Brand New Day. Brand New …

Happy Multigenerational Family

RVNAhealth logoEffective Saturday, October 5, 2019, the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association (RVNA) has changed our name to RVNAhealth. The name change reflects our breadth of services and regional reach, both of which have expanded significantly in the last decades.

RVNAhealth currently serves 28 towns in Connecticut, and offers care and wellness services for all ages, stages and levels of health.  The name change is the culmination of a strategic Rebranding initiative that was launched in 2014. 

Explains Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, RVNAhealth President & CEO, “’Rebranding’ was identified at our 2014 strategic retreat when we recognized that there was an increasing disconnect between our direction – who we are, what we do, where we do it, and where we’re headed – and the name by which we call ourselves.  It warranted examination and action.”

The Evolution of RVNAhealth

RVNAhealth was founded in 1914 as the ‘District Nursing Association’ with a single nurse traveling by foot to serve Ridgefield families in their homes. Over the decades, the organization added community wellness services, as well as public health services for the town of Ridgefield.  Staff increased, offices moved, new towns were added to the service area, and the organization’s name was tweaked -– more than once.

The ‘District Nursing Association’ became the ‘Visiting Nurse Association of Ridgefield’ in 1994 and then the ‘Ridgefield Visiting Nursing Association’ in 2006.

The organization’s growth since 2006 has been particularly remarkable. 

Non-medical caregivers, an outpatient rehabilitation and wellness center, hospice services and an increasing wealth of prevention and wellness services have been added to the organization’s ‘continuum of care.’

Additionally, the RVNAhealth Center for Exceptional Care in Ridgefield CT opened in 2016, offering rehabilitation, nursing services, nutritional counseling and educational programs all on-premises – not to mention housing the administrative staff.

“Our growth has been very organic, in that we have added services in direct response to patient needs and natural evolutions in the landscape of healthcare,” says Santoro. “We have bolstered and refined our services that aid recovery and recuperation, plus added services that focus on prevention, independence, comfort and end-of-life care.” 

It was during this growth spurt that the Ridgefield Visiting Nurse Association ‘outgrew’ our name. “As we examined the name, through internal analysis, focus groups, ideation sessions and competitive analysis,” explains Santoro, “it was clear that the geographic and service limitations of the name made it very confusing to the very people we were aiming to serve. It was time for another change.”

Onward Ho!

The new RVNAhealth name and brand are less a shift in direction, and more a formalization of the direction and course the agency has already taken. The new name retains the RVNA legacy and reputation, while expressing the umbrella under which all services reside: Health.  

In addition to the name change, the organization has redefined our overall brand to convey the comprehensive and integrated approach that RVNAhealth brings to care and wellness services.  A new tagline, For Lifelong Care and Wellness, has been added; the look and feel have been updated; and services have been re-categorized to represent the continuum of care that is unique to RVNAhealth. 

The new categories, the WELLs, include:

BEWELL:                     Services to Keep You Healthy

GETWELL:                  Services to Recover your Best Health

STAYWELL:                 Services to Remain Safely in Your Home

COMFORTWELL:       Hospice Care to Provide Comfort and Peace

All current RVNAhealth services reside under these categories. 

No Item Unturned …

The name change announcement was made at the annual RVNAhealth Autumn Dinner on Saturday, October 5, 2019 to an audience of over 200 close friends and supporters.  Following the announcement, the rollout of the brand new name and identify begins with a new website, social media sites, clinical apparel; building signage; printed materials, email addresses, stationery …. You name it, it needs to be updated!

Enjoy the video and let us know what you think!


RVNA Welcomes Board Members to New Term

RVNAhealth Board of Directors, Eileen Walker, Theresa Santoro

Above: Eileen Walker, RVNA Board of Directors Chair (left) with RVNA President and CEO Theresa Santoro.

Dedication. Vision. Compassion. These are among the many traits that members of RVNA’s Board of Directors embody.

