RVNAhealth Hospice and Palliative Teams Win 2023 Florence Wald Award for Excellence in End-of-Life Care

2023 Florence Wald Award accepted by RVNAhealth Hospice and Palliative Care team

RVNAhealth’s Hospice and Palliative care teams won the 2023 Florence Wald Award for Excellence in End-of-Life Care.

Florence Wald Connecticut History

The Florence Wald Award for Excellence in End-of-Life Care was established to honor Florence Wald. Wald was a pioneer in improving the care of dying patients across the world. Her focus on an interdisciplinary approach to end-of-life care led her to open the first hospice in the United States (here in Connecticut) in 1971. A visionary leader with unwavering commitment to social justice and reverence for life, Wald valued patient, family, and team participation. She truly listened to their input which ultimately launched the hospice reform movement in this country. Thirty-seven years later at the time of her death in 2008, over 4,700 hospices had been instituted across the country.  And today, in 2023, there are over 8,000 hospice and palliative care institutions!

RVNAhealth Acceptance of Award

2023 Florence Wald Award given to RVNAhealth Hospice and Palliative Care Teams
2023 Florence Wald End-of-Life Care Award

The award was presented on May 11th at the annual Statewide Hospice & Palliative Care Summit, hosted by the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home. Theresa Santoro, President & CEO of RVNAhealth, and team members attended a ceremony to accept the award. “This award is a reflection not only of the incredible work of our Hospice and Palliative teams but of the work from everyone at RVNAhealth. It is performed naturally and with great compassion and has a tremendous impact on our patients,” said Santoro

Keri Linardi, RN, BSN, PHN, CHPCA, RVNAhealth Chief Clinical Officer, elaborated on how the RVNAhealth team exemplifies Wald’s commitment. “The key is meeting patients and families where they are in their illness trajectory. Our approach is quite different because we spend more time listening to what patients want.  We educate them on the best approach to meet those needs, and provide the right care at the right time which includes many ancillary services. We hold ourselves, and each other, to higher standards because every patient and their loved ones deserve the best experience during such a monumental time. This is what makes this team so special.”

For more information on RVNAhealth’s hospice and palliative care services, please call 203.438.5555 or visit our website.


Music Therapy…Meeting Patients Where They Are

Music Therapy

The American Music Therapy Association defines Music Therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals.” In other words, it is the use of music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. It is based on the idea that music can have a powerful impact on the brain and can be used to enhance various therapeutic processes.

Music Therapy is delivered by credentialed professionals, such as RVNAhealth’s Sherrye Platt.  Professionals such as Platt have completed an approved program and passed a national exam

music therapy
Sherrye Platt incorporating musical instruments in her music therapy

offered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Platt earned her master’s degree at world-renowned Berklee College of Music and notes that, “With music therapy, music is not the goal, rather the method used to reach it.” The certification preparation includes developing counseling knowledge and skill as well as neuroscience expertise to best understand the brain/body response.

Platt describes the effectiveness of music therapy as “meeting people where they are.” She describes a fundamental technique called the Iso-Principle, by which music is matched with the initial mood of a client, then the music is gradually altered to move a patient’s mood toward one that is healthy for their body.

Some of the larger goals of music therapy include promoting wellness, managing stress, alleviating pain, expressing feelings, enhancing memory, improving communication, promoting physical rehabilitation, and more. So, what specifically happens during a music therapy session? Hint: it’s not just people singing to you! It takes many different forms and there are many types of interventions. Individuals may engage in a variety of musical activities, such as playing an instrument, singing, songwriting, movement, or listening to music. The therapist uses music to support the individual’s therapeutic goals, such as improving communication skills, reducing stress, and enhancing self-esteem.

music therapy for a patient
Music therapy using patient’s favorite music and singing

While technically not “music therapy” unless working with a board certified professional – you can use music therapeutically on your own. The key is to use music in ways that make you feel good!  Examples may include creating a playlist that makes you feel happy; finding songs that make you want to dance, sing, laugh, or cry; talking to your loved one about their favorite music and the memories attached to it; listening to music while doing everyday activities; or playing an instrument.

RVNAhealth currently offers Music Therapy to patients receiving RVNAhealth hospice services. Additionally, Sherrye Platt and other RVNAhealth Music Therapists offer regular community education events.  Please see our calendar of upcoming events if you are interested in learning more.

