RVNAhealth in Your Town – This week we are in New Milford CT!

Welcome to one of our new segments where we are profiling the towns that we serve. First up on deck this month is New Milford. Not only do we maintain building operations and serve hundreds of patients in this town each year, New Milford is also called ‘home’ by 43 RVNAhealth employees. Read more to find out what we’ve been up to in New Milford, read some input from local friends and supporters, and get the inside scoop on ‘best of’ recommendations by some of our very own local team!

Fun Facts about New Milford:

  • Location: Western Connecticut, 14 miles north of Danbury, along the Housatonic River
  • Size: ~28K population
  • Fun Fact: At 62 square miles in size, New Milford is the largest town in Connecticut by land-mass
  • RVNAhealth Fact: New Milford is home to 43 RVNAhealth employees!
  • RVNAhealth ‘Best of’ Votes:
    • Best pizza: Italia Mia (Shelby B., Social Worker)
    • Best ice cream: Kimberly Farms (Ronette C., Hospice RN Case Manager)
    • Best coffee: River & Rail Café (Taylor D., Development Associate)
    • Best hiking place: Lover’s Leap (Cindy M. Hospice and Palliative Care Social Worker)
    • Best place for a picnic: The town green (Cindy C., CNA)
    • Other Best (write-in category): Sophia, our therapy dog loves Candlewoof – best dog park! (Stephanie P, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator)

RVNAhealth Events in New Milford – Past & Coming Up:

  • New Milford RiverFest, October 2021. RVNAhealth enjoyed meeting the community as a patron and exhibitor during this weekend fall event.
  • Candlewood Valley Health’s Annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser, October 2021. RVNAhealth was the Platinum Sponsor and exhibitor at this 3rd annual breast cancer fundraiser, raising over $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.
  • New Milford Sip & Stroll, December 2021. We were honored to attend this beloved end of year event and excited to sponsor the luminaries around town.
  • NEW Upcoming: New Milford Bereavement Support Groups. RVNAhealth is pleased to announce the re-start of monthly in-person bereavement support sessions at its New Milford office. Click here for more information on the April session.  All are welcome.
  • NEW Upcoming: 53rd New Milford Village Fair Days, July 29-30th. We are excited for the return of the New Milford Village Fair Days and to have the opportunity to sponsor this fun, family-friendly, community event in the historic downtown district!
Platinum Sponsor at Candlewood Valley Health & Rehabilitation Annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser, October 2021
New Milford RiverFest – Patron sponsor, October 2021
New Milford Holiday Sip & Stroll – Luminary sponsor, December 2021








Words with Friends (no, not the game!):

This month we reached out to some friends who live or work in New Milford and asked them to say a few words about their relationship with RVNAhealth. We value all our relationships in New Milford – employees, patients, partners, and supporters. We are honored to work, live, and serve in this wonderful community!

Cheryl Bakewell, New Milford resident and partner at Bakewell & Mulhare LLC, former New Milford VNA Board Member, and current RVNAhealth Board Member – “I was a member of the New Milford VNA board and continue to be a member of the RVNAhealth board for very personal reasons. I think that an individual’s ability to stay at home and recover in the case of illness or to pass away in their own home in the case of hospice care is a very important choice. Both of my parents passed away from cancer and the gift that the VNA gave us to allow both of them the dignity to pass on their own terms was unparalleled. Everyone that we dealt with was caring and compassionate. RVNAhealth will always be one of my preferred charities for those reasons.”

Jim Polito, New Milford resident, former New Milford VNA and VNA Home Board Member and current RVNAhealth client – “My wife has used the home care services from VNA Home (now RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services) for over two years. Brita and I have found all of the caregivers, nurses and therapists we have met to be very caring and warm people. They have been a tremendous help to us. The services provided by RVNAhealth are very important to New Milford and surrounding towns – with such a long legacy of having a VNA in our town – you represent an essential and signature service to our area.”

Melissa Marici, Candlewood Valley Health & Rehabilitation, Vice President, Corporate Communications – “RVNAhealth has become a trusted healthcare partner. We’ve come to rely on the organization for a multitude of patient care needs. One of the most important, would be their highly skilled, comprehensive, and compassionate hospice care under their ComfortWELL services. The collaboration in this area has been a game changer for our staff, patients, and their loved ones.”