In July, RVNA said “Welcome!” to three new Board directors for the 2019-2020 term: Jill Bornstein, Joyce Ligi and Dean Miller.

Stepping down is Vicki Mueller, a longtime director and Finance Committee member. Though Mueller’s term expired in July, she will continue to stay engaged with RVNA as a member of the Finance Committee.

“We are grateful for the service, leadership and commitment that our current and past board members bring to RVNA,” says RVNA President and CEO Theresa Santoro. “We are proud of the impact that we have had on so many lives in the communities that we serve, and we look forward to continuing to bring health, care and wellness to individuals at all life stages.”

Meet the New Board Members

Jill Bornstein is the co-founder and CFO of Inspiring Comfort, a social-good company that aims to empower, teach and equip people of all ages, through skill-based learning, how to create compassionate connections. She previously served in senior finance roles at GE, on the board at buildOn, and as an elected Town Board of finance official for the Town of Ridgefield. Currently president at Tiger Hollow Inc., Bornstein has also been in leadership roles with Ridgefield Aquatic Club, Ridgefield Academy and Junior League.

Joyce Ligi first joined the RVNA Board of Directors in May 1978, and has served nearly continuously since then. She became Board Vice President in 1995, and was then President between 1997-2001. She again served as Vice President from 2013-2015. Ligi retired from Fairfield County Bank in 2010 as a Senior Vice President, Community Relations. She has volunteered with numerous area nonprofit organizations, including United Way, Danbury Hospital and Meals on Wheels.

Dean Miller is a retired financial executive who spent most of his career at GE Capital. He is currently the Board Chair and President at Meals on Wheels of Ridgefield, Connecticut, in addition to serving in Board Member and Treasurer roles with Thrown Stone Theatre Company and New England Auto Museum. Miller earned his CPA with a public accounting firm after graduating from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

To see the full list of RVNA Board of Directors members, visit the Management and Board of Directors page.

Feeling Dizzy? You’re Not Alone.

RVNAhealth wellness programs for patients feeling dizzy

More than one in three Americans will experience dizziness at some point in their lives.

If you’ve never heard the words “vestibular therapy” before, consider yourself lucky. And about to be informed.  If you’ve ever experienced vertigo, feeling dizzy, falls, or imbalance, however, the words might ring a bell.

Vestibular therapy is a form of rehabilitation, performed by specially-trained physical therapists, that specifically addresses balance and dizziness. Dizziness is the second most common complaint heard in doctors’ offices and the #1 complaint for individuals over 70.  Statistics reported by The National Institute of Health indicate that dizziness will occur in 90 million of the nation’s population at some time in their lives.

Feeling Dizzy?

“People get dizzy – aka ‘the vertigo’ — for a variety of medical reasons,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, Director of Rehabilitation and one of three certified vestibular therapists at RVNA (in addition to Crystal Madyda and Casey Sarmiere). “And it can occur gradually or come on suddenly and acutely. It can range from absolutely debilitating to simply annoying and inconvenient. In all instances, when you’re dizzy, you need to find out why.”

The role of the vestibular therapist is to do just that — identify the root cause and develop and execute a therapeutic plan to address it. “At RVNA, we see vestibular patients of all ages, including children, both at our Rehab Center and in their homes. Some already understand where the dizziness is coming from, and we treat them. Others don’t know and it’s our job to help them find out and regain their equilibrium.”

If you are experiencing general dizziness; suffer from headaches or frequent falls; experience imbalance or the need to hold onto objects when walking, it’s time to explore the issue. Call the RVNA Rehabiliation team at 203-438-5555.

Elizabeth DeMassa Earns Marguerite Regan Nursing Award

RVNAhealth regan scholarship, theresa santoro, elizabeth demassa, mj heller

From left, Theresa Santoro, RVNA President & CEO; Scholarship recipient, Elizabeth DeMassa;  MJ Heller, RVNA Director of Philanthropy

There’s a saying, “When you’re a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours.” That’s exactly what Elizabeth DeMassa is looking for as she heads to Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA this fall.  DeMassa is entering the school’s nursing program having been awarded the Marguerite Regan Nursing Award by RVNA last spring.

