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In the various roles he has undertaken through the years, Val J. Halamandaris has been a singular driving force behind the policy and program initiatives resulting in the recognition of home health care as a viable alternative to institutionalization. His dedication to consumer advocacy, which enhances the quality of life and dignity of those receiving home health care, merits VNA HealthCare Group’s highest recognition and deepest respect. 

VNA HealthCare Group

I have the highest respect for them, especially for the nurses, aides and therapists, who devote their lives to caring for people with disabilities, the infirm and dying Americans.  There are few more noble professions.

President Barack Obama

Home health care agencies do such a wonderful job in this country helping people to be able to remain at home and allowing them to receive services

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Chair, Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

Home care is a combination of compassion and efficiency.  It is less expensive than institutional care...but at the same time it is a more caring, human, intimate experience, and therefore it has a greater human’s a big mistake not to try to maximize it and find ways to give people the home care option over either nursing homes, hospitals or other institutions

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA)

Medicaid covers long-term care, but only for low-income families.  And Medicare only pays for care that is connected to a hospital discharge....our health care system must cover these vital services...[and] we should promote home-based care, which most people prefer, instead of the institutional care that we emphasize now.

Former U.S. Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-CD)

We need incentives to...keep people in home health care settings...It’s dramatically less expensive than long term care.

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)


Home care is clearly the wave of the future. It’s clearly where patients want to be cared for. I come from an ethnic family and when a member of our family is severely ill, we would never consider taking them to get institutional care. That’s true of many families for both cultural and financial reasons. If patients have a choice of where they want to be cared for, where it’s done the right way, they choose home.

Donna Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services

A couple of years ago, I spent a little bit of time with the National Association for Home Care & Hospice and its president, Val J. Halamandaris, and I was just blown away. What impressed me so much was that they talked about what they do as opposed to just the strategies of how to deal with Washington or Sacramento or Albany or whatever the case may be. Val is a fanatic about care, and it comes through in every way known to mankind. It comes through in the speakers he invites to their events; it comes through in all the stuff he shares.

Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence

Val’s home care organization brings thousands of caregivers together into a dynamic organization that provides them with valuable resources and tools to be even better in their important work. He helps them build self-esteem, which leads to self-motivation.

Mike Vance, former Dean of Disney and author of Think Out of the Box

Val is one of the greatest advocates for seniors in America. He goes beyond the call of duty every time.

Arthur S. Flemming, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare

Val has brought the problems, the challenges, and the opportunities out in the open for everyone to look at. He is a visionary pointing the direction for us. 

Margaret (Peg) Cushman, Professor of Nursing and former President of the Visiting Nurses Association

Although Val has chosen to stay in the background, he deserves much of the credit for what was accomplished both at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, where he was closely associated with me and at the House Select Committee on Aging, where he was Congressman Claude Pepper’s senior counsel and closest advisor. He put together more hearings on the subject of aging, wrote more reports, drafted more bills, and had more influence on the direction of events than anyone before him or since.

Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Val’s most important contribution is pulling together all elements of home health care and being able to organize and energize the people involved in the industry.

Frank E. Moss, former U.S. Senator

Anyone working on health care issues in Congress knows the name Val J. Halamandaris.

Kathleen Gardner Cravedi, former Staff Director of the House Select Committee on Aging

Without your untiring support and active participation, the voices of people advocating meaningful and compassionate health care reform may not have been heard by national leaders.

Michael Sullivan, Former Executive Director, Indiana Association for Home Care

All of us have been members of many organizations and NAHC is simply the best there is. NAHC aspires to excellence in every respect; its staff has been repeatedly honored as the best in Washington; the organization lives by the highest values and has demonstrated a passionate interest in the well-being of patients and providers.

Elaine Stephens, Director of Home Care of Steward Home Care/Steward Health Systems and former NAHC C

Home care increasingly is one of the basic building blocks in the developing system of long-term care.  On both economic and recuperative bases, home health care will continue to grow as an essential service for individuals, for families and for the community as a whole.

Former U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

NCOA is excited to be part of this great event and honored to have such influential award winners in the field of aging.

