Posts By: Abigail Storiale

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.

Think of mom and dad but think twice about visiting

This season can make it difficult to stick to social distancing measures – but now is the time to hold the line and resist the urge to relax restrictions.

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away followed soon after by Father’s Day. These holidays, of course, are ones best celebrated in person with the people we love. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many states are at the very least in discussions to begin reopening, ending social distancing to see mom or dad is not in their best interest in the long run.

Even as businesses and public spaces open up again, it will still be important – particularly for the aging and chronically ill who are at high-risk for severe complications of COVID-19 – to remain at home as much as possible, to stay 6 feet away from others in public, to wear a mask in public and to avoid close contact with those who do not live with you in your home, including other family members.

There is potential for subsequent waves of this virus and until a vaccine is available there is a still a risk for infection, so the best gift you can give your parents right now is the gift of good health.

Here are some ideas for special ways to say “I love you” this spring:

Virtual performances can be a great way to lift the spirits of grandparents who are struggling with the need to stay distant from the young ones in their lives. Organize a Zoom hangout with all the grandchildren and have them learn a new song and perhaps some choreography that can be performed together for grandma or grandpa. This can be a fun bonding activity for siblings and cousins that is sure to brighten up their grandparent’s day.

Another fun activity for children that is sure to bring out smiles from the recipient is an outdoor display. One idea is to have the kids collect and paint small rocks with messages of love that can be set up in their grandparent’s garden or along a front walkway as a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day rock garden surprise.

Of course, special deliveries of cards, flowers, gift baskets or a meal are always appreciated at any time. Throughout this crisis, in particular, consider supporting local, small businesses when ordering these things for delivery. Make sure mom or dad remembers to sanitize anything coming into their home.

If you do want to see each other face to face, remember that masks are critical but also not a guarantee of full protection, so its best to see each other briefly through a closed, glass door.

We all look forward to the day when hugs and hand holding are no longer replaced with on-screen hangouts and hellos from afar, but for now it’s important to put thought into what will make your parents and grandparents feel well loved this season, but think twice about visiting.

Stay focused, stay safe through the duration of the outbreak

 

The most important thing we can all continue to do is to minimize our risk of exposure to COVID-19.

It’s easy to become complacent, particularly now that months have gone by and we are all perhaps becoming settled into a new routine of social distancing. Evaluate any non-essential medical appointments to determine whether or not you feel it necessary to keep them, but do have a plan for what you’ll do if you do become sick – with COVID-19 symptoms or otherwise.

Staying at home does not mean you cannot take steps to take care of yourself and the people for whom you provide care.

Research telemedicine

Look into whether or not your primary care physician or other health care providers are offering telemedicine. This is particularly important for those with chronic health conditions. If you’re starting to run low on medication and haven’t done so already, ask your doctor for a prescription for a few months worth so you have what you need as this time of social distancing continues.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is offering virtual Ask the Nurse clinics to meet with residents in the agency’s territory virtually for usual in-person one-on-one coaching. Our team of registered nurses are available to review medications, discuss health goals and help you prepare for any upcoming medical appointment.

Stay connected

Make sure you are staying in touch with friends and family through today’s technological offerings such as video chat using a smartphone or computer. Engage in a hobby at home to keep your mind sharp and your hands active during this phase.

Also ensure you have an emergency contact in the event that you become ill, and if you serve as someone’s emergency contact, have a back-up plan in place in case you begin to show symptoms and cannot provide your usual level of care to your loved one.

Have enough food and essential items on hand for ideally two weeks at a time and continue to engage in proper hand washing and cleaning practices.

It may be tempting to spend time with grandchildren or other family members in person now that the first wave of COVID-19 is slowing in Connecticut, but the elderly must remember they remain in a high-risk category. Try to schedule any family visits to be held outside, and engage in social distancing while wearing a mask as much as possible.

Have a plan

Discuss with your loved ones in advance the steps you will take if you do develop symptoms such as cough, fever or trouble breathing. If symptoms are not severe, you will likely be told to stay at home to recover. A test at a local drive-thru testing location may be prescribed by your physician to confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis.