The award is a longtime, four-year partial scholarship, granted each year to a Ridgefield High School senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing. From RVNA’s Board of Directors, a “scholarship task force” reviews anonymous submissions to select a recipient.

DeMassa, a graduate of Ridgefield High School’s class of 2019, selected nursing because she wants to work in a field where she can help others. Indeed, helping others seems to run in the DeMassa family. Her father, Douglas, is a chiropractor (and creator of Neuron-Do, which helps individuals develop motor and cognitive skills through martial arts), and her mother, Heather, is a nurse at Stamford Health.

On the extracurricular front, DeMassa was captain of the Ridgefield High School girls’ cross-country team last school year and a track and field standout. Meaning Moravian will benefit not only by her generous nature, but also her considerable athleticism.

Mind Those Curves!

RVNAhealth well-child clinics, back-to-school

Above: Students off to conquer the world!

With the 2019-20 school year in session, it’s time to pay attention to one big test that many students today face. You might be thinking about those pesky, annual standardized tests, or perhaps the SATs. But today we’re here to talk about posture.

“Kids’ postures are under constant assault these days,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNA’s Director of Rehabilitation. She points to a couple of culprits. First, the stuffed-to-the-gills backpacks that students often lug to, from and around school each day. Second, cell phones, which – when stared down at too much – can cause a painful condition known as “text neck.”

Misuse of these ubiquitous accessories places an enormous amount of stress on growing, developing bodies, and can eventually cause a slumping posture. A normal, healthy spine has an S-shaped curve,” says Weiss. “When you’re slumping, the spine has a C-shaped curve.”

Some signs that your child might need a better (or lighter) backpack or less time staring down at a cell phone include discomfort or pain in the neck, shoulder or lower back, or any combination of the above.

To help your child avoid getting text neck or a C-shaped curve, Weiss shares some recommendations:


  • Should ideally be 10 percent, but never more than 15 percent, of body weight (for your 50-pounder, that’s just 5-7 pounds!).
  • Straps should be on both shoulders and cinched tightly to the body.
  • Heaviest items should be placed closest to the body.

Cell phones (this can be trickier!)

  • Teach your kid to look down at the screen with their eyes, rather than bending the neck – or to hold the phone up closer to eye level.
  • When you see hunching, encourage backward shoulder rolls: Shrug shoulders, extend shoulder blades toward each other…enjoy, repeat.
  • Encourage daily physical activity (a win/win, compared to simply limiting device time)

To learn more about keeping your child’s S-curve in tiptop shape, contact the RVNAhealth team at 203-438-5555 or

An RVNA Hospice Volunteer Shares Her Story

RVNAhealth hosipice care volunteer

Above: Hospice Volunteer Julia Rothenberger (left) works with Hospice Program Coordinator Jennifer Zucaro

RVNA had the pleasure and good fortune to work with Julia Hergenrother this past summer as a volunteer with our Hospice team. Hergenrother, now a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, admits that she didn’t know what to expect when she first inquired about volunteering. But by summer’s end, one of her many takeaways was, “No matter how much time someone has left they have so much life to live before they pass.”  Before Hergenrother returned to school in August, she graciously agreed to share her observations on the volunteering experience. Enjoy her insightful story of why and how she came to become a Hospice volunteer, and the impact it’s had on her.

How did you find your way to RVNA? I was looking for unique volunteer opportunities that I would find fulfilling over the summer. Last August, I began my freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis. I was eager to join a couple of clubs, but I was worried that with academics and athletics I would be too busy to join the clubs that sparked my interest. After some consideration, I decided it was best to settle into my first year at WashU, and then plan on joining clubs my sophomore year. I was interested in training to be a part of a sexual assault helpline at WashU.

