FEATURED | NY1’s New Yorker of The Week

March 4, 2016

“Nancy Gershman Brings Light to Families During Their Darkest Hours”

NY1 News featured VNSNY Haven Hospice bereavement volunteer Nancy Gershman in a New Yorker of the Week segment.  The feature story spotlights the added compassion and care that VNSNY Haven Hospice patients and their families receive as memory artist Nancy Gershman sits bedside with them and listens as they share special memories. Back in her studio, Nancy custom-creates a “Healing Dreamscapes” that celebrates the patient’s life and provides the family with a lasting memory.  The segment also featured Haven Hospice social worker Maureen Gillard and was aired several times, reaching approximately 4.5 million viewers.  The website receives 284,000 unique monthly visitors.

NY1’s John Schiumo filed the following report. Read Schiumo’s report, “New Yorker of the Week: Nancy Gershman Brings Light to Families During Their Darkest Hours” below:

For some families of patients nearing their final days, a connection to the past can instill comfort and restore peace of mind. [Elva’s nephew speaks:]

I remember my grandmother as someone whose heart was sometimes too big for her own good,” says Andre Perez, the family member of a hospice patient. “So big that she tried to fit the world in it if she could.

Artist Nancy Gershman shares her compassion as a volunteer at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York’s Haven Hospice. Sitting bedside with families, Nancy listens as they share memories. She then brings those stories to life by digitally editing photographs and creating a “Dreamscape.” “As beautiful as this hospice, and as calming as the staff is, they’re still in distress. They know that there’s an impending death,” Nancy says. “I try to create a storytelling portrait of an event or an experience that they can carry into the future.”

By illustrating how loved ones want to be remembered, she works to give families a sense of hope.  [Linda Morales, Elva’s daughter speaks:]

My mother was always the life of the party. She would come in and have a big smile, and she would love music and she would dance. And she was not a wallflower, believe me,” says Linda Valli Morales, the family member of a hospice care patient.

Nancy visits the hospice 2-3 times a week. In 2.5 years she’s worked with over 340 families, of which 40% opt to go beyond the brainstorming to see their Dreamscape completed and framed.

“Meeting them where they’re at… introducing herself in terms that they can understand,” says Maureen Gillard, a social worker with Visiting Nurse Service of New York Haven Hospice.  “She is an incredible listener and passionate about what she does –  and compassionate.” [Linda Morales adds:]

So it’s been this really beautiful enhancement of the work that we’re already doing here. We’re going to miss [Elva] and we want other generations to come, to see what we, those who have been fortunate to have been around her [knew about her]. So I think that’s really a wonderful gift.

So, for bringing light to families during their darkest hours, Nancy Gershman is the latest New Yorker of the Week.

Watch Schiumo’s report here: