This week, Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) President & CEO, Cynthia Emiry Roy, announced the appointment of Attorney Mary Schinke of Roxbury, Connecticut as Volunteer Chairperson of the agency’s Board of Directors. Having volunteered on the Board and as a “Pet Partner” for patients for over four years, Schinke is uniquely qualified to fill this leadership position. “Each hospice role I’ve had has dovetailed with my professional life,” she says. As an estate lawyer, Schinke advises clients on services such as wills and trusts, health care advance directives, powers of attorney, and even the future care of a beloved pet should an owner die or become hospitalized. “Discussing death and dying are part of my everyday routine. They’re issues I’m comfortable with.”
Mary began her relationship with Regional Hospice by taking the agency’s 24-hour family support volunteer training, with the goal of visiting hospice patients in the community with her Certified Therapy Dog, “Charlotte,” a sweet and loving Bichon Frise. Joining the volunteer Board only a short time after, Schinke’s connection to RHPC has grown deeply and with remarkable range. “Mary’s passion and commitment to our patients and families is unsurpassed, says Roy. “She is a special volunteer because she has served in so many capacities at our agency.” Since beginning, Mary has volunteered over 110 hours of her time to RHPC.
The very services that she was advocating for became personal two years ago when Schinke’s husband of more than 30 years, Steven, received a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and fatal lung disease. “Steven became a Regional Hospice patient in our home,” says Schinke, who devoted time and energy to caring for her husband. Later, when his symptoms worsened, he moved to a private suite at RHPC’s Center for Comfort Care and Healing in Danbury. “He felt so comfortable and supported there. For him, it was better being there than at home.” With steady compassionate care from RHPC staff, Schinke was simply able to be a loving wife to her husband instead of a caregiver juggling endless tasks, a role she had when Steven was in their home. “Being with him without having caretaking demands gave us the gift of quality time together.”
Having had such broad experience with hospice, Schinke comes to her new role with a goal of expanding the scope of the non-profit agency. “Regional Hospice has been around for 36 years, and yet in many parts of Connecticut and eastern New York we’re still a well-kept secret,” she says. “I want to get us out into the community and start having important conversations about the quality of death. I want people to know that they have options when it comes to end of life care.”
Schinke knows that death and dying are universal. “It doesn’t matter what race, religion or gender you are, we all will have this experience. Talking about dying is a way for us to relate to each other and come together.”
A native New Yorker, Schinke started life in Queens, then spent her formative years in Connecticut at The Ethel Walker School. She graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Psychology, also earning a certificate in British Studies during her junior year abroad in London. She earned her law degree at Harvard University.
As she moves forward into her newest role at Regional Hospice, she has 11-year-old Charlotte still at her side. “She is a big comfort to me,” says Schinke of her small healing companion who has been by her side from the very beginning.
Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) 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, servicing patients and their families from throughout the country, especially in New York State and Connecticut. RHPC’s 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.