I was also interested in joining an environmental and sustainability club, another club where students visit an older adult housing facility, and a club called “Night Off,” where students babysit children with disabilities for a night while their parents go out. It was not until I started searching for job opportunities in April that I realized the most fulfilling work, and the way I would learn the most about myself, would be through attending training sessions and volunteering. I figured that if I decided to volunteer for places that had similar missions as the clubs I wanted to join, I would be prepared to join these clubs at the beginning of my sophomore year.

How did you get interested in Hospice? In my senior year of high school I developed a strong interest in TED Talks. I would listen to these talks while driving to school, heading to track meets and during long vacation car rides. Some of the ideas I encountered blew my mind; they were so fascinating to me because in high school most of the ideas we discussed in class were within the guidelines of the core curriculum.

On the other hand, in college I have been exposed to ideas outside the core curriculum. At WashU I took a course called “When I’m 64.” The course’s title was a play on the famous Beatles’ song. This course dismantled the stereotypes of aging and helped the students understand the death-positive movement. This class was so interesting to me because I have always enjoyed dismantling stereotypes and changing the way I view my experiences.

One of the class projects asked groups of students to work with companies in the city of St. Louis to make their building more age-friendly. After finishing this semester-long project, I felt more connected to the older adult community in St. Louis. This is where my interest in helping older adults started.

What do you do when you are not volunteering? Over the summer, I have gotten a chance to work in my mother’s ophthalmology office, and I have also volunteered for four different places within Fairfield County. (I am happy to share that all of these volunteer opportunities have helped me narrow down my interests and all relate to the clubs I was interested in my freshman year). This summer, I wanted my time to be spent wisely. I definitely wanted my time to be focused towards volunteering, but I also acknowledged that after a long school year I needed a break.

Outside volunteering I tend to spend my time reading books (my favorite this summer was “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson) watching movies, going to the beach, biking, photography, doing yoga on the porch with my sister, and most of all, spending time with my family. I am so grateful to have been able to get the chance to volunteer for so many different organizations with beautiful mission statements, but I am also extremely grateful that at the end of the day my family is together sitting at the dinner table.

Has working in the Hospice field been as you expected? To be very honest, I had no idea I could ever volunteer for Hospice. I have always loved humanitarian and social work, especially because I have personally seen the positive change it can have in someone’s life. At WashU I am on the path to studying humanitarian and social work. During this school year, I figured the only way I would be able to get real, first-hand experience of social work would be through an internship through WashU, but the more I researched in April, the more I realized I could get this experience outside my school.

When I initially agreed to volunteer for RVNA Hospice, Cindy Merritt informed me that I would need to go through a 16-hour training program. This got me very excited because I knew I would have a chance to become more exposed to what RVNA had to offer, thus more interested in its mission and more interested in potentially pursuing this field after college.

At first, I figured that I would mostly be doing administrative work behind a desk. Even though I have been doing administrative work, I have also made relationships with all the friendly employees at RVNA. I never imagined the staff would be so welcoming. These men and women are a real inspiration to me, and I am so thankful to get a chance to see the impact they make on a daily basis. On top of this, I never expected I would be able to meet patients through the RVNA. These patients may benefit from my presence in their home, but it is a mutual relationship and I always feel very welcomed and thankful.

Has anything surprised you? I have been surprised by how welcoming everyone at RVNA is. I have also been surprised in the ways in which I have been able to help. After I became a certified RVNA volunteer, my goal was to be more of a help than a burden. I did not want the staff to have to take time out of their day to show me around and give me jobs that they would be able to do in half of the time, but my fears were unfounded. The Hospice employees have a lot of administrative tasks they ask me to complete that are easy to understand and that makes a big difference for them.

Most of all, I have been surprised at how much life there is in the Hospice program. Usually people who agree to Hospice services have around six months to live, but research has shown that these men and women live longer with the help of the Hospice. At first, I was surprised when Cindy Merritt told me this, but now that I have first-hand experience working for the Hospice I understand why this is true. No matter how much time someone has left they have so much life to live before they pass. The months before their death can bring great clarity and love. I am so happy I have a chance to be a part of this.

