Category Archives: Articles

Regional Hospice and Palliative Care Awarded Highest Designation in Care for Local Veterans

(Danbury, Conn.) On July 27th, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization awarded Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) the prestigious distinction of a “We Honor Veterans” Partner Level Four.  The highest designation in the “We Honor Veterans” program is awarded to RHPC for its continuing dedication to ensuring local Veterans have access to high quality end-of-life care.  Director of Volunteer Services, Mary Beth Hickey, MS, worked tirelessly as the driving force behind this endeavor.

The We Honor Veterans Program is a nationwide initiative geared at increasing organizational capacity to serve Veteran populations at end-of-life.  Regional Hospice, over the past three years, evaluated and improved protocols to ensure that the needs of Veteran hospice patients were being met.  Additionally, RHPC conducted staff and volunteer education and recruited Veteran volunteers for its Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program.  In order to achieve this highest level four distinction, Regional Hospice attended and hosted Veteran conferences, did Veteran-specific community outreach, and gathered feedback from family members of Veteran hospice patients in order to improve care delivery.

Additionally, RHPC also strengthened important partnerships with the State of Connecticut Department of Veteran Affairs and the Hudson Valley Veterans Partnership.

All hospice patients on Regional Hospice’s program receive thank you pins in appreciation for their service to our country and are connected with resources.  Additionally, the Regional Hospice team can arrange visits from Veteran volunteers and Veteran Administration representatives to honor Veteran patients through an official military ceremony.  These individuals have the unique ability to connect through a common code of conduct, language, and sense of honor.

“It is our privilege to care for the men and women who have served our country. Becoming a Level Four Partner in the We Honor Veterans program exemplifies our agency’s commitment to showing our gratitude and supporting the dignity of all veterans during end-of-life care” said Cynthia Emiry Roy, RHPC President & CEO.

Regional Hospice has served Fairfield, New Haven, Hartford & Litchfield counties with nonprofit home hospice care for over 30 years. In 2015, RHPC opened the state-of-the-art Center for Comfort Care & Healing. This family-centered hospice residence is CT’s first and only private-suite facility. Its mission is to provide exceptional end-of-life care, comfort and compassion to infants, children, adults and their families with a dedicated staff of professionals.  For more information, visit www.RegionalHospiceCT.org. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RegionalHospiceCT.

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.

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]

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.

Sustained by Kindness – Our Friend, John McNamara

Paul Sirois, RH COO; Cathie Petrosky, Manager of Donor Engagement; with John McNamara

Paul Sirois, RH COO and  Cathie Petrosky, Manager of Donor Engagement with longstanding donor,  John McNamara

“Regional Hospice is such a worthy cause. They have been there for me, my family and my dear friends. I believe that people should give what they can. I just give every month, and had no idea even how long it had been. What they do is so important.” – John McNamara

Who is this generous man?

More than twenty-one years had passed and the hand-written checks kept coming in month after month. Yet, the donor was a mystery to us.

Never accepting an invitation to join us at a chapter breakfast or meet for coffee on the rare occasions that we made direct contact, the years went by, and we still knew nothing about our compassionate yet enigmatic friend.

Little did anyone at Regional Hospice know— John McNamara has passed our Center many times since its opening while handling legal matters for an elderly uncle—he had been meaning to stop by.

Then one day it happened. Our decades-long, monthly donor, John McNamara, answered the phone himself, no phone-tag in play, no work commitments to interfere; and made a date to tour our Center for Comfort Care & Healing.

We first met John on October 4tha recent retiree after 35 years in the Danbury Post Office. In addition to indulging his love for travel, history and science fiction, John finally had some time to catch up with the cause he was quietly sustaining with annual, then monthly, donations since his mom died on Regional Hospice care in 1991.

His expansive view of “family” touches many lives.

An only child, John had lost his dad at the age 27. He had a special gift for assuming the mantle of family caregiver inherited from his mom. His kindness extends not only to aunts and uncles for whom he has continually overseen healthcare and financial issues, but also to his extended group of friends who are all family to this multi-generational Danburian.