Nichole Brant, RVNAhealth Staying WELL Services, Business Operations and HR Manager – “I’m very proud to work for this agency. I started work for New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice and their VNA Home division 6 years ago. Since the merger, I’ve found that RVNAhealth has helped to open so many more opportunities – in terms of offerings and resources – for the New Milford and northern communities. And the leadership of Theresa Santoro, President & CEO, has helped to create a smooth and welcoming transition.”

Genevieve Pelliciari OTR/L, CLT, New Milford resident and RVNAhealth Occupational Therapist – “I started working for New Milford VNA in 2005 and continued with RVNAhealth after they joined forced. I have lived in New Milford for 37 years and provide RVNAhealth rehabilitation therapy services across New Milford, and other surrounding towns. I love what I do and enjoy my patients and take pride in making Occupational Therapy a part of their recovery.”

Occupational Therapy…Where Creativity and Compassionate Care Collide

In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month in April, we are celebrating our 17 in-home and outpatient occupational therapists (OT) at RVNAhealth. We sat down with Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth Director of Rehabilitation Services, to talk about RVNAhealth’s own OT team. “Problem solvers…creative strategists…fitting square pegs in round holes…not cookie cutter…thinking outside the box.” These are just a few of the phrases Weiss uses to describe her occupational therapy team and the work they do. Okay, so these OTs sound like pretty interesting people! So, what exactly do they do and why do they need to be so creative? RVNAhealth has tackled this topic before (check out this great video interview by our very own Danielle Taibi, RVNAhealth Home Health Aide Supervisor, Occupational Therapist MOTR/L, CDP). To summarize, occupational therapists focus on addressing an injury, illness, or post-surgery condition that has disrupted a person’s normal activities of daily life (“ADLs”) – activities as basic as eating, bathing, and dressing, for example. They focus not only on helping to rehabilitate the affected area, but they also place tremendous effort on creative and attainable adaptations to enable a patient to have greater independence and function in those daily activities as they recover.

Mrs. McMorran and Christine Cooper, OT/L, practicing skills and adaptations for cooking

Given the focus on activities of daily life, OT goals often focus on reclaiming a patient’s ability to complete basic and fine motor skills needed at home…from dressing oneself and using buttons or zippers, to bathing and personal hygiene, to picking up a utensil, cup, or a pen to write with. In focusing on the goal of accomplishing greater independence, a patient may be taught how to accomplish a task (e.g., buttoning a shirt) in an entirely different way, or recommendations may be made for devices to help make such tasks easier.

We were able to capture the unique art of occupational therapy during a recent visit with RVNAhealth patient, Mrs. Monica McMorran of Ridgefield, and her OT therapist, Christine Cooper, OT/L. Cooper was working on a variety of practical activities to assist Mrs. McMorran with improving her strength as well as how to accomplish many activities around the home. From practicing and discussing best approaches for moving in and out of the shower, to practice time in the kitchen working through techniques for cooking and standing safely at the stove, to the basics of how to use tools to assist with putting on socks and sneakers. When asked what she has appreciated most about OT, Mrs. McMorran’s immediate response was, “It’s practical! And it’s about getting on with living!”

Practicing the use of adaptive equipment for dressing

Echoing the experience we witnessed with Mrs. McMorran’s therapy session, “Occupational therapists are masters of adaptive equipment. Devices such as reachers, sock donners, and foam on utensils or pencils are just a sampling of the toolkit an OT may use to help a patient regain independence,” says Kate Campbell, DPT, RVNAhealth Outpatient Practice Manager. “In addition to adaptive equipment, OTs are also experts at home safety modifications and equipment. Focusing on a patient’s environment – e.g., lighting, floor surfaces, bathroom layout — is just as important to regaining independence as focusing on the patient and their abilities.”

“Occupational therapy is often overlooked, especially for outpatient rehabilitation needs” says Gigi Weiss. “Physicians or Orthopedics tend to be more familiar with physical therapy.” As such, she encourages patients to become their own advocate and ask about occupational therapy when seeking rehabilitation – especially when there is a need and desire to regain ability and independence in basic activities of daily life. All OTs at RVNAhealth have achieved masters or doctorate level degrees in their field and are highly recommended. As

Sarah Triano, OTR/L, works with an outpatient client

one recent patient added, “[My] expectations for OT were very high, but my therapist EXCEEDED them.” Weiss attributes this success to RVNAhealth’s overall unique rehabilitation program. “We offer both occupational therapy and physical therapy services, in-home and at our outpatient facility in Ridgefield. Finding OTs, working alongside PTs, particularly in the outpatient setting is rare. But this enables RVNAhealth’s ability to evaluate and make recommendations to both patient and physician if we feel someone could benefit, for example, from OT rather than physical therapy.”