Will you take your newfound learnings back with you to college? College is a time for self-discovery, and I am starting to envision what profession I want to pursue after graduating from WashU. One of my biggest fears is following expectations, and falling into a profession that I truly do not love. I do not want to end up in a career I dislike just because I did not explore enough as a young adult. This is why it has been so important for me to get a taste of the opportunities available. Next spring, I will need to choose a major, and I am confident that my work this summer has given me more clarity about the areas I would like to study.

I am going to try to encourage my friends to take part in training programs and volunteer opportunities during the school year, internships or via study abroad opportunities. I have found that while volunteering, I learn far more than I would have expected.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself? Any plans, hopes or dreams for the future?! I would like to have an answer to that question, but to be honest I still do not know. At different points in my life I have thought about becoming a motivational speaker, a college track coach, a neonatal doctor, and a therapist. I do not want to limit myself by imagining what I want to be. I want my career to come organically, like my interests. For right now, I am happy with the path I am on, and the work I have put in to get here.

Volunteering at RVNA can take many forms, ranging from administrative help (e.g., data entry, event support) to in-home help (e.g., visiting, pet care). If you’d like to learn more, visit or call 203-438-5555.

School Lunch Ideas

RVNAhealth wellness and healthy eating

The Question:

Help! I need creative lunch ideas for back to school. What do you recommend for a healthy school lunch? 

Meg’s Response:

Packing lunch for your child — every single day — can be a challenge. And a chore! You want to provide nutritious food to fuel your child’s brain, but at the same time, you want your child to actually eat what you pack, right?

Here are my tips for healthy school lunches:

  • Get your child involved: Make a back-to-school trip to the grocery store to pick out a few healthy school lunch items. Have your child pick one or two items from each section of the grocery store that he or she would enjoy in school lunch. If you leave the store with 2 fruits, 2 veggies, 2 meat/bean foods, 2 dairy foods and 2 grain foods that your child enjoys, that will help to ensure that your child will enjoy what you pack.
  • Have fun: Use cookie cutters to cut foods into fun and appealing shapes. Not a creative type? Find fun, reusable lunch containers in bright colors that will make lunch seem more…. ENTERTAINING!
  • Go for the nibble tray: Instead of packing a sandwich, pack a nibble tray! Find a reusable container with lots of small compartments, and fill each compartment with something different. Kids love variety! Include cream cheese, hummus, SunButter, bean dip, salsa, guacamole and other fun dips and spreads along with fruits and veggies to dip. Add a baggie of whole wheat crackers or a slice of multigrain bread on the side for some healthy whole grains.
  • Don’t feel guilty about combining healthy convenient foods with foods that you prepare from home. What do I mean when I say that? It is ok to purchase items like individual portion hummus cups, guacamole, and bean dips and pair those with baby carrots, grapes, sliced cheese, sliced cucumber circles and some whole-grain crackers for a “snacky” lunch. These “short cuts” can help to provide a healthy – and quick to assemble – lunch. What other healthy, but convenient foods can you think of to add to school snacks and lunches?
  • Keep portion size in mind. Often times parents think their children aren’t eating enough fruits and veggies. Did you know that the portion size of fruits and veggies for preschoolers and elementary-aged children is 1 tablespoon per year of age? That’s right, so a 5-year old would only need about 4 whole strawberries for a serving a fruit and 10 carrot coins for a serving of veggies.
  • Try School Lunch: If there is a meal offered in the cafeteria that your child enjoys, let them buy lunch. It teaches your child how to navigate a public food setting, getting them ready for middle school, high school and college. It also gives your child practice communicating needs and preferences. While school lunches historically have had a reputation of being less than perfect, things have changed. Stop by the school cafeteria and check it out for yourself. And hey – it gives you a break from packing! Can’t beat that.
  • Great Nut-Free Options: Food allergies and intolerances are an additional consideration to be made for many families packing school snacks and lunches. Depending on the school’s policy, you may or may not be able to include peanuts and tree nuts. Here is a list of nut-free protein-rich foods that can be packed as a part of a healthy school lunch
    Hard-boiled egg
    Hummus and other bean dips
    Low Fat Greek Yogurt
    Low Sodium Deli Meat and Cheese roll-ups
    Sunbutter (sunflower seed) and Wowbutter (soy nut butter)
    Cubed grilled chicken
    Beans (chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, pink beans, white beans)
    Cottage Cheese