As John’s work colleague, and dear friend of 28 years, had started discussing retirement plans, he was handed a terminal cancer diagnosis at the age of 55. A strong advocate for bringing Regional Hospice onboard to care for and support his friend and his loved ones, John continued to be there for them throughout his friend’s illness and death in 1999.

His old friend’s loved ones embrace John as family, and John, in turn, continues to be there for them. The last time John visited our Center, he was in between racing from Yale to a skilled nursing facility to support their family member while fielding texts from his “family” of post office buddies about a gathering that evening.

Our very first Compassionate Friend

Our longest, continual donor in the history of Regional Hospice had made our families part of his years ago—now we are honored and deeply grateful to finally get to know him and officially have him as part of our Regional Hospice family.

Monthly donors are part of Regional Hospice’s Compassionate Friends. For information about becoming a member of our Compassionate Friends or signing up to have monthly debiting to support Regional Hospice, please call Cathie Petrosky at (203) 702-7413 or email cpetrosky@regionalhospicect.org for more information.

Groundbreaking Robotic Tour for Regional Hospice Patient

Whitney Museum Robotic Tour

Regional Hospice, in partnership with OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) and Finale Consulting, enabled Nancy Stevenson to experience the first-ever robotic tour of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City – all from the comfort of her hospice bed. Nancy is an artist and illustrator who had lived in the city before her progressing cancer led her to choose hospice care from the Center for Comfort Care & Healing.

When Stevenson, who has been sharing her hospice experience on her blog hopeandcourage.com, expressed her wish to view the Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, Regional Hospice worked to make that a reality. The Whitney, whose mission is to feature American artists through an eclectic array of collections, graciously accommodated the request on a day when the museum was closed to the public.

In anticipation of the event, Nancy emailed Regional Hospice staff to express her gratitude. “I’m looking forward to my personal tour of the Whitney Portrait Show – very exciting! It’s a miracle you could set this up and I feel I’ve won a Make a Wish moment.”

The opportunity was so meaningful to Stevenson because, as she wrote, “I have always been a figurative painter. I did my undergraduate work at Syracuse University with one of the world’s most foremost figurative portrait painters, Jerome Witkin. And, I also studied with masters at The Art Student’s League in NYC.”

The first-of-its-kind tour of the Whitney utilized a telepresence robot connected to software on Nancy’s laptop which allowed her to virtually explore the museum. An educator from the museum was on hand for questions, allowing Stevenson to be fully immersed in the experience. In addition, Nancy was supported by her Social Worker, Amy Bauer.

“This is an amazing opportunity and we are very grateful to the Whitney Museum and all of the members of the OATS team and Finale Consulting who made this wonderful event possible for Nancy. She is a special person whose love of creating and sharing artwork has truly brightened our Center,” expressed Cynthia Emiry Roy, President & CEO for Regional Hospice.

For more information on Nancy, please visit her Patient Story or read about her courageous battle with cancer on her blog: hopeandcourage.com,


Following are some of Nancy Stevenson’s portraits:

1-rashmi

Rashmi – Oils

3-andrew

Andrew – Oils

4-jalissia

Jalessia – Pastel Painting

5-carl

Carl – Pastel Painting

7-subway_sketches

Sketches Created on NYC Subway

A Most Natural Part of Living

Support for embracing the end of life

lincolnquote_rhhc500

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

When Larry Riefberg visited his father-in-law, Boyd Losee, at Regional Hospice’s Center for Comfort Care and Healing, he knew that a life that had been counted by years and months was dwindling into days and minutes. Although Larry had toured the Center as a fervent hospice supporter, he had never really absorbed the Abraham Lincoln quote that adorned the walls of the family living room near Boyd’s suite. The words gave him pause and comfort as he realized that Boyd, at 89 years of age, had been blessed with both a long and full life. Regardless, as is generally the case, the loss was difficult for Larry and his family to endure. Although death is one of the most natural and certain parts of life, it is never easy for those left behind. The following words of support may help you embrace the inevitabilities of end of life.

