Palliative Care versus Hospice Care…Alike and Different

Every November the Healthcare industry recognizes National Hospice and Palliative Care month. The two practices are celebrated together, as they share a similar philosophy on person-centered care and an interdisciplinary team approach focused on quality of life. But they also share misunderstandings about what each practice offers.

Hospice care is elected when a patient and family wish to go from a curative plan of care to one of comfort and caring. Hospice addresses a patient’s pain and symptom management, and overall well-being from an interdisciplinary approach – including physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Care supports both the patient and their family, helping bring focus to quality of life and allowing a patient to focus on and realize their wishes for their final life chapter.

Palliative care helps individuals with a serious illness, at any age and any stage of their illness. Patients do not require a terminal diagnosis and often still receive curative treatment for their condition. Palliative care provides a specialized team, including clinical, social workers, and pastoral care, who work with patients to help them understand their treatment options and can act as a central coordinator of care – which can be extremely beneficial in the often overwhelming early days following the diagnosis of a serious illness. Care is intended to improve quality of life and give a patient more control by improving their ability to cope with their disease.

Common illnesses addressed by both palliative and hospice care include cardiac and respiratory illnesses, cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, kidney disease, and more. Both practices address symptoms for comfort, including pain, shortness of breath, depression, nausea, and difficulty sleeping, to name a few.  The largest difference is in the individualized decision to continue treatment for disease, which palliative care addresses, or cease treatment and focus on quality of life and final wishes with hospice. With both practices, early intervention is most beneficial to the patient.

RVNAhealth offers both hospice and palliative care in the home or at a patient’s facility. If you have questions or would like to discuss a potential palliative or hospice care need, please contact us at 203.438.5555.

Now is a Great Time to Join our Governor Society!

RVNAhealth’s Governor Society is a membership program for business and community partners who invest $1,000 or more each year in the health and well-being of their community. Governor Society support funds our Community Health & Wellness programs, such as our Chronic Care program for low-income individuals, community education, blood pressure clinics, vaccinations, and our Well-Child Clinics for underinsured children. Contributions may also support Hospice care, enabling us to provide bereavement support, music therapy, and even pet therapy – services not covered by insurance.

Governor Society membership options include event and program sponsorships, targeted gifts by service area, or unrestricted contributions to areas of greatest need.  The benefits to Governor Society Members are many, including recognition on our website, brand exposure in event materials, publicity, exclusive access to special events, and concierge services.  In customizing their philanthropic support over a 12-month period, our Governor Society members can target their giving to strengthen their communities in a way that is both meaningful to them and beneficial to their business or organizations.

For more information on RVNAhealth’s Governor Society or other ways to support RVNAhealth, contact Jennifer Christensen at jchristensen@rvnahealth.org or call 203-438-5555, x1052.

Other ways to support RVNAhealth:

Every gift—no matter the size—has a meaningful impact on our work and the communities we serve. There are many ways for businesses to support RVNAhealth:

  • Donate to RVNAhealth’s Annual Fund
  • Choose to become an event sponsor 
  • Advertise in event program books
  • Make an in-kind donation of gift certificates, event tickets, or unique experiences or services for our event auctions and raffles
  • Partner with RVNAhealth to present on a health and wellness related topic
  • Sponsor a community health and wellness program
  • Encourage your staff to volunteer with RVNAhealth

Upcoming ‘Save the Dates’:

  • March 25 – Wellness Fair, East Ridge Middle School, Ridgefield
  • April 28 – Spring Breakfast, Amber Room, Danbury
  • September 30 – Autumn Dinner, Silver Spring Country Club, Ridgefield

Let’s Talk Bone Mineral Density

Osteoporosis is a common condition characterized by decreased bone mineral density which can lead to an increased likelihood of fractures from low trauma forces resulting in hospitalizations and decreased quality of life.  According to a 2010 CDC study, more than 10 million adults over the age of 50 had osteoporosis, with women having a higher likelihood (~30% of population, vs. men at ~16%). And with the consideration that osteoporosis increases with age, the lifetime risk of resulting fracture is 50% for women and 20% for men.[1]

Researchers recently took a closer look at the effectiveness of the current clinical practice guidelines and created a new and improved model for treatment. The new research shows that weight bearing exercises (such as walking, yoga, and tai chi) in combination with resistance training of varying loads were most effective in increasing bone mineral density in susceptible fracture locations such as the hips and base of the spine.

