Posts By: Abigail Storiale

Local nurse receives Nightingale Award

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Nurse Patty Tsou was honored with The Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing at Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven Thursday, May 2.

 

Perhaps Patty Tsou was just destined to be a nurse.

Her mother was a registered nurse, as are her siblings. Despite the strong family ties, Tsou resisted the calling at first.

“I went to school to be a teacher, but I called my mom two years in and said I wanted to switch to nursing. She cried and said, ‘You were the one I always knew would be a nurse,’” Tsou recalled.

Now, more than three decades later, the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice RN continues what became a true love affair with her profession. As a result, she was honored with The Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing at Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven Thursday, May 2.

For the ceremony, she wore her Ona M. Wilcox College of Nursing pin alongside her mother’s St. Raphael School of Nursing Pin, just as she does every year on National Nurses Day.

“Every day I get to teach, just not kids,” Tsou said with a laugh, referencing her once potential field and the many skills she later found home health nursing requires. Not only do nurses provide clinical care, they also work to educate patients and their caregivers on self-care to manage chronic conditions and to otherwise help them recover from surgeries and illness.

“I see people in their environment. I’ve been to squalor and I’ve been to mansions, but at the end of the day [our patients] are all just people who need help,” she said.

During her career, Tsou has always been willing to go the extra mile. When she was assigned to Spanish-speaking patients, she learned the language on the job by carrying with her a pocket Spanish dictionary and eventually becoming fluent in what she termed “medical Spanish.”

“People appreciate the effort,” she said. “As a nurse, they’re always happy to see you, but even on my worst days, I still know they’ve made a difference.”

Tsou has been an employee of VNACHCH for 10 years.

According to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Director of Nursing Karen Naccarato, Tsou has been described by her patients as a wonderful representation of VNACHCH who is “helpful, accommodating and a real comfort.”

Naccarato said Tsou goes above and beyond for her work, whether it’s serving as a preceptor to new employees, participating in new projects or allowing students to shadow her for the day.

“She truly exemplifies the qualities of excellence for the Florence Nightingale Award,” Naccarato said. “Patty brings forth much home care experience, professionalism, compassion and kindness when caring for her patients.”

The Nightingale Awards program was developed in 2001 to celebrate and elevate the nursing profession. The program honors nurses from all health care settings and all Registered Nurses and LPNs involved in clinical practice, leadership or education may be considered.

Nurses can only be nominated once in their lifetime for the award. Nominations are made by the health care organization with which the nurse is affiliated. Award winners are selected based on criteria that examines what set the sets the nurse apart from others, how they impacted patient care and the profession, how they’ve shown commitment to the community and whether or not they’ve achieved a life-long legacy in a particular arena.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice honors community partners at annual breakfast

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jo Ann Begley, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice President & CEO Janine Fay, Hospice volunteer Kathleen Bonvicini, Florence Griswold Museum Executive Director Rebekah Beaulieu and Florence Griswold Museum Director of Marketing Tammi Flynn.

 

When Kathleen Bonvicini lost her brother to cancer, she found a way to channel her grief and love for him into helping others.

“I saw how hospice helped my brother and I knew I would be a hospice volunteer one day,” Bonvicini told the crowd of more than 130 people gathered at The Woodwinds in Branford Tuesday, May 7 for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s annual Breakfast in Bloom fundraiser.

Guilford Savings Bank and Smith Brothers Financial were the platinum sponsors of the event.

Bonvicini was one of three Community Partner Award recipients, along with the Florence Griswold Museum and VNACHCH’s own Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jo Ann Begley.

“You’re thanking me, but I should be thanking all of you for allowing me to do this work,” Bonvicini said during her award acceptance speech.

An active philanthropist and community advocate, Kathleen is the Chief Executive Officer at the Institute for Healthcare Communication.

“Kathleen is committed to giving and making our world a better place. With a full time career that involves travel and volunteering in other parts of the world, she still makes time to help our patients and their families. And, often uses her work day lunch break to do it,” explained Begley.

She noted one instance when a family of a hospice patient was struggling, and so Kathleen responded to a last minute request to sit with the patient and hold her hand into the night, allowing social work and spiritual care to focus support on the family.

She met with a patient weekly for meditation sessions, always bringing him his favorite ice cream, and helped a patient finish writing a book and submit it for publishing before he died, which was his wish.

“She embodies the true spirit and the intent of our hospice program, which is to help
individuals make the most of the time they have left,” Begley said.

