Author Archives: Michelle Traub

Bar Mitzvah Brings Many Gifts

13-year-old Noah Stein donates board games to Regional Hospice

Christine Dokko, Noah Stein, Paul Sirois (COO for RHPC), and Terri Katz (Manager of Corporate and Strategic Partnerships for RHPC)

Christine Dokko, Noah Stein, Paul Sirois (COO for RHPC), and Terri Katz (Manager of Corporate and Strategic Partnerships for RHPC)

For Christine Dokko and David Stein, the most important element of their son Noah’s 2016 Bar Mitzvah was the celebration of close friends and family. With that goal in mind, Event Planner Lisa Antonecchia set out to incorporate a sense of community and family with a joyful celebration. Embracing Noah’s youthful spirit, Christine suggested a board game themed event where guests, young and old, could play together in celebration of Noah’s rite of passage. Lisa loved the idea and set out to make it a reality.

Well over 30 board games were purchased and enjoyed over the course of the November celebration. According to Antonecchia, “Early in the process, Noah’s mother Christine asked if I knew of a place they could donate the games to, and I of course thought immediately of my friends at Regional Hospice and Palliative Care.”

When Noah realized that his games could be enjoyed by family members, visitors and hospice patients in need at the Center for Comfort Care and Healing, he was eager to help. At the end of 2016, Noah and Christine visited our hospice center for the first time, bringing with them their generous game donation.

Together they toured the facility so that they could see firsthand how the board games were a welcome addition to the cozy Teen Room and Family Living Room where visitors tend to congregate. After their visit, Christine shared with Lisa that they were, “beyond impressed with the staff and the facility.” It was a great day for all.

Lisa has been an incredible asset, assisting our organization with events, fundraising and hospice awareness through her business Creative Concepts by Lisa, LLC. We are so grateful to have support from her and our new friends, Noah and Christine.

We appreciate all the ways that our supporters help use make our Center a home away from home for those in need. Please visit our Center Wish List or Make a Gift page for ways that you can help.

Called to Serve, Again

Danbury Veteran serves others as a hospice volunteer

He first served his country as a Seabee in the U.S. Navy from 1979 to 1984. Now Mark Pierce of Danbury has been called to serve by helping fellow Veterans at the end of their lives.

A Man’s Man

Mark Pierce with Eugene

Eugene with Mark Pierce

Mark admits that he is the last guy anyone would expect to be volunteering with hospice. As he puts it, “I‘m very involved with my church, but I’m not a touchy-feely kind of guy.” While he never intended to work with hospice patients, once he heard Mary Beth Hickey, Volunteer Director for Regional Hospice and Palliative Care, speak about the Veteran-to-Veteran program, Mark was committed.

Bringing Dignity & Support  

“I love it. I get a lot of peace there,” Mark explained. His sister-in-law had been at the Center for Comfort Care and Healing for 3 months in 2015 before she died. Mark’s family spent countless hours visiting her, giving Pierce a strong sense of the value of compassionate hospice care. “I like the whole process,” he said, “It is important work that gives people dignity and support.” 

A Veteran in Need

Recently Mark was called into action to help a local Veteran. Eugene, who was in his 70s and in need of hospice care due to progressing cancer. Like Mark, Eugene had been in the Navy. He served aboard the famous USS Enterprise. Since leaving the military, Eugene had an interesting and colorful life. Due to the limitations of his illness, he was not able to say much, but the two men formed a wonderful bond none-the-less.

A former biker, Eugene enjoyed riding along in Pierce’s 1959 Ford Pickup. Mark, who by his own admission tends to be quite talkative, let Eugene guide their visits which were taking place 3 days per week until Eugene passed away at the end of 2016.

As soon as Mark would enter Eugene’s home, “He was eager to go,” Mark shared. The two rode around taking in the snowy beauty of Candlewood Lake and Sherman, and visiting Ridgefield. Mark was also instrumental in getting Eugene to two area Christmas parties that Anne-Marie Keegan, Regional Hospice Social Worker, arranged for with the help of Home Health Aide Paul Aliot, based on Eugene’s final wishes.

Signs Confirm a Connection Meant to Be

Mark really enjoyed the regular drives with Eugene exclaiming, “I got as much out of it as he did.” In addition to Eugene being a Veteran, there were other meaningful connections that confirmed to Mark that the two were meant to meet. The home where Eugene was living is just minutes from where Mark lives. In addition, the name “Eugene” is quite special to Pierce as it belongs to his father, his brother, and is the middle name he gave to his son. Finally, after visiting with Eugene, Mark came home one day and turned on the television to catch a documentary on the USS Enterprise, the very vessel on which Eugene served.