These guidelines are not universal. Fitness plans and treatments should be customized by a trained professional for each individual.

RVNAhealth is pleased to offer several upcoming and ongoing programs, aligned to osteoporosis prevention and treatment:

  • Upcoming class: Beating Osteoporosis with Targeted Nutrition and Exercise – January 25th from 12:00-1:30pm. Join us at the Ridgefield Library to hear RVNAhealth experts discuss (and demonstrate!) key exercises to optimize bone health and how nutrition can help to prevent and improve Osteoporosis. Come prepared to move! Learn more and register here.
  • Upcoming class: Interactive Cooking Class – Three Bone-Building Recipes – January 27th from 4:30-5:45pm at RVNAhealth. Separate myth versus fact on all things osteoporosis and discuss mechanisms to promote bone health while cooking alongside RVNAhealth’s registered dietitian. Learn more and register here.
  • Ongoing class: Balance & Beyond – Every Tuesday and Thursday, 12:00-1:00pm at RVNAhealth. An ongoing drop-in class (come for one or come for all!) that focuses on building muscle, restoring balance and improving your walk or jog, all while giving your brain a great workout! Learn more and register here.
  • Ongoing class: Strength & Beyond – Every Tuesday and Thursday, 1:00-2:00pm at RVNAhealth. This class is a level up from the Balance & Beyond class and will have you moving through a series of upper and lower body strengthening, functional mobility, balance and cognitive stations all customized to meet your fitness level and goals. Learn more and register here.

If you have questions regarding any of the above programs or would like to schedule an appointment with our therapists to create a program specialized to fit your needs, please contact us at 203.438.7862 or rehabcenter@RVNAhealth.org. We hope to see you soon!

[1] https://journals.lww.com/jgpt/Fulltext/2022/04000/Physical_Therapist_Management_of_Patients_With.9.aspx

RVNAhealth Nurse Family Partnership: Ruth’s Story

Friends, peers on the high school leadership initiative where she served as President, and her mother all assumed the baggy clothes Ruth-Ann Bucknor suddenly preferred were just fashion choices. They were actually how she hid her unplanned pregnancy for nearly six months. Born in Jamaica, Ruth-Ann was raised in Connecticut by a single mother devout to her cultural religious foundation who had high expectations and standards for herself and her daughter. Isolated and disappointed in herself, Ruth-Ann feared the news of her unplanned pregnancy would devastate her mother.

An exceptional student and curious young woman by nature, Ruth-Ann researched available resources for young mothers, made a list of questions, and a pre-natal doctor’s appointment. She felt judged and shamed during the visit because of incorrect assumptions made about her education, circumstances, and aspirations and fled the visit with her list of questions unanswered. On the way out, a flyer advertising support for first-time mothers caught her eye; she grabbed one and called the 800 number desperate for support better than what she had just received.

“It’s a joy watching her grow as a mom and young woman.”

A representative at Nurse Family Partnership, a national program that pairs first-time mothers with a dedicated nurse during pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life, referred Ruth-Ann to RVNAhealth, the local program partner. Melissa Smith, RN, BSN, and RVNAhealth Nurse Supervisor who has been working with Ruth-Ann since that initial phone call considers her “smart, curious, and resourceful.”

“She comes with questions, listens intently to the answers, and then researches things further. She is wise beyond her years and is an exceptional human being. It’s a joy watching her grow as a mom and young woman.” Over time, the two developed a level of trust that likely saved Ruth-Ann’s life…more than once.

Just before Mother’s Day 2020, Ruth-Ann revealed her secret to her mother who works as a live-in Certified Nursing Assistant, alternating weeks between her patient and home. “She was disappointed but acted better than I expected. She took a few hours to process the news and then offered me her unconditional support,” Ruth-Ann recalled. But she hadn’t given her mother the whole story. The baby’s father and Ruth-Ann’s boyfriend, had developed an aggressive temperament since learning of the pregnancy. Determined to have an in-tact family because she experienced a fatherless childhood herself, she navigated his unpredictability as best she could, thinking it was in her baby’s best interest. In the sidelines was Smith, who met Ruth-Ann each week virtually, because of the COVID-19 crisis, to review everything an expectant mother needs to know from the facts about pregnancy and childbirth to stress management and life skills strategies. “We had an instant connection,” Ruth-Ann said, “I immediately felt accepted without any judgement. I could ask her the most embarrassing questions and never felt ashamed or scared. It was exactly what I had been looking for but didn’t know I needed. Every expectant mom should have what I have with Melissa.”

