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 have 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. As a visionary leader with unwavering commitment to social justice and reverence for life, she invited patient, family, and team participation. She truly listened to their input which ultimately started the hospice reform movement in this country. Thirty-seven years later at the time of her death in 2008, there were over 4,700 hospices in the country.

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. Its 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 developed 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!



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

RVNAhealth Spring Breakfast: Community Coming Together to Care for Neighbors


RVNAhealth will host its 22nd Annual Spring Breakfast on Friday, April 28 at The Amber Room in Danbury. This event, co-chaired by Andrea Gartner and Cathy Moore, attracts more than 400 local residents, business owners, and community leaders in the greater Danbury area. The early morning program (7:30am – 9:00am) consists of a delicious breakfast, inspirational speaker, lively auction and raffle prizes all in support of RVNAhealth. This is a major fundraiser which helps sustain RVNAhealth’s home health and hospice care, and the vital programs we bring to our communities, including well-child services, immunization clinics, support groups, wellness programs on nutrition and disease prevention, and help for the homebound.

The agency would like to thank its sponsors, including

  • Diamond Sponsors: Larry and Nancy Bossidy, Mutual of America, Eileen and Jay Walker
  • Gold Sponsors: Adam Broderick Salon & Spa, Lori Berisford and Elaine Cox, BMW of Ridgefield, Fairfield County Bank, Liz and Steven Goldstone, Valerie Jensen, Rodier Flowers
  • Silver Sponsors: Elizabeth Murray Ellis, HamletHub, Kane Funeral Home, Meadow Ridge, Glori and Adam Norwitt
  • Bronze Sponsors: All American Waste, Base Technologies, Inc., The Chefs’ Warehouse, Chipman Mazzucco Emerson, LLC, Cohen and Wolf, P.C., Cramer & Anderson, LLP, Harriton & Furrer, LLP, Christopher and Mary Joyce, Dean and Theresa Miller, Annette and Dan O’Brien, On the Mend Medial Supplies & Equipment, Saint Joseph Parenting Center, Union Savings Bank, Upnext Leadership Coaching and The Watermark at East Hill

You may purchase a sponsorship or table online or contact Connie Marsala, Development Manager, at cmarsala@rvnahealth.org or at 203.438.5555, x1018.


RVNAhealth Announces Opening of its Parkinson’s Center

RVNAhealth proudly announces the opening of the RVNAhealth Parkinson’s Center, located at 27 Governor Street, Ridgefield. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease, affecting an estimated 10,000 people in CT, with the incidence of newly diagnosed cases rising. With the opening of its Center, RVNAhealth aims to become a premier and integral Parkinson’s resource to those diagnosed, their caregivers, and medical teams.

The Parkinson’s Resource Gap

Gigi Weiss, MSPT, CADDCT, LSVT BIG, AIB-VR, Parkinson’s Center Director, explained the importance of this new RVNAhealth community resource, “People with Parkinson’s and their and families are frustrated! We’ve heard numerous stories from patients who felt somewhat stranded and confused after their PD diagnosis. Truth of the matter is that a playbook for Parkinson’s doesn’t exist and there are very limited local resources available to help. At RVNAhealth, we realized we had the ability to fill this gap and make a difference in the lives of the PD community. Many do not realize that they can effectively slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease with the proper tools, resources, education, and support. We are here to provide that Parkinson’s support to the whole patient – mind, body, spiritual – with these needs met all in one place.”

About the RVNAhealth Parkinson’s Center

The RVNAhealth Parkinson’s Center is a multi-disciplinary team, certified through the Parkinson’s Foundation, that works together to help each center member from all angles of health. The rehabilitation team consists of physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists – all LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD certified. Additional resources of the Parkinson’s Center include a dedicated medical doctor, registered nurse, and registered dietitian; a team of mental health professionals, including social work and spiritual care; a resource library comprised of local and national resources; a video library of exercises and support tools; a monthly newsletter; and access to the RVNAhealth Continuum of Services.

Kate Campbell, DPT, SCS, Cert. MDT, CSCS, LSVT BIG, Parkinson’s Center Program Manager, provided more details, “The Parkinson’s Center aims to become a central resource to help develop, coordinate, and support the best possible proactive attack against Parkinson’s disease for our members. Here, people with Parkinson’s will take control of a difficult diagnosis with the help of trained specialists to support them, their caregiver and family. In addition to supporting our members and family, we look forward to partnering with the medical community to develop the most needed programs to support their Parkinson’s patients.”

The Center is comprised of three main components: exercise classes led by physical therapists; monthly programs, including support groups to address mental health, activities to promote social engagement, and education on disease awareness and management; and “PD Bootcamp”. Campbell described RVNAhealth’s unique PD Bootcamp, “PD Bootcamp is an eight-week intensive program that leads the person with Parkinson’s through bi-weekly exercise classes and one-on-one sessions with members of the Parkinson’s Center interdisciplinary clinical team to create an individualized care plan to help them continue living their best life with Parkinson’s.”

RVNAhealth’s Parkinson’s Center Kickoff Starts in April!

April officially kicks off the opening of the Parkinson’s Center with a few key community events, including an exercise lecture on April 6th at the Ridgefield Library and a cooking class on April 12th at RVNAhealth–all focused on Parkinson’s disease. All event and registration details can be found online through the RVNAhealth calendar at rvnahealth.org/calendar.

On April 20th, RVNAhealth will host a Parkinson’s Center Inaugural Event at its offices in Ridgefield. Attendees will meet the entire team, experience short lecture discussions, and learn more about what the RVNAhealth Parkinson’s Center has planned. Vendors with Parkinson’s-related offerings and expertise will also be available. Details and registration can be found on our website calendar or by contacting us at 203.438.5555 x1082. You may also learn more at the Parkinson’s Center website.

Theresa Santoro, MSN, RN, CHCA, President and CEO of RVNAhealth, “I am extremely proud of the work our team has put into creating this much needed program for those affected by Parkinson’s. The Parkinson’s Center is an excellent example of how we continue to grow and evolve in our mission to serve the lifelong health and wellness needs of our communities. We look forward to sharing our Parkinson’s Center with those affected and giving each person and their family the tools and confidence to live their best life.”

2023 Wellness Fair Thank You! To RVNAhealth Employees, Volunteers, and Sponsors!

A sincere thank you to our RVNAhealth employees, volunteers, and sponsors who helped make our 2023 Wellness Fair a success! With your help, we were able to administer well over 500 health screenings. A special shout out to our BeWELL team who help to prepare and coordinate the details of this important community event every year!

Gather Your Friends and Join RVNAhealth’s Annual Spring Breakfast!

RVNAhealth will host its 22nd Annual Spring Breakfast on Friday, April 28 from 7:30am-9:00am at The Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury. The Board of Directors, Spring Breakfast Committee, and friends of the organization look forward to celebrating the meaningful work of RVNAhealth and the continuum of care the agency provides throughout 35+ communities. 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 a business leader who has worked with RVNAhealth to provide care for her elderly parents. She will describe how the integrated continuum of RVNAhealth services supported her family, even as their needs changed, and she will offer useful insights for others who may be caring for aging loved ones. You are invited to become a sponsor or host a table at this year’s event, which will include a delicious breakfast, live auction with travel and entertainment packages, and a raffle with over 40 prizes. You may purchase sponsorships or tables online at RVNAhealth.org or contact Connie Marsala, Development Manager, at 203.438.5555, x1018 or cmarsala@rvnahealth.org.