National Council of Aging

Health care at home…is something we need more of, not less of.  Let us make a commitment to preventive and long-term care.  Let us encourage home care as an alternative to nursing homes and give folks a little help to have their parents there.

Former President Bill Clinton

2014 Nurse of the Year Nominees

NAHC Announces Finalists for Home Care & Hospice Nurse of the Year Award

To view CARING article highlighting the 50 state winners, click here.

Read through the stories of caring and commitment below then follow the link at the end to vote for your choice:

Kathleen Lewis

Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona


My name is Kathleen Lewis, and I’m a nurse at Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ. My 59-year-old patient, Roberta Harris, has Down syndrome, dementia, respiratory failure, and epilepsy. We have served her needs as her condition changes, and we have done so in her home. Keeping her there has maintained her quality of life and reduced secondary health issues like falls. But caring for Roberta requires more than knowledge of her illnesses and challenges. It also requires knowing what makes her tick. While some patients want in-depth talks about their care plans, Roberta responds to reassuring hugs, smiles, gentle interventions — and the impromptu ice cream party. She also likes to have her friends close by, so her favorite stuffed animal, Lamby, sometimes helps me out with exams. Seeing her childlike sense of wonder at the world reminds me of the sacredness of my work.

Karen Schulkin

Professional Healthcare at Home, an affiliate of Kindred at Home in Pleasant Hill, California


I’m Karen Schulkin, and I’m a nurse at Professional Healthcare at Home, an affiliate of Kindred at Home in Pleasant Hill, CA. My 65-year-old patient, Brian Hanson, has PVD, kidney disease, and CHF which makes him O2 dependent. When I began giving him wound care and pain management, he smoked heavily, took lots of pain medication, and ate poorly. He was living in a hotel room with no kitchen in a crime-infested neighborhood. I was moved by his difficult circumstances, and his stories of childhood tragedies, drugs, and prison. With my encouragement, he quit smoking and began managing his medications. I also arranged for Meals on Wheels, helped him get his power chair working, found donated cooking appliances, and helped him adopt a rescue dog, Mandy. Now he gets fresh vegetables and is learning to cook. He takes Mandy everywhere, and both are thriving. Today, he is a different man.

Debbie Ahlert-Caffey

Douglas County VNA, Kansas


My name is Debbie Ahlert-Caffey, and I’m a hospice manager and pediatric nurse for Douglas County VNA in Lawrence, KS. Fifteen-year-old Michael Douglas has been my patient for more than eight years. Michael has interstitial lung disease which requires routine IV infusions, and the VNA was the only agency that was willing to provide treatment in Michael’s home. Receiving medical care in a familiar place has been critical to Michael’s compliance. I try to make it even easier for him by scheduling visits around his school day, which lets him to feel like a regular kid and meet his academic workload. And there’s another plus to receiving infusions at home because it allows Michael to watch his favorite sports team on TV. Even when they lose, Michael thinks I’m a winner because I “always get the IV in on the first poke.”


Greg Burns

HomeHealth Visiting Nurses of Southern Maine, Maine


I’m Greg Burns, and I’m a nurse at HomeHealth Visiting Nurses of Southern Maine in Saco, ME. For the past 24 years, my focus has been pediatrics and I’m a strong advocate for children like Sophie Lam, a long-term Maternal and Child Health Grant patient born to first-time parents. I saw her for the first four months of her life after she developed mild reflux and difficulties feeding. During my visits I assessed her nutrition and gave her parents education and support. Sophie’s mom and dad always had many good questions, and together we managed to avoid many visits to the doctor and ER. I’m glad I was able to give Sophie’s parents the guidance they needed to keep their baby girl at home.

Brenda Hensley

Johns Hopkins Home Care Group, Maryland


My name is Brenda Hensley, and I’m a nurse at the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group in Dundalk, MD. My patient, Tyrone, had radiation for prostate cancer, leading to the removal of his prostate, bladder, and part of his colon. He was left with one ostomy for elimination of both urine and stool. It was an unusual pouching challenge, but I worked with Tyrone and his wife, Deb, to find an appliance that worked. Afterward, Tyrone wanted to return to work, but he couldn’t bring himself to change his pouch on his own. So I helped Tyrone deal with some of the lifestyle changes he faced and learn to care for himself. Now he’s “good to go” as Deb says, and back to work driving his truck.


