Posts By: Abigail Storiale

Annual Report 2020

For VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, 2020 was a year of resilience. We are proud of or team that puts forth heroic effort in the face of COVID-19 and always.

In our latest annual report we share the stories of how our clinicians in the field, our Health Promotions staff and our many other team members devoted to helping our patients and caregivers came together in persistent devotion to our mission despite the challenges of the last several months. Our report is complete with statistics about the care we provide and number of individuals we help on a yearly basis.

Our community programs and caregiver support were moved into the virtual space so our engagement with the hundreds of clients we serve through wellness programs could continue. Our staff remained in the homes of our patients, despite the risks of the pandemic, to keep them safe at home. Our hospice volunteers went above and beyond to provide comfort, companionship and a helping hand to patients and their loved ones – even from a distance.

Within this report, as always, we thank our many donors who support our nonprofit efforts to help individuals facing a healthcare crisis remain at home, and to improve the health and wellness of the community at large.

Our team is comprised of healthcare workers who are educators – ready and organized when it comes to providing care. They are innovators and caregivers who are up to any challenge. That’s how we define heroic.

To view the annual report, click here:

To learn more about ways to give to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, click here. 

Agency offers drive-thru flu clinics

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, another layer of public health concern will be added with the arrival of flu season.

To help members of the community obtain their important annual flu shot while maintaining social distancing and protecting everyone from exposure to COVID-19, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is offering drive-thru public clinics this year.

Influenza is a serious lung disease caused by a virus, which spreads from person to person. Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache and sore throat. Although many are only sick for a few days, thousands die each year. The virus can make anyone ill – most deaths are in people over age 50 and the flu is particularly dangerous for young children. Serious complications, such as pneumonia can lead to hospitalization.

Although the flu vaccine does not prevent the flu in all cases, it significantly lessens the impact the virus has on the body, and reduces the severity of symptoms a person experiences.

“The best thing you can do to protect yourself and the people around is to get your flu shot,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Health Promotion Supervisor Tracy Blanford. “It is a safe, effective way to reduce your risk of getting the flu and to help you recover more quickly if you do get sick. Particularly during this time when the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 persists, we encourage everyone to be vaccinated against the flu so their immune systems are armed against at one of these potentially very serious viruses.”

Everyone over 6 months of age should get the flu shot, particularly those with a chronic condition and caregivers of those at high-risk.

The vaccine is developed yearly based on the strains expected to be most prevalent and it takes one to two weeks to take effect, but will protect you for several months. The vaccine cannot cause the flu, but it will not prevent other illnesses you may contract around the time of receiving the vaccine or against the flu if you are infected within the two week window before the vaccine takes effect. The vaccine can cause some side effects – including temporary fever or aches – though most people have no reaction at all.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is holding public flu clinics in Guilford, Madison, North Haven, Hamden, Woodbridge and Wallingford. Pre-registration is required for all clinics.

For more information and to pre-register, click here.

New Dodge Diabetes section opens this fall

Prevention is a critical piece of the puzzle of health and wellness.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, a local nonprofit devoted to helping its home healthcare patients and all members of the 35 communities it serves to achieve their best quality of life, believes in the importance of prevention and healthcare education.

That is why it will once again host its yearlong program, Dodge Diabetes, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 15.

One in three American adults has prediabetes. Those with prediabetes are at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, as many with prediabetes do within five years if they do not lose weight or increase their physical activity level. Diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and loss of toes, feet or legs.

People are most likely to have prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes if they are 45 years of age or older, are overweight, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, are physically active fewer than three times per week or have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing more than nine pounds.

The best, controllable way to prevent diabetes is to lose weight through exercise and smart eating habits. Dodge Diabetes focuses on education in these areas to help individuals cut their risk of developing diabetes in half. Participants will learn how to make healthy food choices, add physical activity into their day, cope with stress, handle obstacles and overcome barriers to stay on track or get back on track when needed, track progress, stay motivated and set goals.

The program is based on the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s Prevent T2, a successful, evidence-based lifestyle change program. Prevent T2 is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

A total of 26 classes will be held throughout the next year on Tuesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Classes will be held virtually via Zoom with a potential for in-person meetings in the Agency’s Guilford Wellness Center once it is deemed safe to do so. For the first four months, the class meets every week, then every other week, and then once a month during the last half of the year.