Strong Women Light the Way

Like many of Regional Hospice’s amazing volunteers, Mark humbly feels that he gets more from volunteering than he gives. He is also happy to serve, noting that the desire to help others has been nurtured by the strong women in his life – his wife of 28 years, Carla, and his mother-in-law, Betti Corso, who is a founder of the Women’s Center in Danbury. Pierce also recognizes that there aren’t nearly as many male hospice volunteers as there are women, which he feels is a shame. He has seen firsthand that men like Eugene find it helpful to have the comradery of other men with similar interests, especially at the end of life. Mark is committed to spreading the word to other males and Veterans, so that every hospice patient can be connected with a kindred volunteer in their time of need.

Every hospice volunteers contributes something unique and special to our patients and their families. Thank you Veteran Mark Pierce for both your service to our country and your compassion for your community.

Joyce Roberson – Accomplished Scientist, Gentle Lady

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Joyce Roberson

Standing at Joyce Roberson’s door, even before she extended her hand in welcome, I could already sense what she calls “her glow.” Indeed, there is an aura that surrounds this lady of accomplishment and great faith. Dressed in a lovely silk turquoise and purple robe, hair wrapped in magenta lace, Joyce beckoned me to join her. I’d already heard from staff and volunteers about this remarkable woman, and I was eager to record her life story. That first day I sat next to Joyce―in between the arrival of visitors, phone calls from friends, and a bouquet of flowers―she began to tell of her adventures. It was clear that her past has informed her path in life, and that her successes are due to her determination and intelligence. “I base my approach to life on Maya Angelou’s poem, ‘Still I Rise,'” Joyce said. No matter what obstacles might have appeared in her way, Joyce Roberson, again and again, has triumphed.

A Close, Supportive Family

St. Paul Baptist Church

St. Paul Baptist Church

Born on January 27, 1952 in Sylvannia, a small segregated town in Georgia, Joyce Roberson was the youngest of eight children. When the midwife declared “it’s a girl.” Joyce’s father, Mimsie Roberson, Sr., delighted to have another daughter after six sons, decided that her name must be Joyce, for joy. And her childhood was, for the most part, joyful. Her dad was a resourceful and generous man, a Deacon at St. Paul Baptist Church, owner of his own janitorial company, and president of the “black school’s” PTA. While he made sure Joyce’s brothers helped out after school, Joyce was encouraged to spend time learning to read and write; when she entered first grade she was already ahead of her class. She recalls her dad telling her, “Your job is homework!” Joyce’s mom, Annie Mae, taught her how to make tea cakes when she was four and, raised in a faith-filled family, Joyce joined the church one summer when she was nine. Inside the safety and love of her family, Joyce believed what her parents taught: that if she gave respect to all, respect would come back to her. “We are all the same,” Joyce told me. “The same color blood runs in our veins.”

Learning about Ugliness

In the racially divided town of Sylvannia, Joyce saw people treated differently because of the color of their skin. But, experiencing love in her family, “I didn’t dwell on difference.” Then her dad developed diabetes, and she overheard her parents worrying late at night. Medical care for blacks was hard to come by. Joyce learned that her father had to wait in the clinic until all the white patients were cared for―and, if the doctor left, the black patients simply had to try again some other time. Joyce watched her father’s health slowly deteriorate. She was beginning to realize that there was ugliness in the world as well as love.

Called to a Vocation

Seeing her dad suffer because of the inequality of health care, Joyce vowed, at age nine, to pursue a career in the medical sciences. She made God a promise that she would find a way to help care for her people. “In Junior high I was valedictorian, so interested in science that I read everything about medicine I could get my hands on,” Joyce said. By tenth grade, her dad was seriously ill. Without easy access to specialized care, he died in 1969 when Joyce was seventeen. “I was both elated because he had his wish of going to God, and heartbroken as he was my father.” His death reinforced the strength of her decision to dedicate her life to saving others.