When Caregivers and Clients Become More

StayingWELL senior caregivers for elderly home care

StayingWELL home care service clients often become more than just clients to our staff.  And sometimes we become more than just daily caregivers to them. We were honored to witness the bonds of friendship and appreciation recently at a thank you lunch hosted by one of our clients!

StayingWELL client, Gene, hosted a special luncheon at his home to show appreciation for his care team. Two of his caregivers came on their time off, and one even brought his young son to visit with Gene too. “I appreciate RVNAhealth for putting together such a professional team of caregivers for me. Each of them is very good at what they do – they work together well, treat me with respect, and always have my best interests in mind.”

There was a great conversation around the table about the different paths that brought each person to work at RVNAhealth and how much they all enjoy caring for Gene who, at 94, is still running his Mergers & Acquisition business.

Thank you to our StayingWELL home care service caregivers, Bob, Greg, and Adler (aka “Gene’s Team”). And thank you to Gene for such a lovely gesture of appreciation!

Thank You for a Successful 2023 Spring Breakfast

At the RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast, the early bird was treated to quiche, coffee, convivial conversation, and possibly even a trip to Africa.  

It’s amazing what 400 people can accomplish before 9:00am on a Friday morning. In 90 minutes on April 28th, the annual RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast raised $138,000 to support our programs and mission. And there were a lot of happy prize winners!

With lots of spring in their step, area business professionals, physicians, veterans, RVNAhealth supporters and staff filled the Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury at 7:30am.  Government officials from several communities were also in attendance, including the First Selectmen from Washington Depot (James L. Brinton), Bethel (Dan Carter), Warren (Gregory LaCava), Sherman (Don Lowe), Ridgefield (Rudy Marconi), Roxbury (Patrick Roy) as well as Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito, State Representative Farley Santos, and State Senator Julie Kushner.

A highlight of the morning was hearing firsthand the critical role RVNAhealth plays in the community, offering an enhanced continuum of care and meeting the needs of patients from birth to end-of-life.  Impact speaker, Anita Wolter McElroy, could not have been more powerful, as she shared her heartfelt story as a dedicated and loving daughter, trying to find the best of care for her aging parents. She found it in RVNAhealth, where her family’s medical, physical, and emotional needs are being met under one umbrella – always carefully organized, orchestrated, and well communicated. Referring to RVNAhealth as “the glue,” she shared, “It’s not just the services they offer, but how they provide those services.”

Many, many thanks to all of our event sponsors; our gracious table hosts and guests; the local businesses who donated more than 60 raffle items; our friends at Rodier Flowers; our special speaker, Anita Wolter McElroy; our brilliant auctioneer, Allison Stockel; our extraordinary event chairpersons, Andrea Gartner and Cathy Moore, and our fabulous committee who all brought an early Friday morning to life for RVNAhealth.

If you missed the Spring Breakfast and still want to show your support, please click here to make a donation.

Thank you to Deborah O’Brien for these wonderful photos!





Hometown: Bridgeport, CT

“I would like to nominate Rakiya for her continued dedication to her client. She has helped to make life easier for both the client and most importantly for her sons. This is a family that is not very involved and they both have made mention of how smooth life is when Rakiya is with her.” – Mel W., RVNAhealth





Icy Brooks


Hometown: Waterbury, CT

I am doing so much better. I give Icy all the credit for how great she is doing. On a scale of 1-10 she is an 11.5!!!!! I am so very happy with the care I received from Icy.” – Meri S., Client





Celebrating our Hospice Volunteers

Last week RVNAhealth celebrated Hospice Volunteer Appreciation Week. RVNAhealth, and all Medicare-certified hospice programs, are required by law to have 5% of service hours performed by volunteers. Why?  Because hospice care in the U.S. was founded by volunteers, and the commitment to the power, beauty, and altruism of volunteering remains. In the past 12 months our RVNAhealth team of 50 hospice volunteers have provided over 1,500 hours of help in in the office and in the field visiting patients and their family members. We are so fortunate to have these volunteers and Stephanie Peppe as our Hospice Volunteer Coordinator to manage all of the required training and visits. Thank you to all of our volunteers !

Hospice Volunteers Wanted! If you are interested in learning more about our hospice volunteer program – we’d love to hear from you.  As a hospice volunteer, you can feel good knowing you are doing meaningful work whether it be providing companionship to a patient, comfort to a family, or organization to the office. Learn more about hospice volunteering and watch our therapy dog, Sophia, in action! Email Stephanie Peppe, or call 203-438-5555 x1025 to get started today.