Bonnie Schmidt

St. Rose Dominican Hospital's Home Health Services, Nevada


I’m Bonnie Schmidt, and I’m a nurse at St. Rose Dominican Hospital's Home Health Services in Las Vegas, NV. My 51-year-old patient, Karla Ward, is a quadriplegic and has been bed bound for eight years. When she was admitted to home care, she suffered from frequent UTIs and bed sores. To cut down on her many hospitalizations, I gave her wound care, skin care, and Foley catheter care. I also tried to improve her nutrition and uplift her spirits. She calls me her “sporty nurse” because I tell her about my bicycling and hiking adventures. Sometimes I also bring my baby desert tortoise to see her. And I’m glad to report she is making far fewer hospital visits. The good news for her is she hasn’t been there in 20 months. And that’s good news for me because we laugh and share many things, including our belief in nursing.



Vickie Oliver-Rivera

Visiting Nurse Service of New York, New York


I’m Vickie Oliver-Rivera, and I’m a nurse at Visiting Nurse Service of New York in New York City, NY. Through VNSNY’s Nurse Family Partnership, I’ve worked with over 100 girls, including 23-year-old Eyana Smith who grew up in a drug-addicted environment. Now she found herself pregnant and feared she would have to give up her dream of becoming a doctor. I wanted to help her, but first I had to gain her trust. Over time we bonded as I talked to her about finding and recognizing her strengths. Eyana had begun viewing herself in a new light by the time her son, Aizen, was born on Christmas. With my support, Eyana gained the confidence to give Aizen the nurturing he needed and finish community college. She now works as an emergency medical technician and plans to return to school so she can revive her dream of becoming a doctor.


Karen Marshall

Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service, Ohio


I’m Karen Marshall and I am an RN case manager for Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service in Akron, OH. I have been working in home health and hospice since 1988. I am currently caring for a loving couple who have been married 72 years, 95-year-old Howard and 89-year-old Esther Jones. They are spending this season of their lives together in the comfort of their home. Mr. Jones is a proud World War II veteran who loves to tell about his service under General Patton and the landing at Omaha Beach. To honor Mr. Jones’ service to his country, I arranged a pinning ceremony on May 25, 2014. This veteran-to-veteran ceremony included providing Mr. Jones with a home-made quilt, a personalized branch certificate, a flag pin, and veteran salutes.


Mary Pistulka

Avera Hospice, South Dakota


My name is Mary Pistulka, and I’ve been a nurse for 26 years at Avera Hospice in Yankton, SD. My most memorable moments there involve patients, and a particularly memorable patient was 74-year-old Glen Folkestad, a seasoned truck driver with end stage COPD. Glen always knew exactly what he wanted, whether it was driving a riding motor or smoking. Often it was not something the hospice team thought would be best, but we did support his wish to avoid going to a nursing home. By respecting Glen, gradually gaining his trust, and mediating several team/patient meetings, I was able to convince my patient to make some compromises. As a result, Glen was able to remain home with his beloved wife, Phyllis, and spend his last days there with the continued support of hospice.


Joann Plencner

University of Virginia Health System's Continuum Home Health Care, Virginia


I'm Joann Plencner, and I'm a nurse at the University of Virginia Health System's Continuum Home Health Care in Charlottesville, VA. My 41-year-old patient Jimmy Fortune, Jr. has spina bifida and has been living with T10 level paresis, an ileal conduit, colostomy, and a lower lib amputation. When I visit Jimmy's home, I work closely with him and his caregivers to address his wound and ostomy needs — finding new types of ostomy bags and wound care products that will work as better options for him. Jimmy has the best attitude I have ever seen, and he is confident that I will support him going ahead. I appreciate the care challenges we see in home health, and I most appreciate working with patients like Jimmy who are true partners in finding their own health care solutions. Jimmy is a strong advocate for himself, and he knows I am, too.


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