Accepting Death Helps Us Open Up to Life

Regional Hospice and Home Care supports individuals of all ages from infants who are just days old, to elders 104 years of age nearing the end of life. We know that there are no certainties around the timing and circumstances of death. Patients who have been told they have only weeks to live sometimes thrive for months. Unfortunately, the reverse can also be true. This unpredictability can be unsettling and even frightening. However, in our experience, family members and patients who accept that death is not within their control are able to live more fully, with less fear or limits. Learning acceptance is also helpful in managing the grief and painful emotions that often arise when someone dies. It is important to acknowledge that acceptance is a process that requires time and support. The bereavement and grief counseling services offered through our Healing Hearts Center for Grief and Loss can assist in processing and accepting death and loss.

Everyone Has a Different Path

Every person has their own unique path in life. The same is true for death. It can be difficult to understand why some people die peacefully surrounded by loved ones, while others die alone. This is just part of the mystery and uncertainty surrounding how life ends – it is different for everyone. Many dying patients have a very difficult time saying “Goodbye” to loved ones or having to witness the pain that their illness causes those around them. It is not uncommon for individuals to wait until loved ones have left the room before they take their last breath. Honoring the unique nature of every individual (including yourself) works together with acceptance to “normalize” death and the grieving process.

Focus on this Moment with Mindfulness

bookThoughts of death are often uncomfortable as they spark fear and worry. A technique called mindfulness is helpful in halting those negative thoughts. By refocusing your attention to the present moment, rather than thinking about future or past events, you can reclaim your peace of mind. Taking deep breaths, listening to music, going for a walk, looking at a favorite piece of art, spending time in nature, reading a favorite passage or otherwise distracting yourself with pleasant activities can be helpful in refocusing your attention. For more information and resources on mindfulness visit www.mindful.org.

Don’t Wait in Considering Hospice Care

The number one thing we hear from patients and family members is that they wish they received hospice care sooner. If you or a loved one is experiencing a life-limiting illness you can seek hospice care on your own or through the assistance of your physician as soon as you wish. And, you are not obligated to stay on hospice care if your condition improves. Hospice and palliative care focus on pain relief, symptom management and emotional support to enhance not just the quantity, but the quality of a patient’s life. Hospice care incorporates a variety of support services including volunteer visits, spiritual care, social work and bereavement counseling. All of these comprehensive services are delivered by experienced, compassionate individuals who fully understand the challenges we face at the end of life. [See also: “Why hospice care could benefit your loved one sooner than you think”]

We don’t have to be afraid of death. By living for each moment and embracing the peace and comfort that hospice can bring, death can be a natural and beautiful part of life’s journey.

2 Connecticut Cats Need A Home

Twin cats “Sasha” and “Milano” need a new home!

The Pet Peace of Mind program of Regional Hospice and Home Care is looking for a loving home and family for two, very friendly, 5-year-old, indoor cats. All of their shots are up-to-date and they have been fixed.

sashamilano500

The family, who is experiencing life-limiting illness, does not want to separate these twin girls who have been together since birth. Please help this desperate family to find a loving home for their sweet pets.

Click here for flyer

If interested, please contact Mary Beth Hickey, Volunteer Director at 203.702.7415 or MHickey@regionalhospicect.org.

Barbara Kiselak – A Dancing Star

Supporting Regional Hospice and Home Care

When asked to participate in the Brookfield’s Dancing Stars Charity Gala, Barbara Kiselak didn’t hesitate. She had fallen in love with dancing as soon as she started lessons last September. With all of the amazing local charities, however, deciding who to support was a real challenge. After Barbara’s beloved father, Ervie “Bud” Hawley became ill requiring hospice and palliative care, the decision was easy. Witnessing the compassionate services that her father received from Regional Hospice and Home Care (RHHC), Barbara decided to dance on behalf of the organization.