The Florence Griswold Museum, located in Old Lyme, was recognized this year for collaborating with VNACHCH in support of its mission.

A nonprofit itself, museum officials graciously offered the site and its collections as the structural backbone for the agency’s annual report, which featured an artistic theme – one that was carried through to the event.

The museum and 12-acre site is known as the home of American Impressionism. It served as the birthplace of the Lyme Art Colony that flourished at the site in the early 1900s as artists from up and down the seaboard flocked there to paint the scenery.

VNACHCH brought caregivers, volunteers and staff members who provided testimonials for its 2018 annual report to the museum to select artwork that spoke to them of their idea of a life well lived. Images of them standing alongside their chosen pieces were used to highlight their thoughts in the report of how the agency has made a difference in their lives.

Florence Griswold Museum Director Rebekah Beaulieu and Director of Marketing Tammi Flynn attended the breakfast to accept the award.

Begley’s recognition was a surprise to her and the entire crowd at the event.

Like Bonvicini, she expressed gratitude to the people in the room for supporting VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice and allowing her to do the work she is dedicated to on behalf of patients and families.

VNACHCH President & CEO Janine Fay praised Begley for her efforts to help caregivers on their loved one’s healthcare journey so entire families can achieve their best quality of life.

“When we talk about community partners, we often mean members of the community who support our mission to be beside patients at every turn. This year, however, we also felt it important to recognize a member of our staff who serves as one of our links to the community itself and who has touched the lives of so many people in our service area,” Fay said. “She works tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of others and empowers our proud and gentle army of volunteers to go out into our patients’ homes and provide them with care and compassion to help them find comfort and joy through the difficult moments.”

Begley will celebrate 15 years with the agency this summer, and Fay noted that so many of the success stories shared by grateful patients and caregivers include Begley in the narrative.

“In a quiet and thoughtful way, she graciously tackles every need that comes across her desk and she devotes herself to ensuring every patient and caregiver receives every possible resource and service available, every time,” Fay said.

The breakfast included instrumental music by the group Giving Bach of Daniel Hand High School in Madison and a visit from one of VNACHCH’s therapy dogs.

All proceeds from the event will support the nonprofit agency’s vital services, including home healthcare, community wellness programs and its Family Caregiver Support Network.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is a century-old nonprofit agency with expertly trained staff who help individuals recover and regain independence quickly and easily. When a cure is no longer an option, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice provides individuals and families with choices, control and comfort in their final months. As a leader in healthcare at home and the self-care movement, the agency proudly serves 35 towns in southern Connecticut.

Starting the Hospice conversation

No one is ever fully prepared to have a conversation about death. It’s sad and difficult for loved ones of a person reaching the end-of-life as well as for that person’s physician who has been focused on helping that person recover or improve.

No one wants to hear, “There is nothing more that can be done,” and with hospice as an option that statement is never true. A cure might not be possible, but it’s important each individual faced with that reality know that there is still more life ahead.

The best thing for the people we love is for them to have the best quality of life possible, for as long as possible – and when a cure is no longer possible, hospice is available to offer care and support.

At VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, we offer symptom management while also supporting the social and spiritual needs of people helping them to live their best possible lives in the time remaining.

The best way to broach the topic of hospice with a loved one is to put all the cards on the table and have an honest discussion about the person’s prognosis and the complications of their current condition, such as frequent ER visits and hospital stays, side effects of their illness or treatment such as infections, pain and shortness of breath, and the overall stress and fear they are feeling.

It’s important for a person considering hospice care to know what their options are and that they will not be alone. Focus on the following points:

  • There is not a cure for your condition, so let’s focus on the things we can control and that includes
    making sure you make the most of the time you have left
  • The hospice team will help you to maintain as much independence and dignity as possible for as
    long as possible so you can have the best possible quality of life
  • Because of hospice, you’ll have better control of your symptoms and be able to stay at home with us
  • Your doctor is still part of the team and we can reach out if we need him/her
  • You aren’t going to live as long as we all want, but we’ll be able to enjoy the time we have with you

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is happy to sit down with families and help them have this conversation or have it with their loved ones for them. No one should walk the end of life journey along, and we are proud to be here to support patients and their loved ones every step of the way.

For more information call 866.474.5230 or visit our Hospice page.

Managing Pain

How well do you understand Palliative Care?

September is Pain Management Month, a good time to consider how important pain management is in the lives of those living with a chronic illness.

At VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, we offer a palliative care program focused on quality of life that is beneficial for anyone suffering from side effects of curative treatments or simply those in need of pain or symptom management.

Common misconceptions about palliative care include that a person must be in the hospital to receive it or that pain and suffering is just part of a chronic illness.

Palliative care is aimed at controlling symptoms so patients are more comfortable and able to stay out of the hospital. It is helpful to those struggling to cope as an illness progresses and those suffering from a variety of causes of discomfort and pain.

Shortness of breath, the inability to move around freely, loss of appetite and nausea, confusion about one’s treatment plan or worry about the future, and a loss of interest in hobbies that comes with depression or frustration resulting from an illness are all things causes of discomfort and pain that palliative care can help improve.

Palliative care teams include registered nurses, home health aides, spiritual counselors, social workers and rehabilitation therapists.

Pain does not have to be accepted as part of chronic illness, nor is it always part of dying once an illness progresses. There are many ways pain can be managed. In addition to providing symptom control medically, our program can help lower stress on patients and families, which aids the process of getting pain under control.

Many confuse palliative care with hospice care, and believe that they must be dying or end their curative treatment to receive a palliative care referral.

Palliative care can be engaged at any point during an illness and is not the same as hospice care. Unlike with hospice services, patients receiving palliative care can continue curative treatments and do not need to be considered terminally ill.

Engaging palliative care does not mean you will die sooner, it simply means you will continue to live with the support of trained professionals who can help ensure you have the best quality of life possible.

Walking Tall

National Safety Month tips for staying confident on your feet

Anyone can have a slip.

Literally, staying on your feet is not always an easy thing, which is why during the month of June – recognized as National Safety Month – the National Safety Council is promoting education on the prevention of slips, trips and falls.

According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, falls are the leading cause of accidental injury for people age 55 and older, despite the fact that they are a preventable health problem. Individuals who have had changes in balance or a decline in physical mobility, those with a chronic illness or visual impairments, hearing deficits or foot problems, and those taking more than four prescription medications are at increased risk.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers Steady Steps, an award-winning fall risk reduction program, to help reduce the incidence and negative impacts of falls. Of our participants, 85 percent lower their risk of falls, improve balance and learn how to prevent falls from occurring.

The program, which is funded by a grant from and based on research by the experts from the Connecticut Collaboration for Fall Prevention and the Yale School of Medicine through the Department of Aging, is led by a team of nurses, physical therapists and certified instructors.

It includes screenings in the home or community setting, assessment of risks for falls and development of a personalized plan, assessment of home safety hazards, a balance assessment and blood pressure evaluation along with a medication review, and the teaching of simple balance exercises.

When it comes to avoiding falls, there are some simple steps everyone can take.

Dress for success

Cute shoes may be calling, but one of the most important things to do to prevent a fall is to wear the right footwear for your environment. Make sure to consider the conditions of where you’re headed and how much walking you’ll be doing when selecting shoes. Slip-resistant shoes can be helpful, but at a minimum make sure your shoes are broken in to reduce the slippery nature of the soles. You can do this by scuffing the soles on concrete before wearing them. Even around the house, make sure the soles of slippers are rough and don’t walk around on wood or tile floors in socks.

Hit the lights

Make sure when you are working or navigating a new environment that the lighting is appropriate, and take care when getting out of bed at night for a trip to the bathroom or kitchen. Adequate lighting helps you to see objects in your path and to avoid missteps that can lead to slips and falls.

Know your surroundings and announce yourself

We’ve all tried at some point to be a master of maneuvering – to sidestep through that tight space carrying something in our hands – but the best way to be safe is to be sure you have plenty of visibility and a path to move through while walking. It can also be helpful to announce yourself when in a shared or public space. Open doors slowly and tell others when you’re moving around them but are outside their line of sight, for example walking behind them.

Focus on fitness

Staying flexible and agile can help you to avoid falls, or minimize the impact if a fall takes place. As part of its Steady Steps program, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers programs tailored to participant’s fitness and ability level including sitercize, Exercise for Better Balance and Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance®, all of which can help reduce the risk for falls.

For more information on dates and times of Steady Steps programming, visit vnacommunityhealthcare.org/calendar.

It’s Not All In Your Head

Dispelling myths about mental wellness during National Mental Health Month

Many understand the importance of mental wellness and the concept of self-care to prevent mental or emotional struggles, but far fewer may realized the far-reaching impacts mental health problems have in the life of every individual. Although we may think of mental health as something that does not affect us if we do not suffer personally or currently, the issue of mental health is a prevalent one today.