A Difficult Path

Joyce obtained a one-year merit scholarship to Savanna State where she lived off campus to save money, worked part time, and majored in pre-med. It seemed she was well on her way until her mom suffered a massive stroke when Joyce was in her junior year. She managed to graduate, but her career path took a new turn. Before obtaining a master’s degree, Joyce again had to work to earn money, pumping gas and working as a phone solicitor until she found employment at Emory University’s Grody Hospital in Atlanta. There she worked as a research assistant in the department of rheumatology and immunology. Eventually, grateful for a fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, she returned to school for her master’s degree at Tuskegee University in Alabama. “I was thrilled to do research in the same lab where George Washington Carver once worked!” After graduating from Tuskegee with an MA in 1986 (where she had done graduate work as well at the University of Illinois and the Catholic University in Washington, DC), Joyce moved to New York and accepted a grant research associate position at Mt. Sinai Hospital in the Neurology department, where she worked with monoclonal antibodies, her field of expertise.

Turning Disrespect into Respect and Praise

“In order to see the good, we have to experience the bad,” Joyce tells me. Today she is dressed in a red, silky robe with tassels, her hair loose in curls. Her nails are manicured and, as we talk, she lotions her hands. Again, I am struck by both the humility and authority of this lady. “I’m assertive,” she laughs, “like my dad.” That assertiveness served her well through a variety of difficult times. Her next position was in a company in Massachusetts, a long commute from New York where she continued to care for her mother. In her research position, Joyce developed five antibodies that still carry her initials, JR, as part of their designated names. Moving closer to home, she accepted a position in New Jersey in 1989; two days later, her mother died. “A man’s word is his bond,” Joyce’s father taught her, and so she fulfilled her work agreement in spite of being confronted there with persistent and overt racism―unfortunately not the first time she had endured such treatment from colleagues. “This job showed me the ugliness possible in this world,” she tells me.

Boehringer IngleheimIn 1995 she left, “discouraged but not beaten,” and in 1996 accepted a position in Connecticut at Boehringer Ingelheim, eventually finding a scientific home in Product Development where she worked with great collegial support until 2004. Friendships that grew there remain to this day, and her long list of accomplishments are well known in the scientific community. The little girl from Georgia has more than fulfilled her pledge to help others. “If you want something bad enough you will make sacrifices,” Joyce says, another mantra she lives by.

The Importance of Sharing

Still I Rise, Maya Angelou

Joyce entered Regional Hospice and Palliative Care on Sunday, November 13, 2016, and immediately enchanted staff and volunteers. One of her requests was that she have the opportunity to share her unique story. When I asked why, she replied “We learn how to live from one another. I suffered a lot of evil and meanness, but I survived.” She hopes that her determination, her love for her family, her dedication to her vocation, her unshakable faith, and her remarkable life might influence and guide others. Joyce and I concluded recording her life story just before Christmas 2016. Before turning off the recorder, I asked Joyce how it was for her now, being here at Regional Hospice. Closing her eyes for a moment, then turning to me with a smile―her “glow” that truly lights up the room―she said, “I am the most blessed individual in this space and time.”

Written by Regional Hospice Volunteer and Author, Cortney Davis

 

 

2016 Year In Review

2016 was a big year for Regional Hospice and Palliative Care. We supported hundreds of hospice patients and their families, provided bereavement services and support groups to our Connecticut community, held a beautiful gala, received the gift of a new playhouse for our young visitors, enjoyed many fun and festive community breakfasts, and so much more. All made possible by YOU – our generous supporters, devoted volunteers, caring hospice families, and compassionate staff.

Thank you for making another year great at the Center for Comfort Care & Healing! And thank you for all you do to make sure that individuals of all ages gets the end-of-life care and grief support that they need regardless of their ability to pay. [Click on a photo to begin slideshow]

Holiday Greetings 2016

Happy Holidays 2016 from RHPC

Our warmest holiday greetings go out to all our hospice patients and their families. As you celebrate those who are in your life, honor those who can no longer be with you, and embrace the beauty and hope of the coming new year, please know that we at Regional Hospice and Palliative Care are right there by your side.

And, to our dedicated, compassionate staff and devoted, caring volunteers and supporters – thank you for all you do to make every day better for those in Regional Hospice’s care. Please take time to care for yourself this holiday season just as you so diligently care for others.

We wish all of you much peace, love and joy.

Uncovering Hospice Facts

Did You Know?

Regional Hospice and Palliative Care launched a social media campaign – “Did You Know?” on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. Utilizing the quote box that is a key component of the Regional Hospice logo, we took to addressing some of the most common myths regarding palliative and hospice care.