For more on RVNAhealth’s occupational therapy and other rehabilitation programs, please visit rvnahealth.org or call 203-438-7862.

In the Words of our Patients…(and an upcoming walk down the aisle!)

“Without a doubt, it was the best decision I made.”  These words, describing Jeanette Rizzo’s choice of RVNAhealth for health and home care following her mother’s discharge from the hospital, are not taken with a grain of salt.  Jeanette’s words summarize the experience RVNAhealth strives to create for every patient and family member in our care.

Jeanette, along with her mother, Arlene Kuderna, of Sandy Hook, CT recently sat down with us to share their experiences with RVNAhealth. Both described how overwhelming and uncertain it can feel when a family member returns home from the hospital with continued care needs.  And in Mrs. Kuderna’s case, her needs were substantial, with round the clock care required.  Upon a recommendation, Jeanette contacted RVNAhealth.  When her mom finally returned home by ambulance on a late weeknight, she was met there by the RVNAhealth team and supervisor. “It gave me peace of mind that [my Mom] was in good hands and I made the right decision.” Mrs. Kuderna has since utilized a vast array of RVNAhealth services, including home health nursing, physical and occupational rehabilitation, and personal caregiver assistance.  “I feel like we used all the services [that were available to my mom].  Everyone that came really listened to my mom, all her conditions, all her worries. They gave her their complete professional advice and care.”

Now, four months following her return home, Mrs. Kuderna is feeling well and continues to make excellent progress.  Sitting along with Mrs. Kuderna and her daughter, we were also joined by one of Mrs. Kuderna’s caregivers, Leonard, from our StayingWELL personal caregiving team.  Leonard started with Mrs. Kuderna the moment she came home from the hospital and was with her 5 days a week, morning to evening.  From physical transfers, to dressing, to helping and encouraging her through her rehabilitation exercises, “I can’t say enough about Leonard – there are no words for the care he gave me personally.” Jeanette also offered her praises for Leonard’s help, “He lifted [her] spirits when [she] needed it.  He provided skilled care, professional care, but he also was compassionate and gave encouragement when she needed encouragement and motivation when she needed motivation.”

Encouragement and motivation have been at the forefront of Mrs. Kuderna’s mind throughout her recovery. In fact, her first grandchild (Jeanette’s daughter) is getting married this fall! Describing how she has missed so many other family moments over the course of her illness, she is determined to be there and walk down the aisle for the wedding.  And, as an honor and thank you like no other, Mrs. Kuderna has asked Leonard to accompany her on her walk down the aisle!  “I’ve missed so much. This is like everything to me and knowing he’s going to be there…the pressure of the wedding is hugely lifted off my shoulders.”

RVNAhealth’s StayingWELL services team recently won the 2022 Home Care Pulse – Best of Provider and Best of Employer Awards, based upon unfiltered monthly feedback from clients and caregivers.  While the certificates and plaques are proudly displayed in the offices, we are grateful to Mrs. Kuderna, Jeanette, and Leonard for confirming the recognition and sharing their voices, their home, and even a wedding with us!  It is in those words and experiences that we derive fuel to continue our mission of exceptional care.

To watch a brief video and hear directly from Mrs. Kuderna and her daughter, Jeanette, click here

For more information on available RVNAhealth services, visit our website or call 203-438-5555.

RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast: Community Comes Together to Care for Neighbors

RVNAhealth will be hosting its 21st Annual Spring Breakfast on Friday, April 29 at The Amber Room in Danbury. After a two-year hiatus, the RVNAhealth Board of Directors, Spring Breakfast Committee, and staff cannot wait to celebrate with friends and neighbors from towns across Connecticut.

Each year, the Spring Breakfast brings together 400 local business leaders, medical professionals, community groups, and RVNAhealth supporters to welcome spring and raise funds critical to patient care and program support.  Funds raised allow RVNAhealth to care for patients and clients regardless of age, diagnosis, or financial circumstances and make a lasting impact on the lives of those served. It’s truly an inspiring morning and a great way to start the day!