“Diabetes is a potentially devastating chronic illness, but one that is preventable with the right tools and support,” said Tracy Blanford, RN, Health Promotion Supervisor at VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. “We are pleased to be able to provide this life-changing program to members of the community we serve. Our goal is to help individuals facing pre-diabetes to incorporate healthy changes into their lives and to maintain these changes to see positive results.”

This program is supported by grant funding from the Guilford Health Department Preventative Health & Health Services Block Grant, and the CT Department of Public Health.

The cost is $85 for the full 12-month program. For more information, call the VNACHCH Helpline at 866.474.5230. To register for the class, visit our calendar.

New volunteers complete virtual training

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice recently welcomed its four newest volunteers, and the first ever to be trained virtually. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jo Ann Begley conducted the training via Zoom over a period of three days. Pictured from top left the volunteers include: Anna Bagley, Bryan Iozzia, Janet Moran and Judy Tewksbury. “We are fortunate to have people willing to serve our patients in any way possible despite the pandemic,” Begley said. Hospice volunteer efforts include serving as a patient companion both for the benefit of the patient and to offer a caregiver respite; providing relaxation therapies such as pet therapy, art and music therapy; offering spiritual, bereavement, administrative and vigil support. To learn more about the rewarding experience of volunteering for the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice program, contact the team at 203.458.5950.

Hospice patient’s wish granted

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice patient Jan Frew sits with her dog and VNA social worker Jennifer McMahon in a golf cart given at a reduced cost to the family by Torello Motorized Carts. VNACHCH paid for the cart using donations made to support the agency hospice wish program to grant Jan’s wish to be able to visit the beach nearby her home daily this summer.


Every person deserves the chance to live life to the fullest.

That is why VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, a century-old nonprofit devoted to helping its home healthcare patients and all members of the 35 communities it serves to achieve their best quality of life, launched a program to grant the wishes of its hospice patients.

Although hospice is a service engaged by those who have a terminal diagnosis of 6 months or less, hospice is focused on living – not on dying. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers a holistic plan of care comprised of symptom management rather than curative treatment. It includes personal and medical care enhanced by therapies to address all needs ranging from those of the body to those of the spirit and mind.

While the VNACHCH team of registered nurses, a hospice physician, home health aides, social workers, volunteers, bereavement counselors and spiritual counselors has always provided high-quality care since the agency began its hospice program three years ago, the agency decided to increase its commitment by utilizing donation dollars to grant the wishes of hospice patients.

These wishes range from simple but powerful – such as a candlelit, white glove service dinner at home for a husband and wife – to more complex requests.

The care team for Guilford hospice patient Jan Frew recently brought forward a wish to help Jan and her husband continue their daily walks to the beach by their home. Due to her diagnosis, Jan now uses an oxygen tank and is unable to make the walk unassisted.

With the help of Torello Motorized Carts owner Sherry Purvis-Torello, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice was able to give Jan a way to enjoy this summer fully. The business provided a two-month rental of a two-seat electric golf cart to the Frew family for a significantly reduced rate, which VNACHCH paid for using the generous gifts donors have made to the hospice wish program.

Purvis-Torello then offered to donate the cart at the end of the contract, free of charge.

“Sherry has a long-standing history with VNACHCH and, when she heard what we were trying to accomplish, she had a golf cart detailed and ready for delivery within hours,” explained VNACHCH Development Coordinator Kassandra Hernandez. “They were such a joy to work with. They delivered the cart directly to Jan’s house and were so thoughtful in their use and care instructions. We are so grateful to Torello Motorized Carts and to all the generous individuals in the community who support our efforts to help improve the lives of our hospice patients.”

With the help of a $5,000 grant from the Branford Community Foundation, the wish program launched as a pilot program in 2019 to benefit VNACHCH Branford patients. As the agency is now expanding the program throughout its territory, it will be reliant on donations to continue granting wishes, and providing other comfort items that are not covered by Medicare and other insurances for hospice patients.

For her part, Jan was tremendously grateful for the difference this wish granting made on her quality of life. She said being able to go to the beach to see and smell the ocean has made a significant impact on her mental and emotional health.

“I am so overwhelmed that the VNA did this for me,” Jan said. “We are so grateful they made this happen. Our neighbor’s are so tickled that the Torello’s did this – it was so generous of them. They are a wonderful family and everyone in the cove loves them. This freed me from being stuck inside one room in my house. I never thought I would be able to make it down to the beach again, but this made it possible.”

She said to VNACHCH and the Torello family, “You are angels on earth taking care of me and I don’t have enough words to say thank you.”

To make a donation to support the work of VNACHCH, click here.

Agency again earns CHAP accreditation

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice was recently once again awarded Community Health Accreditation Partner, Inc., (CHAP) accreditation under the CHAP Standards of Excellence.

CHAP Accreditation demonstrates that VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice meets the industry’s highest national recognized standards. The rigorous evaluation by CHAP focuses on structure and function, quality of services and products, human and financial resources and long-term viability. Adherence to CHAP’s standards leads to better quality care and better business performance.

“By achieving CHAP Accreditation, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has show a commitment to excellence,” said Barbara McCann, CHAP President & CEO. “We are excited to continue our partnership with VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice by offering support in its commitment to providing quality care and continuous improvement.”

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is a century old nonprofit, donor-supported organization with a rich tradition of offering exceptional home healthcare services and extensive community care resources to more than 35 towns in southern Connecticut. The agency partners with patients and caregivers to provide support, education, and guidance as needs change.

“We are proud to have a team that is consistently affirmed to meet the highest standards – one that has gone above and beyond during the last few challenging months and always to provide exceptional and safe care to the people we serve,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice CEO Janine Fay.

CHAP is an independent, nonprofit accrediting body for home and community-based health care organizations. It was the first entity to recognize the need and value for accreditation in home and community-based care with more than 5,000 organizations currently accredited nationwide. It is a nationally approved accrediting organization with authority granted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to survey agencies and determine if they meet the Medicare Conditions of Participation and CMS Quality Standards.

Agency offers virtual wellness classes

The need to keep your distance doesn’t mean you need to keep off your feet.

Although the COVID-19 numbers in Connecticut are now low and continue to trend in the right direction, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice knows how important it is to maintain social distancing and to continue to wear masks for the protection of everyone, in particular those who are most vulnerable to the serious complications of this novel coronavirus.

With that in mind, the nonprofit made the difficult decision to close its Guilford Wellness Center and Hamden program room for the remainder of the calendar year. Similarly, many senior centers and other public centers where VNACHCH typically holds classes remain closed at this time.

Despite that, the agency has developed a full lineup of virtual exercise classes to help keep its participants engaged and in touch through this challenging time.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is now registering participants for several live classes via Zoom, as well as pre-recorded classes, which will begin in September.

The fall lineup includes a live Fitness and Movement Basics class and a more advanced live Functional Cardio & Fitness class – both designed to help participants reduce their risk of falls by focusing on strength, agility, balance, range of motion and coordination. They agency is also offering live Tai Ji Quan classes via Zoom. These classes, both a beginner and advanced section, are focused on posture and awareness and mindful control of body positioning.

VNACHCH also continues to run its exercise class tailored toward individuals living with Parkinson’s disease in a live format via Zoom, and the agency’s popular Parkinson’s support groups for patients and caregivers, as well as the general caregiver support group, are also ongoing via Zoom.

Pre-recorded classes include Tai Chi for Arthritis, Zumba Gold, Senior Boot Camp, and Chair Yoga for Pain Free Living. These classes are accessed via the agency’s YouTube channel once a participant has registered.

All classes carry a small fee for a 12-week series.

“COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges, but we were determined to continue to support our clients and their families as much as possible,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Director of Marketing & Development Abigail Storiale. “We know so many of our exercise class participants depend on us to stay moving, stay fit and stay healthy and so we hope they’ll take advantage of what we’ve made possible in the virtual space. We are always available to help any person in need of wellness support via our Helpline, and we look forward to seeing our clients in person again in the future.”