Did Your Know: Hospice Facts

Following are those hospice facts:

  • Only 38% of our patients have cancer. The comfort and support of hospice & palliative care can assist any life-limiting condition at any age.Some of the most common conditions assisted through hospice care include Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, along with pulmonary and cardiac diseases. However, any medical condition which hastens one’s life is appropriate for the comfort measures offered through hospice or palliative care – whether the individual is just days old or 102 years of age.
  • The term “palliative care” means to provide pain relief and symptom management.It may sound intimidating, but it is really quite beautiful. Palliative Care Clinicians are focused on keeping patients comfortable.
  • Hospice is not one organization. Every hospice provider is unique, and you can decide which one is right for you.It is a common misconception that all hospice providers operate with the same standards of patient and family-focused care. Unfortunately, that is not true. Some hospice providers follow a for-profit model which can mean that patient care is limited by budgets and insurance. As a nonprofit hospice provider, Regional Hospice and Palliative Care is supported by the generosity of our donors and volunteers and in turn is able to provide hospice care and bereavement services to patients and families regardless of their ability to pay.
  • Annually 1.6 million people receive care from hospice and palliative care providers in the United States.This estimated figure was provided by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation. Many experts believe that even more hospice and palliative care is needed to ensure that no one dies in pain or distress. As patients and their families have greater awareness of the services offered and quality of life gained through hospice care, they will be more likely to access it earlier.

Let’s Talk About Hospice Care

Hospice is often surrounded by fear and uncertainty. We understand those painful emotions and work hard to inform, educate and support individuals with life-limiting illness and their loved ones so they can benefit from the safety, comfort and compassion of hospice care.

If you have questions about Regional Hospice and Palliative Care’s services, please call us at 203.702.7400. We also welcome you to make an appointment for a tour of our beautiful hospice center, the Center for Comfort Care and Healing. Our dedicated staff is eager to assist you.

For more hospice facts and information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Welcoming the Holidays 2016

Regional Hospice and Palliative Care welcomes the 2016 holiday season! Our Center for Comfort Care and Healing is decorated and all our staff are dedicated to making the holidays special for our hospice patients and their loved ones.

Special thanks to our creative volunteers – Steven Cafiero, Carlyle Kloter, Pam Michael and Carrie Sirois – for making the Center so beautiful!

[Click on a photo to begin a slide show]

Thanksgiving Gratitude 2016

Every person who enters our Center for Comfort Care & Healing or receives our palliative home care services is a member of our family. We are so grateful to all of you – the patients that entrust us to provide care, the family members that welcome us in, and the volunteers, supporters, donors, Board Members and staff that tirelessly help us fulfill our mission.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

In the Company of Death

“Just like in superhero movies, there is always a back story. This is mine.”

Hospice Psychiatrist, Mark Ligorkski, MDSo begins an article written by Regional Hospice’s very own Staff Psychiatrist, Mark Ligorski, MD. Earlier this year Dr. Ligorski shared a personal reflection on how his family’s experience with death ultimately shaped his career path, in “Why I Became a Hospice Psychiatrist“.

Now in a poignant piece written for the hospice & palliative care community, Mark shares a historical perspective of how our medical system has handled death and dying, the toll it has taken on the clinicians in its midst and the ray of hope that our evolving hospice care programs bring to those clinicians, along with patients and their loved ones. As Dr. Ligorski notes, “…light erases shadows and monsters, leaving brightness and clarity.” By talking about these difficult issues we can bring about positive change.

Please find the full article at, “In the Company of Death; In Consortium Mortis” on Pallimed.org.

Jane Powell Smith – The Much-Loved Lady Jane

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Don and Jane SmithSome people just have a knack for caring for others, for loving people unconditionally and welcoming them into their hearts and homes. Jane Powell Smith had such a gift that she shared with others. In the way she cared for her family, raised funds for the community, and fulfilled her important role as a devoted military wife, there was always much love given and received.

Always a Lady

In a beautiful and fitting tribute to his beloved wife of 43 years, delivered at the prestigious Old Cadet Chapel at West Point Cemetery, Donald Smith, Putnam County Sheriff and U.S. Army Brigadier General (Ret.) explained the many graces that made Jane so very special. Graces that ultimately led Don’s Mother to bestow her with a title of fitting admiration, “Lady Jane.” Jane was, as Don recollected, “a wonderful, loving wife, and incredible mother, a terrific grandmother, loving daughter and granddaughter, a sister extraordinaire and an aunt, niece, and cousin whom everyone not only loved, but respected, and wanted to be around as often as they could.”

A Loving Start

Jane Powell SmithJane was born January 15, 1951 to very loving parents, William Powell and Eleanor Powell. According to Don, Jane’s mother was her greatest role model. She too bore a title of respect and honor – that of “Saint Eleanor.” As a girl Jane loved to spend time with family at Pleasant Lake in Elkins, New Hampshire where her love for crafting and cooking grew through the nurturing of her maternal grandmother, Ruth Holcomb.

Preparing for Flight

William Powell was a teacher and a coach at private schools. As such, his children were provided with a strong educational foundation at Saint Bernard’s in Gladstone, NJ; St. Paul’s School in Garden City, NY; and Trinity Pawling School in Pawling, NY. Following high school, Jane went on to study Fashion at Virginia Intermont College. Upon graduation, Jane applied to become a stewardess. She was accepted into the Delta Airlines training program which was scheduled to begin a few months later in January of 1972.

A Love Meant to Be

While waiting for the training program to begin, Jane lived with her parents in Pawling and worked as a hostess at Birch Hill Inn of Patterson. Don recalled the night they met, “As fate would have it, or as I believe, the Holy Spirit, Jane just happened to be working the night of my welcome home party from Vietnam.” Don was so taken by Jane’s beauty and grace that he asked the Inn’s owner for her number. Nervously, he called to ask her out. Their first date was to the movie “Lovers and Other Strangers.”

As Don explained, “I didn’t really care where we went or what the movie was – I just wanted to be with her.” Their love grew quickly. “It was just meant to be, and we both were so sad after the holidays when she went to Atlanta, Georgia and I traveled to Fort Knox, Kentucky to assume my new [military] assignment.”

Love Grows Long Distance

Although the couple had to be apart, their love continued to grow, fueled by long distance calls and trips, courtesy of Jane’s position with Delta. On one of those visits Jane helped Don organize a party for the Armor School. Attendees were wowed by Jane’s attention to detail and many senior officers advised Don not to let her get away. “To this day people still comment on how Lady Jane was an excellent entertainer and hostess,” Don explained. While Don was also impressed and appreciative he stressed, “My reasons for liking and loving Jane had absolutely nothing to do with her ability to host a good social function.”

A Family Is Born

In April of 1972, Don asked Jane for her hand in marriage. The following June the two were married at Holy Trinity Church in Pawling. Their first dance was to the Carpenters’ song, “For all we know” – from that first fateful movie, “Lovers and Other Strangers”.

A few years later, the couple was blessed with the birth of their first child, Christopher. Their daughter Cherilynne Whitney arrived three years after. Don stressed that, “Jane was an incredible mother. Her real passion in life was taking care of our family and raising our children.” As time went on the couple welcomed 8 precious grandchildren to their loving family: Jonathan, Ellie, Riley, Lindsie, Mitchell, Lillian, Benjamin and Asher Jeremiah.Jane Smith

A Special Way

While raising her family, Jane sometimes served as both mother and father since Don had to be away fulfilling his military duties. Jane was in many ways as committed to caring for fellow military families as she was for her own. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, she established a Family Action Care Team (FACT) aimed at offering information, support and a sense of normalcy for Army family members. As Don’s career advanced, Jane was always by his side. Once he had retired from the military and later assumed the role of Putnam County Sheriff, Jane continued to shine. “Jane had a very special way about her that made other people feel good about themselves,” said Don. This endearing characteristic made her, “An exceptional Commander’s wife and First Lady of the Sheriff’s Office who was loved by the Sheriffs and their ladies throughout New York State.”

Dedicated to Giving

Jane always looked out for others, and was driven to support many charitable causes. She made a quilt every year for the American Heart Association and crocheted over 80 caps in the form of flowers and animals for the children at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Even after becoming ill with cancer and suffering from a stroke, she raised over $6,000 in the “Scare Away Cancer Scarecrow Campaign.”

Gracious Until the End

Jane and Don Smith

Jane enjoyed visits from our Pet Partners during her stay at the Center.

Jane battled illness with great strength, and still, “Counted her blessings and looked for the bright side of every situation.” That positive energy and strong spirit was evident as she made her final home at the Center for Comfort Care & Healing (a journey that Don bravely detailed in a speech delivered at the New Fairfield/Sherman Giving Circle’s Breakfast). Her room was a reflection of her love-filled life with family photos, balloons and lovingly-crafted quilts. In her final moments, Don recalls how Jane mouthed “Thank you” to those who were attending to her care, just before passing away peacefully at 4:00 am on December 5th – a Lady until the end.

Chris Murphy with Jane and Don Smith

Cynthia E. Roy, President & CEO of RH; Senator Chris Murphy; Jane P. Smith; Donald Smith, Putnam County Sheriff; and Paul Sirois, COO of RH