This year’s impact speaker is Kate Denoyer Fitzpatrick, CEO & Founder of Kate Fitzpatrick Consulting.  A long-time volunteer at RVNAhealth, Fitzpatrick has also experienced the love, comfort, and compassionate care of RVNAhealth, firsthand.

You’re invited to be a sponsor or table host at this year’s event, which will include a delicious breakfast, Fitzpatrick’s compelling testimonial, live auction, and raffle with dozens of prizes.

If you are interested in supporting the Spring Breakfast, you may purchase sponsorships or tables online at RVNAhealth.org or contact Julia Douglas, Development Manager, at 203.438.5555, x1018 or jdouglas@rvnahealth.org.


February is American Heart Month and RVNAhealth is focusing on cardiovascular health and its impact.

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S., but close behind with significant ties to cardiovascular health, stroke is the 5th highest cause of death.  A stroke occurs once every 40 seconds in the U.S., however, the American Heart Association Stroke Council believes about 80% of strokes are preventable.  Healthy lifestyle choices paired with knowing your heart health can greatly reduce your risk.  Additionally, becoming aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke can significantly improve outcomes.

F.A.S.T. is a widely recognized acronym designed to help recognize and act if a stroke is suspected. F.A.S.T. stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911. Treatments that work best are typically administered within three hours of first experienced symptoms. Calling an ambulance rather than driving the person to the hospital allows medical professionals to begin treatment immediately.  Thankfully stroke survival and recovery rates have improved significantly over the past decade with medical advances, but time to treatment continues to be a critical factor in success rates.

Although strokes seem sudden and random, they are often caused by underlying health issues that can be addressed with life changes and knowing your health numbers. High blood pressure, for example, is a major risk factor for stroke. RVNAhealth offers numerous ways to help you reduce stroke risk – from our regular free blood pressure clinics, to our on-staff Registered Dietitian assisting with nutrition needs, to our upcoming May 7th RVNAhealth Wellness Fair focused on helping individuals catch up on preventative screenings!

Call us or stop by one of our free upcoming events to stay on top of your own numbers! For more information, visit RVNAhealth at https://rvnahealth.org or call us at 203.438.5555 x4.

Simply the Best

StayingWELL Office Staff [from left to right]:  Paula Schlemmer, Dilcy Rosario-Torres, Racheal DeNault, Melissa Woodhouse, Jessica Spears, Danielle Taibi, Judy Ochoa. Not pictured, Nichole Brant

RVNAhealth is excited to share that our StayingWELL team has been awarded the 2022 Best of Home Care® – Provider of Choice Award and Employer of Choice Awards from Home Care Pulse.  These awards recognize RVNAhealth and our StayingWELL business as one of the top performing non-medical home care agencies in the nation, based upon unfiltered client and caregiver experience feedback.  Home Care Pulse is the home care industry’s leading firm in satisfaction research and quality assurance.

As an independent third-party provider, Home Care Pulse collects candid and direct phone-interview feedback monthly from StayingWELL clients and caregivers in areas such as impact on daily life, communication, caregiver ability, and client/caregiver compatibility. Committed to being the best in our field, RVNAhealth partnered with Home Care Pulse at the beginning of 2020 as part of an ongoing improvement initiative, to better understand the client and caregiver experience.

“As one of only 17 home care agencies in Connecticut to receive both awards, this recognition places us in the top 20% of participating non-medical home care agencies in the nation.  We are honored to be recognized by our clients for outstanding service, as well as by our caregivers as a valued employer.  I am extremely proud of our team of skilled and compassionate caregivers who provide care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – in both normal times, as well as through the challenges of COVID.  I am also grateful to our incredible clients for their feedback and trust in having RVNAhealth care for them or their loved ones,” says Melissa Woodhouse, RRT, MOT, OTR/L, CDP, Director of RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services.

To learn more about RVNAhealth’s StayingWELL services, please visit https://rvnahealth.org/services/staying-well/ or call 203-438-5555. To meet some of our exceptional caregivers, please visit our Meet the Caregivers webpage. 

A Healthy Community for All

“Oh my goodness, I love you!”

I can still hear the raw emotion and gratitude in her voice when I called to schedule her COVID-19 vaccine. “I live alone and don’t know how to use a computer,” she continued. “I don’t even have a computer. My daughter lives and works in Chicago and has been trying to help me but the registration process is terribly confusing. I’ve been so worried. I was afraid I would never get vaccinated.”