One in five American adults has experienced a mental health issue – some of the most common including anxiety and depression – but perhaps surprisingly to some, one in 25 Americans has a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. According to mentalhealth.gov, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States with more than 41,000 lives lost annually.

This May, recognized as National Mental Health Month, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice wants to dispel some myths of mental illness and treatment.

Myth: Recovery is not possible

The idea of recovery seems insurmountable to many when it comes to mental illness, but when looked at as the journey of yourself or a loved one reaching a point where a normal life – including the ability to work and be an active member of the community – is the goal, then recovery is indeed possible.

Through its Behavioral Home Health program, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s registered nurses collaborate with patients, family member’s and a client’s entire treatment team to help each individual discern small, achievable goals to have success reaching their best potential quality of life.

VNACHCH staff is available for visits seven days a week, plus 24-hour phone coverage to help with things like medication administration, facilitating copying skills, offering coaching on preventing physical impacts of treatment and addressing side effects should they arise.

Individuals on medication for mental illness are prone to conditions such as diabetes due to rising blood sugar or cardiac complications, and the VNACHCH staff is trained in assessing and managing these side effects in coordination with a patient’s other health providers.

Myth: People can “get over” mental illness on their own

Mental illness is not a sign of a weak mind. Some individuals have a mental illness as a result of genetics or brain chemistry, while others have an illness triggered by physical conditions or injuries that impact the body. Traumatic life experiences also serve to bring on mental illness.

To reach a point of mental wellness, people require a variety of treatment, including medication and therapy as well as the support of loved ones.

The most helpful family caregivers are those who commit to serving as advocates to connect a loved one with needed services and those who understand their family member is not defined by their mental illness. Helping to remove the stigma of mental illness is a critical part of the process.

Myth: It’s not safe to be around someone with mental illness

Most people with a mental illness are not violent, though media coverage of isolated incidents can make it appear mentally ill people are always unpredictable and irrational. Many people with mental health problems are able to go about every-day lives with little to no outward indicators of their illness.

To learn more about our Behavioral Home Health program visit https://vnacommunityhealthcare.org/our-care-programs/behavioral-home-health/.

Keep Moving Forward

 

Tips for those living with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers

 

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be frightening, but understanding what you can do to be proactive with your health will make a big difference.

April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a good time to acknowledge that Parkinson’s impacts each person differently and cases of progression vary, but no matter your situation, there are important lifestyle choices that can help you manage symptoms and help you attain maximum quality of life.

“We hear a lot of patients say, ‘I don’t need therapy yet’, or ‘I’m not ready for that class yet’, but the reality is you shouldn’t wait to get worse to focus on getting better. Although there is no cure, improvement is possible and you can delay the progression,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Health Promotions Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “We can be here from the start to help you keep moving so you can achieve a high degree of wellness throughout the stages of Parkinson’s disease.”

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has a proven track record of success treating patients with Parkinson’s disease. The non-profit agency’s homecare program offers research-based exercise developed specifically for those with a Parkinson’s diagnosis. It is effective for all stages, from early onset to later stages.

The agency also offers twice weekly exercise classes with a nominal $6 fee to attend and a free weekly dance class tailored to Parkinson’s patients. Fall risk assessments are also available. Balance issues caused by Parkinson’s puts patients at an increased risk for falls, so an assessment can be a critical component of the effort to keep you safe at home. Free support groups for those living with the disease and their caregivers are held monthly and VNACHCH staff members are always available to offer suggestions to those looking to live their best life despite their diagnosis.

To read more about the VNACHCH Parkinson’s programs, click here.

Keep moving

Regular exercise and stretching is important to help those living with Parkinson’s increase flexibility, attain better balance, improve coordination and add muscle strength. Tai Chi, walking, dancing and stretching are all important ways movement can be incorporated into one’s daily routine. Group classes can provide support and guidance along with a team mentality which helps to lessen anxiety and depression.

Eat, sleep and be well

Proper sleep and nutrition are critical to achieving the best level of wellness for anyone. Those with Parkinson’s may struggle to get the most restful sleep, but sticking to a bedtime schedule and an exercise routine can help. Keep daytime naps brief, avoid caffeine, get plenty of natural light during the day and keep screens out of the bedroom and pets off your bed. The most comfortable environment will lead to the most restful sleep.