To register for a class and for more information, including the day of the week and time of live classes as well as cost details, visit the Calendar.

Steady Steps program offered virtually

One step at a time seems like such a simple concept.

Despite that, slips and trips can happen to anyone so it’s important to be aware and, literally, take steps that reduce your risk of falls.

People over the age of just 55 are most prone to falls, though anyone with physical or sensory deficits, such as visual impairments or foot problems, is at risk. Also at risk are those with a chronic illness, those taking more than four prescription medications, and those who have noticed a decline in their physical mobility or changes in their balance.

Although the state has reopened and life is returning to a new period of normalcy, COVID-19 will have a persistent impact until a vaccine is available or herd immunity is achieved and it could be many months before precautions such as social distancing are not required and until the hospital system does not need to stand at the ready bracing for potentially high numbers of cases.

Older adults who fall are among the heaviest users of emergency rooms so preventing falls helps to ease the burden on healthcare providers. Older adults are also at highest risk to suffer serious effects of COVID-19 and so staying out of the hospital where the exposure risk is heightened is in their best interest.

This is an important time to focus on reducing the risk of falls, which is why VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has moved its award winning fall prevention program Steady Steps into the virtual space so it remains accessible despite the fact that the agency’s in-person classes and assessments are on hold for the immediate future.

The program includes a 10-session fall risk education component as well as exercise classes and demonstrations.

Falls are one of the most preventable health problems. Of our Steady Steps participants, 85 percent lowered their risk of falls, improved balance and learned how to prevent falls from occurring.

Funded by a grant from the Connecticut Collaboration for Fall Prevention and Yale University School of Medicine through the Department of Aging, our Steady Steps program is based on research by experts from both.

To view links and details on the complete Virtual Steady Steps program, click here.

VNACHCH stands against racial injustice

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has for more than a century been devoted to community – not just to our own community but to the global idea of community and what can be accomplished when people align themselves with a mission to do good in the world.

It is with this backdrop that I have truly struggled to put together the right words to express my feelings of sadness and of frustration over the horrific death of George Floyd – the latest of many similar occurrences that shine a growing spotlight on systemic racism in our country.

It’s just as overwhelming to watch the peaceful protests of these events be juxtaposed with violence that is further dividing communities and causing more pain to the people striving for meaningful change in the face of a legacy of trauma.

We must do better. These injustices have been allowed to pervade our society for far too long. Racism and bias have no place in our communities and it is incumbent upon each of us to embody the opposite and to spread compassion to each other.

As a healthcare organization I also know we also cannot close our eyes to the fact that in our industry people of color are statistically disproportionately underserved and this is an area in which we can continue to fight for correction.

I know we can do more – listen more, learn more and advocate more. It is important to me as I hope it is to all of you that we come together in understanding, respect and empathy for what our black community members are feeling at this time and for the experiences and challenges they face every day.

Building a better community is up to us and it must be now.

-Janine Fay, President & CEO

Claudia Cozzi awarded for Excellence in Nursing

Claudia Cozzi is, above all, a strong advocate for her patients.

As a result of her devotion to the people she serves, the 16-year VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice primary care nurse was recently chosen as a recipient of this year’s Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing. The ceremony usually held in May has been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The year 2020 is recognized nationally as the Year of the Nurse, among other reasons to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – acknowledged as the founder of modern nursing – which was May 12.

During her career, Cozzi has always gone above and beyond for patients and coworkers alike, according to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Director of Nursing Karen Naccarato.

“Claudia is a positive representation of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice who has a natural gift to maker her patients laugh, smile and feel better,” Naccarato said. “Her ability extends to her coworkers as well who greatly appreciate all her kindness and support.”

Naccarato praised Cozzi for her extensive home care knowledge, professionalism, “true compassion and exceptional care.”

One patient said of Cozzi, “We honestly don’t know what we would have done without her during my husband’s long convalescence. She cared for him with extreme patience, professionalism and warmth.”

Another said, “Claudia’s honesty and great care went well beyond what any visiting nurse would be required to do and for that reason I say thank you.”

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.

For information on supporting our healthcare heroes like Claudia, click here to learn more about our ongoing fundraising campaign We Are Stronger With You: The Campaign for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice.