faster remission from depression in medical settings.

3. Spiritual Care Lowers Stress

            Spiritual care can lower stress by creating a more positive and enriching environment. In one study conducted with older adults, for instance, loneliness and depression decreased when spirituality was high. Good spiritual health helps individuals foster better relationships with others, too, enhancing their sense of purpose and meaning in life.

4. Good Spiritual Care Brings Families Together

            “Learning that we offer pastoral care appears to help alleviate the guilt some families feel about placing their loved ones in a nursing home,” says Michelle Boccia. “They know that we see each of our residents as individuals with unique physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We help families stay connected through spiritual practices that meet their unique needs.”

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If your family is like most, the holiday season brings guilt as well as joy. That’s especially true for caregivers who are struggling to balance a desire to create “perfect” holidays with the reality of feeling overwhelmed by family responsibilities.

            At Maria Regina, we help families banish guilt and find joy by celebrating new holiday traditions and embracing possibilities, while doing all we can to follow essential protocols to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and residents.

            Ranked among New York’s top quality senior care facilities by both Newsweek Magazine and Medicare, Maria Regina is a premier skilled nursing and rehabilitation center dedicated to offering holistic, loving, resident-centered care. Originally founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph, we treat every resident as a dear neighbor, crafting personalized care plans that take into account everything from medications to favorite activities and meals. We also offer a full spectrum of superior rehabilitative services on a short-term basis.

            Our compassionate, skilled pastoral care team offers daily Mass and prayer services, and is dedicated to meeting the spiritual needs of residents and their families of all denominations. That’s especially important during the holidays.

            “When families visit loved ones in long-term care facilities over the holidays, grief over changes in family situations and caregiver guilt over not being able to do more sometimes overshadows the joy of the season,” says Michele Boccia, Director of Pastoral Care. “We dedicate ourselves to helping residents and families let go of expectations and find new ways to celebrate being together.”

            Instead of feeling guilty about not being able to carry off Norman Rockwell holiday celebrations, we ask our families at Maria Regina to remember that those images were created decades ago. Today’s “average” family is very different. Instead of many generations living together and women staying home as they did in the fifties and sixties, most of us must now juggle jobs with caregiver responsibilities. We’re often exhausted before the holidays even begin.

            Here are six ways you can let go of the guilt and embrace joy during the holidays:

  1. Recognize Reality. Erase your fantasies about a perfect holiday and reset your expectations.
  2. Simplify your Plan. Make a list of what you need to do for the holidays, then go back over it. What’s important to you, what’s not? See how many things you can eliminate.
  3. Find New Traditions. Drive your loved ones to a new neighborhood to see holiday lights, look at family photo albums, or bundle up the generations and stand outside with cups of warm cider to toast the season. 
  4. Communicate. Even young children will understand if you say you can’t spend all of Christmas day at home because you need to visit Grandpa, and your spouse will better understand your stress, sorrow, and guilt if you share it openly.
  5. Delegate. Instead of doing every holiday task yourself—shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking—ask your loved ones to help. 
  6. Make Time for Yourself. Probably the best thing you can do for your family is to take care of yourself during the holidays. Take naps, sit quietly and read a book, take a walk, do yoga or anything else that relaxes you. By guarding your own health and sanity, you will be a better caregiver, one who can truly enjoy the beauty of the holidays, because you’ll have more energy and quality time for the people you love.

Sidebar/We See Possibilities, Not Limitations

At Maria Regina, residents and families discover a home away from home, one where every individual enjoys a lifestyle designed to promote optimal health and well-being. We provide:

  •       Spacious, exclusively private rooms for each resident
  •       Personalized holistic care plans
  •       Superior short-term rehabilitation programs
  •       A compassionate pastoral care team
  •       A climate of faith and understanding that honors each individual
  •       Highly-skilled, caring medical staff and aides
  •       Beautiful chapel with daily Mass and prayer services
  •       Innovative community activities and creative programs
  •       Refined restaurant-style dining
  •       Tranquil 212-acre campus
  •       Garden courtyards, solarium, and porches
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We meet many families who are hesitant about bringing their loved ones to a nursing home. “It’s normal to feel guilty and scared about making this decision,” says Janeen Bush, Maria Regina’s director of therapeutic recreation. “We can help you assess your own family’s situation and ease your guilt.”

Knowing when someone can no longer live independently often isn’t easy, because many people have chronic health conditions that slowly erode their ability to live independently. It’s better to anticipate this before your family is thrown into crisis mode. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Has your loved one fallen multiple times in recent months?
  • Has your loved one’s ability to perform basic daily activities declined significantly?
  • Is your loved one becoming more socially withdrawn?
  • Is your loved one suffering from incontinence?
  • Have you injured yourself while caring for your loved one?
  • Are you starting to feel like elder care consumes all of your energy?
  • Is your loved one displaying behaviors that pose a danger to herself or others?

If you answered “yes” to more than a few of these questions, it’s time to think about residential placement. And, if you choose Maria Regina, breathe easy. “When a resident comes to us, we learn how their routines were at home and we emulate them by doing a person-centered care plan,” says Bush. “We’ll welcome your loved one with open arms and stay close to their normal routines. Maria Regina is a home away from home, a safe haven that meets the needs of all individuals at every level.”

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Our Admissions Staff

The decision for nursing home placement is a difficult one, and for many people, it is their first encounter with the nursing home world. Fear of the unknown, feelings of loss and sadness, as well as the complexity of the many moving parts that need to be considered, can often make the process feel overwhelming for all involved.

At Maria Regina, our admissions staff appreciate just how challenging this decision can be for both elders and their families and do all that they can to create a smooth and easy process.

Nancy and Amanda understand the mission and values which are at the heart of Maria Regina and strive always to recognize the unique needs of each individual coming into our community.  Their knowledge and skill, as well as their empathy and compassion, help to make the transition to Maria Regina as stress free as possible for both elders and their families.

During the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, our admissions staff also focused their attention on meeting the immediate needs of our residents and families. They arrived to work each day to support their colleagues on the front line and to do whatever was needed. Their presence and willingness to help, speaks to the hope, healing and hospitality that are at the core of Maria Regina. We thank them for who they are and are grateful for all they do, especially over these past challenging months.

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The Mission package ministry is monthly sending packages to those in need in parts of the USA, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.  Sisters of St. Joseph residing in Maria Regina have recently responded to the needs! 

On Wednesday afternoons, a group gather in Macrina’s Place and organize care packages with a small towel, soap and several other items (including hard candy!) in a bag to be sent to the dear neighbor in one of these locations.

Recently, the care packages were sent to our own S. Gloria Cruz for distribution in Puerto Rico.  Along with the care packages were prayers for the people of Puerto Rico!  S. Joan Bolte even shared a story from her personal experience on the island.


Sisters Mary Daly, Joan Bolte, Eugenia Daley, Mary Gildea, along with Associate Mary Lou Locke were among the workers on this project.


Agnes White offering a hand to S. Mary Gildea as S. Eugenia Daley and Mary Lou Locke partner up on some packaging. S. Joan Bolte has an organized system down pat and S. Paul Francis from Pastoral Care marvels at the work of the group.

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Maria Regina was awarded a grant from the Funeral Services Foundation for staff support and bereavement during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.   From July 16-31,2020,   fourteen small, personalized Memorial Services were held on units, for all three shifts, where the names of the residents who died during the pandemic on that unit were read.  Non-nursing departments also gathered in several intimate groups for Memorial Services to honor those who died. Rev. Laura Tria, a local interfaith minister, led the services and facilitated the group sharing. Rev. Tria created a beautiful container for staff to share memories, their tears and their gratitude for their co-workers’ dedication, flexibility and deep sense of love and duty for our residents.  

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Click here for our most recent update on visitation: July 1 Family Letter.pdf

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“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say

’ Because of you, I didn’t give up’”

Christina Fung


“Don’t give up” is the ever-present mantra of Maria Regina’s rehab team. With humor, compassionate understanding and a gentle touch, these talented women and men inspire our residents to push themselves further than they thought possible.  

The rehab suite has alwaysbeen filled with positive energy, fun and a sense of purpose that addresses the fear, pain and sense of loss that often comes with a challenge to one’s physical abilities.Whether someone comes to MRR for rehab after an injury or surgery with plansto return to home, or joins our long term care community, each individual is inspired to be their best selves. 

COVID 19 created unique challenges for our physical, occupational and speech therapist since all therapy requires physical contact. No longer able to see residents in the rehab gym, they developed creative and safe ways to treat residents in their rooms. This helped to reduce a sense of isolation and continued to inspire residents to keep moving as much as possible.

As part of the Maria Regina community, the rehab therapists joined other staff members in feeding residents and providing additional hands on care to make sure that each resident received the attention they needed.

While many members of this team have young families, responsible for caring for young children, home schooling and everyday life in a new COVID 19 world, they came to work each day with enthusiasm and energy, caring for our elders and fulfilling the mission of Maria Regina. We thank them for their skill, their commitment, their dedication.  They are among the BEST of us!

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There has always been a special place in the hearts of our residents for the Therapeutic Recreation staff. These dedicated women fill their days with the activities, new learnings and laughter, keeping our residents engaged and upbeat. COVID has made this more challenging by eliminating group programs, decreasing resident interaction with one another and keeping residents their rooms. Never people to shy from a challenge, the department has revamped their programs and created new ways to keep our residents involved and happy.

Focusing on a model “person centered care”, staff developed individualized therapeutic activities to meet the needs of residents. For our more independent residents, they created personalized care packets of puzzles, word searches, books, trivia, sketch pads and playing cards. For those residents with a more reflective bent, they encouraged journaling/ poetry writing to help process their feelings and experiences in these difficult days.

Recreation staff utilized the in-house TV system to keep residents connected offering the “Elder Grow” gardening program, bingo, creative poetry classes, sing-a-longs, resident council, chair Zumba and a myriad of other programs virtually. Facilitating zoom or phone calls, they helped keep residents connected with families and friends.

Visiting residents as often as possible, they made special deliveries of coffee, chocolate, soda, chips, cookies or any other personal requests that could bring some joy to the day. They even delivered “Mr. Softee” as the residents listened to the familiar jingle from the ice cream truck.

Once it was safe, residents were brought out into the garden to feed the birds & water the flowers.Some residents enjoy sun bathing while listening to their favorite music on their personalized IPOD. The outdoor balcony was used so that our frailer residents could feel the air on their skin and smell the earth as raindrop fell.

Their creativity and energy never waned, even as they went home to care for their families. We are so grateful to these courageous and committed staff members who continue to assure that our residents feel connected and loved. They are a living example of the hope, healing and hospitality critical to the mission of Maria Regina. We thank you.


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“Unless someone like you cares an awful lot,

nothing is ever going to get better. It’s not”.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Maria Regina Residence is blessed with three amazing social workers who “care an awful lot”, always working to make thing better for all members of the Maria Regina community.

They are the listeners, the hand holders, the advocates and the interpreters for our residents whose voices are sometimes quiet and difficult to discern.In this pandemic, they were challenged to find new ways of being with and “touching” residents, bringing hope and healing in a time of fear and uncertainty.

They have been a lifeline for family members, reassuring them that loved ones were safe and being well cared for. They arranged for phone and Zoom calls so residents could maintain connections with family and friends. And when physical healing was no longer possible, partnering with other staff members,they sat with the dying, offering a supportive presence and words of consolation.

To other staff members they provided a listening ear, an extra hand and a willingness to handle difficult situations. They did whatever was needed to be done, always available to contribute to the needs of the larger community.

These three remarkable women faced their own fears of COVID with grace and courage as they not only cared for the Maria Regina community, but went home each night to care for their own families. We are so grateful for all they do and most of all, for who they are.

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