She was not alone. When RVNAhealth was approved in January 2021 to be a COVID-19 vaccine administrator for the State of CT, the population was ready — desperate even — to turn the corner on the pandemic. But to many, the process itself — which involved speed and technology — was harrowing. This individual was just one of many who RVNAhealth called, personally, to set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Because of you, we were able to dedicate resources to this effort. Because of you, we were able to replace fears with freedom, and restore confidence and hope.

We worked very closely with local social services departments, senior centers, nonprofit partners, and other area municipalities to identify and vaccinate the most vulnerable in our communities, beginning with the elderly and the disabled.

Your support is what sustained our continued pandemic response and allowed us to focus on our public health mission this year. RVNAhealth conducted mass-vaccination clinics from January to June. We brought the vaccine to the homebound. And, thanks to you, we educated and vaccinated area underserved communities, where obstacles such as language, transportation, misinformation, and fear over immigration status were preventing people from getting vaccinated.

And, while we are certainly trending in the right direction, pandemic-related challenges still persist. One of the most troubling is the inability of area children, whose families lack adequate medical insurance, to return to the classroom. Today, more than 20 months after the pandemic was declared, many children in underserved communities remain remote, having lapsed on the fundamental healthcare requirements — like annual physicals and immunizations — that are necessary to enroll in and attend public school.

Together, we can get these kids back to the classroom.

With your help, RVNAhealth is expanding our Well-Child Clinics to serve our communities. Our diverse team of nurses, many of them bilingual, are here to better assist children and families who need basic healthcare. But, as demand grows, so, too, does the need for additional staff, supplies and pediatric medical equipment.

Please help us sustain our Well-Child program, which is offered at no cost, thanks to the generosity of our friends and donors.

When you invest in RVNAhealth, you are choosing to build stronger and healthier communities for all. You ensure our ability to serve every patient with unmatched, compassionate healthcare, regardless of age, diagnosis, or financial circumstances.

We are here to care for you and your neighbors, but we cannot do it alone. Please make a gift to RVNAhealth today and know that every gift – no matter the size – is critical to upholding our mission and improving the lives of those around us.

With deepest gratitude,

Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA

President & CEO


P.S. You can make your tax-deductible gift to support RVNAhealth by clicking here.  Your generosity is truly appreciated.





In Celebration of Family Caregivers – Tips to Remain at Your Best!

This month RVNAhealth took time to recognize and thank our StayingWELL caregivers for their tireless efforts in helping clients remain safely and confidently at home.  We celebrate our caregivers during November, which also happens to be National Family Caregivers Month.

As a caregiver, prioritizing time for yourself can be just as important as the care you provide for a loved one at home.  Feeling your best and feeling adequately prepared can only happen when you invest time in yourself.  Here are some helpful tips to help family caregivers remain at their best both physically and mentally.

  • Learn and use stress-reduction techniques, e.g., meditation, prayer, yoga, Tai Chi
  • Attend to your own healthcare needs
  • Get proper rest and nutrition
  • Exercise regularly, even if only for 10 minutes at a time
  • Take time off without feeling guilty
  • Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath
  • Seek and accept the support of others
  • Seek supportive counseling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counselor, friend, or pastor
  • Identify and acknowledge your feelings, you have a right to ALL of them
  • Change the negative ways you view situations
  • Set goals

If you or someone you know is a family caregiver in need of additional care support, RVNAhealth offers care planning and management services, as well as its own StayingWELL services offering both hourly and live-in caregiving for personal and household support.  Visit RVNAhealth at https://rvnahealth.org/services/staying-well/ or call us at 203.438.5555 x 4 for more information.

If you would like more information you can go to: https://www.caregiver.org/resource/taking-care-you-self-care-family-caregivers/




Happy Caregiver Appreciation Week 2021

This past week RVNAhealth took time to celebrate Caregiver Appreciation Week and thank our StayingWELL caregivers for their tireless efforts in helping our clients to remain safely and confidently in their homes.  Caregivers were treated to a drop-in reception and a pampering-themed gift bag in both our Ridgefield and New Milford offices.  The StayingWELL caregiving team — over 200 strong — is a group of award-winning individuals who bring pride and compassion to their work and clients. We appreciate and thank these individuals for their tremendous contributions each and every day!