Make sure you plan meals around incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains into our diet while limiting fats, sugar, sodium and alcohol. Stay hydrated and get plenty of calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D to ward off bone density loss and other Parkinson’s symptoms.

Look for support, care for your caregivers

Attending a support group can help those with a Parkinson’s disease to feel camaraderie rather than loneliness that often comes with any medical diagnosis. It’s also important to have strong caregivers in your corner.

That being said, caregivers can only provide the support you need if they also make sure to care for themselves. Encourage your loved ones to attend a caregiver support group and take occasional time for themselves.

Help to educate them about your disease and be open about your frustrations coping with symptoms, your limitations that mean you will require help and what things you’d like to try doing on your own. Have as many open and honest communications as possible about your wishes while you are in early stages of Parkinson’s, and provide clear direction about how you want to be treated and have your affairs handled after the onset of later stages.

Your support team should also include therapists who can help manage symptoms and even improve your condition.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice clinicians certified in LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD deliver physical, occupational and speech therapy in intense and complex standardized treatment sessions with repetitions of core movements used in daily living. Clinicians conduct 16 sessions per month with patients as part of this research-based treatment that leads to documented gains in motor functioning, trunk rotation, balance and quality of life, as well as long term improvements in speech and voice quality.

Healthcare Decisions Day 2019

In an effort to educate and empower people to learn about and engage in advance healthcare decision-making, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has planned a full day of outreach culminating in a panel presentation from three local experts as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day.

Recognized on Tuesday, April 16, National Healthcare Decisions day is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations aimed at ensuring information, opportunity and access is available for all to document important healthcare decisions.

The theme for this year’s day is: “It’s always seems too early, until it’s too late.”

As part of this movement, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is providing information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers. The nonprofit agency will also have information available on how to execute written advance directives, such as healthcare power of attorney and living wills in accordance with Connecticut state laws.

On April 16, trained VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice volunteers will be available at local senior centers to provide information and education, and the day will culminate in a panel that evening at Evergreen Woods, located at 88 Notch Hill Rd. in North Branford. An informal social hour with hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to review informational materials will begin at 5 p.m. with the panel presentation scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Panelists include Donna Cricenzo, concierge physician and the medical director of the VNACHCH hospice program, who will discuss the chronic illness journey and ultimate palliative and hospice care decisions one might face. Joan Reed Wilson of RWC, LLC Attorneys and Counselors at Law will sit on the panel to share important information regarding elder law and estate planning. Finally, Guy Tommasi, the executive director of VNACHCH affiliate LIFETIME Care at Home will share his perspective on the need for non-medical in-home care and the decisions associated with that phase of the healthcare journey.

Healthcare Decisions Day events:

Meet with a VNACHCH representative April 16:

Miller Senior Center
2901 Dixwell Ave., Hamden
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
No registration required

Joyce Budrow Senior Center
189 Pool Rd., North Haven
11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
No registration required

Guilford Senior Center
32 Church St., Guilford
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Madison Senior Center
29 Bradley Rd., Madison
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
No registration required

Advance Care Planning panel April 16:
Evergreen Woods
88 Notch Hill Road, North Branford
5 p.m. hors d’oeuvres
6 p.m. panel discussion
Registration required at 866.474.5230

Healthcare Decisions Day resources:

Below is a link to a summary of Connecticut State law pertaining to an individual’s right to make health care decisions, directions for completing the consolidated health care instructions and advance directives document and the documents themselves including Appointment of A Health Care Representative, Living Will and Health Care Instructions, Appointment of a Conservator and Organ Donation in one form.

https://www.ct.gov/agingservices/lib/agingservices/pdf/advancedirectivesenglish.pdf

Below are links to useful documents when it comes to starting the advance care planning conversation with family members and healthcare providers.

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ConversationProject-ConvoStarterKit-English.pdf

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ConversationProject-ProxyKit-English.pdf

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ConversationProject-StarterKit-Alzheimers-English.pdf

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ConversationProject-TalkToYourDr-English.pdf

For more information and for these documents available in other languages, visit theconversationproject.org.

Take the stress out of preparing to see your healthcare provider

Preparing for a medical visit can be a stressful experience.

Time frames for appointments are limited, and many often leave the doctor’s office and quickly think of questions they forgot to ask or realize they have follow-up concerns regarding the treatment or medications prescribed during their time in the exam room.