A Rare Genetic Clotting Disorder

During these visits, Smith unearthed a concerning piece of family medical history that resulted in the death of Ruth-Ann’s sister one week after she gave birth. Protein S deficiency is a rare genetic clotting disorder that can result in life-threatening blood clots like the one that took her sister’s life. Ruth-Ann’s prenatal physician, who is not associated with RVNAhealth or Nurse Family Partnership, refused to test her blood levels for Protein S deficiency despite her complaints of excessive fatigue and family history. Smith “empowered me to fight for it,” Ruth-Ann said, “and thank God she did, because that blood test probably saved my life. My voice was quieter before and Melissa helped me amplify it. I wouldn’t have the voice I do now without her.”

In fall 2020, Ruth-Ann delivered a full-term healthy baby girl and soon thereafter confided in Smith about her safety concerns given her partner’s increasing volatility. Smith connected Ruth-Ann with resources specializing in interpersonal violence and in early December she moved back in with mother full-time under a court-issued protective order. “I stayed longer than I should have just so my daughter could be around her dad,” Ruth-Ann said, “but Melissa reminded me that a father doesn’t have to be biological and blood doesn’t make a family.”

“I don’t need to be perfect and it’s okay not to have the answers to things but can be dangerous not to ask questions.”

Today, Ruth-Ann is juggling motherhood of an intelligent, radiant, one-year-old with mischief in her eyes and apple cheeks with a full college course load as she pursues a degree in social work so she can “make life better for others and connect with a wide range of people on a variety of social issues.” A newly elected cabinet member with the Office of Early Childhood, the state agency that funds Nurse Family Partnership, Ruth-Ann was one of 15 chosen in a pool of over 70 applicants to develop solutions for issues facing parents and families statewide. In her spare time, Ruth-Ann is an advocate for RVNAhealth and the Nurse Family Partnership that she attributes to giving her the support and tools to transform her life. She cautions those who are intimidated by the word nurse in the program title because nurses traditionally focus on medical care whereas the NFP nurses help their clients navigate every tentacle associated with new motherhood. “Melissa is my mentor,” Ruth-Ann said, “she’s walked beside me on this entire journey. She reminded me that I don’t need to be perfect and it’s okay not to have the answers to things but can be dangerous not to ask questions.” As for her daughter, the reason she and Smith were brought together, Ruth-Ann says “she’s a mini me…a determined thinker and very curious. She loves books and can express
herself well already. She has a strong voice.”

Just like her mother.

To hear and learn more from Ruth about her RVNAhealth Nurse Family Partnership experience, watch this video

Kicking Off Your New Year with Tips from RVNAhealth

As the new year kicks off, some of us may be thinking about resolutions or things we want to do differently. Whether you’re into resolutions or not, some of our RVNAhealth health and wellness experts would like to offer a few simple tips and gifts of wisdom. From nutrition and exercise, to doing good, feeling good, being prepared, and nourishing your spiritual side – we hope you find one or more tips to help you make the most of your new year!

Eat Well: Many companies will be looking to capitalize on your desire to improve your health and wellness. Protect your health and your wallet this new year by avoiding gimmicks, fad diets and trending supplements. If you do want to make some changes to optimize your health follow these evidence-based nutrition tips: when possible, eat whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods; eat 5-8 different fruits and veggies per day; and finally, eat a minimum of 35g of fiber–the plant nutrient found in fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes. – Monica Marcello, RVNAhealth Registered Dietitian

Exercise: Just get moving! In any capacity–just get started. Starting is the hardest part. Keys to success: make sure it’s something you enjoy, put it on your calendar and do not cancel on yourself, make it convenient (at home or close to home, low cost), and get an accountability buddy — Kate Campbell, DPT, RVNAhealth Outpatient Practice Manager