If you need a little more convincing, we are overjoyed to share a lovely poem written recently by Hospice Volunteer Pam Bruno about one of our patients. Pam has been visiting Dottie for over six months. They spend about five hours a week together and the two of them have built a wonderful bond. The poem is called, The Gift of Sitting with Dottie. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

RVNAhealth Introduces New ‘Fitness to DRIVE’ Program

The ability of seniors to safely drive is a concern for many people and their loved ones as they age. It is important to understand that aging can affect a person’s driving ability, but it is not necessarily a reason to stop driving altogether. If you or a loved one are concerned about your ability to drive safely, RVNAhealth is pleased to offer its new Fitness to DRIVE program, the only OT certified driving assessment in Fairfield County, CT! The Fitness to DRIVE program is available for seniors and to help anyone improve their driving skills and maintain their independence on the road and in the community, whether you are recovering from a recent medical illness or condition, or you just want to validate your driving skill set.

There are many factors that can affect the driving abilities of older adults. The most common ones include changes in vision (visual acuity and depth perception), cognitive changes (memory, attention, or reaction time), and medication side effects (drowsiness, dizziness, etc.). Chronic health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease have also been linked to higher risk of motor vehicle crashes. Additionally, certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and head or brain traumas can also impact your ability to drive safely.

RVNAhealth’s Fitness to DRIVE program consists of a 90 minute clinical off-road assessment to help you identify your ability to drive safely and ways you can improve your driving skills. During the assessment, a RVNAhealth certified occupational therapist (OT) will perform simple in-office assessments for vision, hearing, sensation, cognition, motor skills, strength and coordination. Upon completion, you and your family will have a clear understanding of your fitness to drive safely and recommendations for improvement. If physical, occupational, or speech therapy are recommended, all are available from RVNAhealth’s Rehabilitation & Wellness Center. The initial Fitness to DRIVE assessment costs $250. If the initial driving evaluation recommends that rehabilitation or other ongoing treatment is needed to improve driving fitness, the assessment cost will be covered under most Medicare or private insurance.

Not all older drivers experience declines in driving ability, and some older adults may be safer drivers than younger adults due to their greater experience and caution on the road. But in general, seniors should monitor their health and be aware of any physical or cognitive changes that may affect their ability to drive safely. To learn more about RVNAhealth’s Fitness to Drive program, call 203.438.7862 or email rehabcenter@rvnahealth.org.

Free Nutrition Counseling for Ridgefield Kids & Teens

Thanks to the generous grant support of the Ridgefield Fresh Air Fund and the Barker Welfare Foundation, RVNAhealth is now able to offer free nutrition counseling for Ridgefield kids and teens.

This new offering is available for kids and teens, ages 6 to 18, residing in Ridgefield, who are experiencing new or unresolved dietary and nutrition-related health challenges.  Examples include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Chronic bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and/or chronic upset stomach
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Diabetes/Insulin resistance
  • Limited food preferences affecting growth and health
  • Chrohn’s disease or colitis

This program is not for children struggling with disordered eating behaviors. If you think your child has disordered eating behavior, we can help you find support.

Program Details

This free program for Ridgefield residents consists of three personalized nutrition sessions for the child and their parents/guardians. Your child/family will receive the following:

  • An assessment by our Registered Dietitian
  • Personalized nutrition recommendations to promote overall health and quality of life
  • Nutrition education on how to shop, prepare, and cook meals for the entire family
  • Meal plans
  • Nutrition toolkits supporting your child’s specific health challenge

As the grant is limited in its scope and funding, Ridgefield residents will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. The goal of this grant is to ensure that children living with nutrition related health challenges, regardless of financial situation, have access to a registered dietitian.

Contact nutrition@rvnahealth.org or click here to inquire.


About RVNAhealth’s Nutrition Services

Monica Marcello, RVNAhealth Registered Dietitian

Monica Marcello, MS, RD, is RVNAhealth’s Registered Dietitian and nutrition educator who promotes holistic health, longevity, and quality of life. Monica’s areas of expertise include disease prevention, treatment for many chronic and acute conditions, and digestive health.

Her primary concentration includes treating digestive disorders such as GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disorder), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Monica also has extensive experience in conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and weight management.

Learn more at: RVNAhealth.org/nutrition

Xavier Vallayutham


Hometown: Waterbury, CT

Xavier is kind, caring, intelligent, and trustworthy. He is always one step ahead, he knows exactly what we need and just does it. He helps us with everything and has become like family.” – Jay, Danbury