March 30 is National Doctor’s Day. Show your provider your appreciation by becoming an active partner in your medical care and learning how to make time with your physician as production possible.

In addition to offering screenings of things such as blood pressure, pulse and weight, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice nurses are available at regular Ask the Nurse clinics throughout the community to help patients set healthy lifestyle goals and prepare for upcoming physician’s visits.

“Preparing for a visit to the doctor can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Health Promotions Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “Our nurses are available to help you navigate whatever questions and concerns you might be having about your health and make an action plan so you feel confident going into your appointment.”

Basic advice

When getting ready to visit the doctor, it’s important to write down all your symptoms and a sequence of events that occurred leading to your health concerns. Be concise with your information. Also make sure to bring your current insurance card and co-pay to the visit, as well as an up-to-date medication list to share with your provider. If you want to ask something specific, ask in a pleasantly assertive way. Don’t wait until the doctor is leaving the room to discuss the real reason you came.

Many patients don’t think to take notes during a visit, but it can be quite helpful, particularly if new medications or courses of treatment are discussed. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor politely if you feel rushed in conversation. It’s important to recognize the busy schedule physicians must keep while also advocating for the care that you need.

Know what to ask

Much of the responsibility for one’s health lies with the individual. Medical providers can make recommendations, offer treatment options and order tests, but it is critical patients take an active role in their own health. Part of this means being prepared to ask the right questions when you see your doctor.

Ask why the doctor’s recommendations are important, what symptoms you should watch for to report to your provider’s office, and be sure you understand the instructions you’ve been given to follow until you next see your physician.

Know your family history

Family medical histories are important, particularly when it comes to knowing one’s risk for a variety of conditions. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, family history might be one of the strongest influences on a person’s risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. The more you know about your risk factors, the more help you can be to your physician as they work to recommend the best course of your care.

Information in your family history might suggest to your doctor that you require certain screening tests or more frequents routine screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Family history of things such as Alzheimer’s and dementia also helps you to know what signs and symptoms to be on the look out for so you can discuss your changing health conditions with your doctor as soon as possible.

Bring an appointment companion

While it’s important that everyone see their doctor annually, many individuals – in particular senior citizens – may find their visits to be much more frequent.

This schedule can be helpful, but also makes it easier for information to blur from one visit to the next, or for patients to take for granted they’ll be seeing their doctor again soon and lose focus, leading to a misunderstanding of instructions or missed details.

Spouses, children or even friends can be helpful when brought along on a visit. An extra set of ears, someone to take notes for you and someone to help you remember the details of your medical history can be invaluable. In addition, bringing a companion or caregiver along often means you have an advocate with you to help clarify questions or ask questions you may be unsure of asking yourself.

Janine Fay named Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home chairman of the board

Janine Fay, a Clinton resident and the President and CEO of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice – headquartered in Guilford – recently took up the post of chairman of the board of the Connecticut Association for Healthcare at Home (CAHCH).

Her two-year term was effective Jan. 1 and she hit the ground running, leading a full-day CAHCH board retreat earlier this month to chart a course to lead the industry through significant challenges and consolidation.

Fay has decades of experience in the home healthcare industry, including 20 years with VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. She has led the organization as CEO since 2011.

Fay has been an active member of the CAHCH board and its committees over the years, most recently serving as Government Relations Committee Chair.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my work with CAHCH, an association whose mission I am passionate about, and taking on this new role leading its board. This is a challenging time for the home health and hospice industry as reimbursement rates continue to decline yet we see significant increases in the needs of patient’s being discharged from medical settings,” Fay said. “CAHCH does excellent work helping to bring home health and hospice providers together for advocacy and education. Its efforts are patient-centered and aimed at ensuring home health and hospice care that is cost effective and of the highest quality is available to all in need.”

As CAHCH board chairman, Fay succeeds Susan Adams, Vice President of Alliance Integration at Masonicare, who is now the immediate past chair and chairman of the CAHCH Government Relations committee.

For a full list of executive committee and board members, visit www.cthealthcareathome.org/page/Board.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is a century-old nonprofit agency with expertly trained staff who help individuals recover and regain independence quickly and easily. When a cure is no longer an option, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice provides individuals and families with choices, control and comfort in their final months. As a leader in healthcare at home and the self-care movement, the agency proudly serves 35 towns in southern Connecticut.

For more information, visit www.ConnecticutHomecare.org or call 203-458-4200.