Feel Good: Scheduling your annual wellness exams can often take a lot of work.  There are a lot of appointments – physicals, dentist, eye exams, gynecology, and skin screenings, to name just a few!  They’re also very hard to keep track of given that they’re often “due” at different times throughout the year, depending on last completion.  As a suggestion, to keep things a bit simpler and ensure nothing slips through the cracks, designate one month each year (maybe even the 1st week of that month), to making calls to schedule all your annual exams.  They may continue to fall at different times throughout the year but getting in the habit of thinking about and making appointment calls during a single time period can help ensure you stay on track with your well visits! – Dr. Tiffany Sanders, RVNAhealth Hospice Medical Director

Do Good: Did you know 96% of people who volunteer say that volunteering enriches their sense of purpose? Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community, but it also can benefit your overall health and well-being! It can make you feel healthier, improve your mood, and help to make your community a better place. At RVNAhealth, we thrive on the time and talents of our volunteer team in order to serve our patients, families and communities.  Please consider volunteering for RVNAhealth in the new year! – Stephanie Peppe, RVNAhealth Hospice Volunteer Coordinator

Spiritual: We care for our bodies by eating right and exercising. But we are so much more than the bodies we inhabit. We are all spiritual beings and that part of us needs nourishment as well. What do you do to care for your soul? Consider one or more of the following in the new year: meditation, journaling, attending services at a house of worship, taking a moment to appreciate your higher power, or prayer. – Garrett Walkup, RVNAhealth Spiritual/Pastoral Care Coordinator

Be Prepared: Peace of mind comes when things are in order. Have you thought about your wishes for care? Reaching decisions for personal care can be a daunting process and an ever changing one. This is why conversations about your wishes are so important…but how do you get started? A variety of resources are available to help you in your process. One such resource is completing a document known as Five WishesThe Conversation Project is another on-line resource.  Most important is to talk about your wishes with those that matter to you! – Cynthia Merritt, RVNAhealth Licensed Social Worker

RVNAhealth wishes you a wonderful new year!  And if you need a little extra help getting started with any of the above or have questions for any of our experts, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 203.438.5555.

 

Thank You Ridgefield National Charity League!

As we are all aware, not everyone is surrounded by loved ones during the holidays. Jackie Belowich, Clinical Director – Ridgefield Branch, wondered if we could do something special for some of our patients who may be feeling a bit lonely during the holidays. Enter the Ridgefield National Charity League (NCL). For those who may not know, NCL is a group of mothers and daughters who team up with local charities around Ridgefield for special projects. Last week the Ridgefield NCL classes of 2025 & 2028 put together lovely gift bags for RVNAhealth patients who need a little extra love this holiday season. Thank you NCL – your partnership with RVNAhealth is treasured!

Thank You to the Ridgefield Chorale!

RVNAhealth would like to extend a tremendous congratulations and thank you to the Ridgefield Chorale for their Sunday night Holiday Pops concert performance, hosted at the Ridgefield Playhouse!

With over 300 tickets sold — and on an appropriately snowy evening — attendees were treated to an array of holiday vocal and musical talent. Thanks to the virtuosity of the Chorale and the tremendous generosity of concert underwriters (the Kinne family, Blandine Lewine, Stephen and Patricia Ross, the Stockel family, and McLaughlin & Stern), the concert raised $5,500 for RVNAhealth’s Well-Child program. This money will fund much needed annual physicals and immunizations for uninsured children in our local area. Thank you for giving the gift of health to the children and families we serve!

The Ridgefield Chorale, led by Artistic Director, Daniela Sikora, includes four RVNAhealth employees: Jennifer Christensen, Nora Cascella, Tammy Strom, and Lynn Schneider. Thank you all for sharing your gift of holiday music with concert attendees and RVNAhealth’s Well-Child program!

Keri Linardi wins 2022 Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership

Keri Linardi, RN, BSN, PHN, CHPCA, Chief Clinical Officer of RVNAhealth was awarded the 2022 Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership on Thursday, November 3rd by the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home (CAHCH). The annual award, CAHCH’s highest honor, was presented at their annual conference in Hartford, and recognizes a nursing leader who is a visionary role model in the development and implementation of innovative projects that positively affect the ever-changing home care environment. Linardi was nominated by her RVNAhealth team.

Tracy Wodatch, President and CEO of CAHCH presented the award, sharing elements and excerpts from the nomination, which highlighted Linardi’s leadership and visionary thinking. Included in the nomination were the following words from Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, RVNAhealth President and CEO, and 2020 winner of the same award, reflecting the organization’s admiration for Linardi:

Keri Linardi is a true visionary in the field of home health and hospice. Throughout her nursing leadership career and since joining RVNAhealth, Keri has challenged the status quo and set out to mentor and educate clinical management and staff. Her unwavering “patients over paperwork” mentality, ability to look at processes globally to maximize efficiencies, commitment to quality, and dedication to inspiring her staff by leading through example makes her an outstanding representative of this award.

Since joining RVNAhealth in 2018, Keri has greatly expanded the agency’s suite of services, including a palliative care program to support symptom management in all phases of disease progression, and a robust hospice program whose census has increased fivefold since its inception four years ago. Her accomplishments, set on the backdrop of a global pandemic and our merger with Bethel VNA and New Milford Visiting Nurse and Hospice, and you are reminded of what this nursing leader is capable of. Her knowledge of our industry and her leadership style has been transformative to our entire organization.

Linardi, who accepted the award alongside members of her family, expressed her appreciation. “I am extremely humbled to receive such a prestigious award, and to have been nominated by my team, without whom, none of our accomplishments here at RVNAhealth would be possible.  It is very fulfilling to work for an agency that embraces vision and change and a continuum of care. I am extremely lucky.”

The Judith Hriceniak Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership is named for Dr. Judith Hriceniak (1938-2000), who began her career as a registered nurse and director of Home Care Services at Bristol Hospital in Connecticut and went on to become an acclaimed champion and advocate of nursing education, serving as a mentor and role model, and receiving broad recognition for her achievements and contributions.

Have You Seen Us on TV?

That’s right!  RVNAhealth has hit the big screen. Okay…maybe not the movie screen…but we are excited to announce our new advertising presence on cable TV and streaming services across our served area. At the end of October, we released service-specific commercials to advertise our home health, hospice, and personal caregiving services. Maybe you’ve seen us already?

Our commercials will be shared over 16,000 times per month through streaming services and nearly 350 times per month through live TV.  Some of the top network channels you may see us on include Food Network, HGTV, Hallmark Channel, Travel Channel, AMC, CNBC and more. Our commercials will also be shown during UCONN Women’s basketball games on ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, and SNY.

With over 75% of our geographic service area targeted with these commercials, we hope that you will get a chance to “see” us! And if you do – please let us know what you think!

In the meantime, we are pleased to share our new home health commercial with you here. Happy viewing!

Grieving Through the Holidays

Garrett Walkup, RVNAhealth Spiritual and Pastoral Care Coordinator, recently held an in-person class through RVNAhealth’s Wellness Academy called “Grieving Through the Holidays.” For those who did not attend and are grieving a loss this holiday season, Garrett has shared with us some highlights from his class.

This holiday season may be the first since experiencing the death of someone close to you. For lack of a more clinical term, grief is “sticky.” It attaches, not just to you, but to times and places. Instead of holiday traditions bringing us — as the song says — “comfort and joy,” they stir up memories and trigger emotions that also bring up pain and sadness.

You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t want to be of good cheer.” If this is you, here are ten thoughts and reflections that may help.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday after the death of a loved one. If an occasion or tradition is too painful, don’t do it. If you need to minimize decorations, that’s okay too.

Be kind and gracious to yourself. Grieving consumes your physical and emotional energy, and holidays place additional demands on that.

Take care of yourself. Don’t neglect eating, hydration, exercise, and sleep.

Create boundaries. You may need to leave early, arrive late or say “no” to engagements. Be flexible with social commitments.

Create support for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with items such as shopping, meal prep, or getting a ride.

Have that one person. Have one person you can be your real, raw and authentic self with.

Plan ahead. You may have found this already, but grief causes brain fog so make lists and prioritize. If your loved one had a special role like carving the turkey or saying the table prayer, think of someone else to take that tradition.

Don’t feel guilty about enjoying yourself. Laughing, singing and having fun is healing to your soul.

Embrace the emotion. If you feel a rogue wave of emotion come on, don’t turn away from it, welcome the unwelcome. It is better to go through it than try to hold it off.

Create new traditions. There is a tension between looking back to remember your loved one, and facing your new reality. How can you do both? Making new memories does not erase old ones…

  • Light a candle
  • Donate or serve others in their memory
  • Serve their favorite food
  • Collect stories in a box and share

We at RVNAhealth hope you find peace as you mourn and joy for your spirit this holiday season.