RVNAhealth Seeks Hospice Music Therapist

Throughout history, music has been used to bring people together and create a feeling of tranquility. Known to often have a calming effect on those who are agitated, reduce pain, assist in communication and recollection of memories, music is an important part of hospice care. RVNA seeks a per diem Music Therapist to plan, organize, and direct medically prescribed music therapy activities as part of the psychosocial and physical treatment of patients and their families.

Music: So much more than just pleasant background noise!

As a member of the RVNA Hospice interdisciplinary team, the Music Therapist instructs patients and families in prescribed instrumental or vocal music and music projective techniques such as guided imagery, progressive relaxation and awareness of conscious feelings. The role also involves studying and analyzing patients’ reactions to various experiences, providing pleasant interactive experiences for patients and family members, documenting visits and other activities, and collaborating with the interdisciplinary team on patients’ care plans as needed. Patient participation in music therapy is optional.

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy or Music with a concentration in Music Therapy, and be board certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapy. Experience in Hospice and Palliative Care Music Therapy is preferred and experience with terminally ill patients/families is highly desirable.

Interested in this opportunity to do meaningful work with a growing agency? To apply, visit the job posting.

RVNAhealth Seeking Seasonal Per Diem Flu Nurses

RVNAhealth flu shots and immunizations, fairfield county, ct
Keep calm and get your flu shot.

Hard to believe, but flu season is right around the corner! RVNAhealth is currently recruiting experienced, reliable LPNs and RNs to administer vaccines to the public between September and December.

We hold clinics at RVNA and other Fairfield County locations, typically Monday through Friday, for two to four hours between 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. We ask for a commitment of at least one clinic per week.

For more information on this great opportunity to meet people and be a part of a longstanding community-health program, visit

RVNAhealth Announces Couri Nursing Education Scholarship Recipients

RVNAhealth Couri Nursing Education Scholarships

RVNAhealth is proud to announce Christine Palmer, RN, BSN and John Apinis, RN, as the inaugural recipients of the Couri Nursing Education Scholarship.  The Couri Scholarship was established in January 2019 for the distinct purpose of supporting nursing education to benefit the individuals and communities served by RVNA, and to provide the opportunity for RVNAhealth clinicians to develop meaningful skills and advance as medical professionals.

Through the Couri family scholarship, Chris Palmer, RN, BSN, achieved her Bachelor of Science in Nursing this past May at Western Connecticut State University, graduating magna cum laude. Palmer is an RVNA Hospice nurse, delivering care and comfort to patients at this very important time of life.  The Couri scholarship has enabled Palmer to expand her knowledge and further her educational goals. She plans to pursue her Master’s degree in the fall.

John Apinis, RN, is currently attending the Cleveland Clinic online to obtain his certification in advanced wound care. As the Director of Nursing at RVNA, Apinis oversees and trains the field nursing staff and provides care and education to patients in their homes.

“RVNA has enjoyed a special friendship and support from the Couri family for many years,” says Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, President and CEO, “and we are particularly grateful for this most recent gift. Education is the foundation for growth and progress and for performing our work at the highest level. The Couri Nursing Education Scholarship is not simply a gift to RVNA and our team, it is a gift to all those we treat. Its impact will touch many lives.”

Photo, left to right: Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, and Chris Palmer, RN, of RVNA accept the Couri Nursing Education Scholarship gift from Megan and Chris Couri. Missing from photo: John Apinis, RN.