Building Danbury

Bud Hawley and Barbara Kiselak

Bud Hawley and Barbara Kiselak

Bud Hawley wanted to spend his final days in the house he had built. Regional Hospice and Home Care supported that goal by providing in-home care to Hawley and his family. Bud died peacefully in the home he loved in April of this year. For Kiselak, losing the man who was her first dance partner has been difficult. Hawley loved Sinatra and Barbara remembers fondly how she would stand on his feet as they danced around their home. Dancing on RHHC’s behalf is not only a show of support for hospice care services for other families, but also a loving tribute to her father. The song she has chosen, “We Built This City,” is a nod to The Hawley Companies, the real estate development organization that her father founded.

A Woman of Action

Barbara is still active in that family business having worked as a partner in Hawley Management since 2004. Always on the go, Kiselak is the mother of 5 children – Susan, Jimmy, Mike, Danny and Joey. Although the children are grown, Barbara reports that, “I am busier now than when the kids were home.” In addition to an hour and a half of dance lessons every week, Kiselak is also an avid tennis player. Having played all her life, she has been competing in a local USTA league for the past 10 years. She also enjoys gardening, a pastime that was enhanced a few years ago when her son Jimmy bought her a greenhouse that allows her to extend the growing season into the fall.

A Life of Service

Barbara has always been an active, go-getter committed to helping others. As a former Surgical Nurse, Kiselak worked at Danbury Hospital for 6 years. It was there that she met her husband, John, who is now a Pulmonologist. As the couple raised their five children, a true testament to the Kiselaks’ stamina, Barbara was always a dedicated volunteer at St. Gregory the Great School.

Barbara and John Kiselak

Barbara and John Kiselak

Gratitude Grows

Since making the decision to raise funds for Regional Hospice, Barbara’s mother, Carolyn Hawley has also required hospice care. She is one of the first patients to be eligible for the Medicare Care Choices program, an innovative new model from the CMS that enables patients to receive medical treatments along with hospice care. Barbara is very grateful for the multitude of services that have been offered to her family. From her nurse’s expertise, to the unwavering kindness of the Family Support Volunteer who visits regularly, Barbara reports that she is always “talking it up” – spreading word about the value of RHHC’s programs and supportive services.

Please Support Barbara as She Supports Us!

Barbara Kiselak and Aaron Blizzard

Barbara Kiselak with dancing partner, Aaron Blizzard

We are in awe of all that Barbara does in support of her family and her community. Please support Barbara’s efforts at raising money on behalf of hospice patients and their families.
You can support Barbara in several ways:

  • Donate to her directly via her Brookfield Dancing Stars participant page, or
  • Purchase tickets to the Brookfield’s Dancing Stars Charity Gala  (9/9/16 at Amber Room Colonnade, 7 pm until midnight) and cheer her on!

 

We will be rooting for you Barbara! Best of luck and many thanks for all you have done in support of Regional Hospice and Home Care.

 

 

Memorial Gardens in Bloom

The Memorial Gardens at the Center for Comfort Care and Healing are flourishing with beautiful blooms and abundant herbs and vegetables this summer. A special “Thanks!” to our volunteer gardeners for all their hard work in making this such a beautiful oasis for our hospice patients and their family members.

Bountiful Herbs & Vegetables

The herbs and vegetable plants were donated by Trader Joe’s of Danbury. With lots of love and care they are thriving, enabling Chef Aaron Swart and his team to use them in meals for hospice patients, their family members and our staff. [Click on photos to enlarge]

Butterflies Abound

The butterflies have been very happy visiting the various blooms adjacent to our Healing Hearts Center for Grief & Loss and the Healing Hearts Playground. [Click on photos to enlarge]

Peaceful Oasis

There is always something beautiful blooming in the gardens. With the numerous Memorial Pavers, it is a great place to take a stroll, or with the ample Memorial Benches, to just sit and relax. Children who visit the Center love playing in the new playhouse donated by Newtown Kindness. [Click on photos to enlarge]