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.


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.

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.”

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.

Preventive Screenings Made Easy at RVNAhealth’s Wellness Fair

Where will you be on Saturday morning, March 25th? If you’re due, or behind, on any preventive health screenings or have health and wellness questions you’ve been meaning to call a professional about – why not stop by RVNAhealth’s Wellness Fair and check some of those things off your list…all in one place, at one time, and its FREE!

So, what’s the big deal about preventive screenings? Yes, they require time – and, let’s face it, it’s not fun – but, going to the doctors for preventive health care visits is an important part of overall health. At these appointments, doctors can recommend certain screenings that you should receive, depending on your age and medical history. These screenings may detect potential health problems early on, when your chances of slowing disease progression and/or successfully treating a health problem are the greatest.

Your age is a starting point in determining which screenings are most important. For instance, someone in their 60’s should be tested regularly for blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, mental health conditions, and certain types of cancer. Other simple types of screenings, such as vision and hearing, are important at any age.

We know one of the barriers to completing these screenings is the challenge of making so many different appointments. That’s why RVNAhealth initiated its Wellness Fair nearly a half century ago – a community event for people to catch up on the most common health screenings, all in one day! And that’s why we continue to offer this FREE event each year. This year, RVNAhealth will host our 48th Annual Wellness Fair on Saturday, March 25, 2023, from 9am-12pm, at East Ridge Middle School in Ridgefield. We invite you to come, take stock of your health, learn something new, and walk away with valuable resources.

Led by RVNAhealth’s clinical staff and representing our whole suite of services – nursing, rehabilitative therapies, nutrition, hospice, private caregivers, and social work – this popular event is designed to meet health and wellness needs across all ages. RVNAhealth partners with other local experts to provide a wide range of screenings: anemia, blood pressure, blood glucose, carotid artery, cholesterol, balance, foot exams, grip strength, hearing, vision, skin cancer screening and more. We will also continue our tradition of offering vaccines to the community – including high dose and regular flu vaccines, and COVID-19 boosters.

This year’s event is made possible with the generous sponsorship support of BMW of Ridgefield, Bethel Healthcare/Village Crest for Health and Rehabilitation, Brookdale Place, Homecare Homebase, Ridgefield Crossings, Ridgefield Glass, The Vascular Experts and The Greens at Cannondale/Wilton Meadows.

RVNAhealth will also be collecting donations of healthy, non-perishable food items for our Food Pantry, which serves our homebound and low-income patients in need. All attendees will be entered into a raffle to win an Adam Broderick Gift Basket.

To stay up to date on the Wellness Fair or register for reminders, visit our event page. We hope to see you there!

RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services Wins Distinguished 2023 Leader in Experience Award

Congratulations to RVNAhealth’s StayingWELL Services division for winning the distinguished 2023 Best of Home Care – Leader in Experience Award from Home Care Pulse (HCP), the leading firm in experience management for home care. The Leader in Experience Award is the highest recognition awarded by HCP. It is given to select home care businesses that receive both HCP’s Provider of Choice and Employer of Choice awards – reflecting client and employee satisfaction ratings among the very highest in 10 or more quality metrics. As a Leader in Experience, RVNAhealth is now recognized among the top 15% of home care providers participating in the nationwide HCP Experience Management Program.

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

“Winning this top award category — the Leader in Experience award — is an incredible honor,” says Melissa Woodhouse, RRT, MOT, OTR/L, CDP, Director of StayingWELL Services. “I am proud of the efforts made by our team to listen to, and act on, the honest opinions and recommendations made by over 200 of our clients and employees in the past year. The feedback received continues to challenge us in raising the bar for delivering excellence in daily living assistance to our clients and offering a rewarding career to our employees. As one of only 12 participating home care agencies in Connecticut to receive this award, we are honored to be recognized.”

RVNAhealth StayingWELL Services provide non-medical at-home personal and household daily living assistance to help you retain independence and live safely, comfortably, and joyfully at home or wherever you reside. Available 365 days annually, for short- or long-term durations, our living assistants serve over 35 communities in Connecticut. To learn more, please visit https://rvnahealth.org/services/staying-well/ or call 203-438-5555.

Volunteer Training: A Gift for Life

“The experience is a game changer,” says Ridgefield resident Maureen Bohrer (below, right), referring to the 16-hour training she attended as part of her RVNAhealth hospice volunteer orientation. While some prospective hospice volunteers find the hours daunting, Bohrer considers it a gift.Continue reading

Direct Access: What it is and why you want to know about it

Much as a dented car does not get fixed by parking it on the side of the road, nor does a body hindered by injury or pain get healed without attention. Injuries and pain require evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.  Lucky for us, the State of Connecticut offers a healthcare benefit that simplifies the process of getting treated. It’s called Direct Access and it’s a benefit worth knowing about.

Direct Access is a statewide program that eliminates the need for a primary care physician referral prior to seeing a Rehabilitation Therapist. The streamlined process — which allows up to six visits with an RVNAhealth physical therapist at the RVNAhealth Rehabilitation & Wellness Center without a physician referral — is both cost-effective and allows individuals to enjoy swifter diagnosis and relief. In other words, it helps you get better faster.

This little-known benefit began in Connecticut in 2006 to provide patients more immediate diagnosis and relief.  “Direct Access is an expedited way to get to the root cause and treat, rather than just self-diagnose — or ignore — both of which can prolong the issue but are tempting when the process of getting to a therapist is belabored,” says Gigi Weiss, MSPT, RVNAhealth Director of Rehabilitation Therapies. “Ultimately, Direct Access allows you to get in quickly to increase stability, relieve discomfort, and prevent worsening,”

Weiss encourages those with intermittent pain, mild injury, mobility limitations, or other chronic conditions to leverage the Direct Access program not just for minimization of discomfort but for proper diagnosis and treatment. “Often patients self-treat without success because symptoms are not always representative of the core issue,” says Weiss. “For example, neck issues can present as wrist pain so tending to the wrist won’t address the root cause and won’t provide much relief, especially long term. In many cases, the six visits granted through Direct Access get an individual well on their way to healing.”

Direct access can also benefit individuals with lingering difficulties from a health episode, like swallowing, fine motor skills, or communication. In these cases, Direct Access provides a fast track to restorative visits with an appropriate clinician.

At RVNAhealth, the rehabilitation team also collaborates with insurance providers and primary care physicians to coordinate coverage and treatment so patients can focus on wellness. For more information or to schedule a Direct Access assessment, visit RVNAhealth.org/Rehab or call  (203) 438-7862.