If you are told to go to the hospital, make sure to ask what steps you should take upon arrival and what to expect. Do not go to the hospital or emergency room without talking to your physician first as many hospitals are reaching capacity and, if your diagnosis has not been confirmed, you could be risking exposure to COVID-19 unnecessarily.

This is a challenging and often overwhelming time for many, but it will pass. It’s important to stay focused on your health and well-being and ask for help when its needed.

Support our team through COVID-19

 

As a result of the significant financial impact we’re seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have launched a $50,000 comprehensive campaign, We Are Stronger With You: The Campaign for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. To learn more about this campaign and to make a donation, click here.

 

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has a long history of serving members of the community in their homes to help them maintain independence and stay out of the hospital. This remains our focus in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As is true for all members of the medical community, this outbreak poses risks to our nurses and other staff members that are only exacerbated by a shortage of protective equipment as well as cleaning and sanitation supplies.

Our staff members are entering the homes of patients to care for complex medical needs, taking every precaution to protect the patient and themselves from COVID-19, which can be transmitted by even asymptomatic people. They are also caring for recovering COVID-19 patients who have been discharged from area hospitals into homecare to make space for those who are actively ill.

We are in need of the following items:

  • Lysol spray
  • Lysol wipes
  • Hand sanitizer

All items should be unopened. A donation box is located inside the front door of our building, the back building in Concept Park located at 753 Boston Post Road in Guilford.

 

Other ways to show your support:

If you want to show the community that you stand beside our healthcare providers who are serving those in need each day in the face of tremendous challenges, make a statement on social media.

Tag us in photos and posts so our staff, and all healthcare workers, know you appreciate the work that they do.

Right click on our custom profile picture badge below and update your profile photo to show support for our team:

Be part of the #socialdistancing movement, both on social media and in practice, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and let us know with your posts who you are staying home for by using the #IStayHomeFor hashtag, a campaign launched by actor Kevin Bacon.

We’re proud to do this work and we are always grateful for your support.

How to support high-risk loved ones during the outbreak

 

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is committed to helping keep all members of the communities we serve safe and healthy in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.

As the majority of our patients and wellness class participants are of the aging population, we take seriously our commitment to those who are most vulnerable.

We encourage everyone to engage in social distancing as recommended by the CDC. That means staying home unless absolutely necessary and avoiding close contact with anyone outside of your immediate family.

We know this is a time of uncertainty and stress for everyone, and can be particularly frightening for older people and their caregivers and other loved ones.

Here are a few suggestions for helping older relatives and friends through this time of necessary social distancing.

Set a daily Facetime date.

Social interaction is important. It helps us feel connected to those around us, which can lower stress and anxiety. Choose a time each day to speak on the phone with your elderly loved one. An even better option is to use your iPhone to Facetime or your desktop computer to Skype with the person so face-to-face discussions can be had.

Check on your elderly neighbors.

It’s important to make sure the people in our community are being taken care of during this tumultuous time. If you have an aging person in your neighborhood, stop by briefly to see if there is anything they need. Make sure to back up from the door after ringing the doorbell or knocking to allow a safe, 6-foot distance between you and them.

Leave a care package at their door.

Many older people are currently afraid to enter grocery stores or pharmacies to purchase essentials and food for fear of coming into contact with the virus. If you have items at home to spare or are young and healthy and able to pick up a few extra things during your own, necessary trip to the store, consider purchasing groceries for your loved one or neighbor or even just a few items to make them smile. Drop them off at their door with a note so no contact is needed.

Send them links to verified information.

Information – and therefore misinformation – is everywhere right now. Social media is a particular hotbed for articles concerning the pandemic, much of which contains facts that are not verified. Turn to sources like the CDC and share verified information from credible sources with the people you love so they can stay informed but also avoid panic.

Reach out for help.

If you are a caregiver struggling with the challenges of helping a newly homebound elderly loved one, call the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Helpline at 866.474.5230 to connect with our Caregiver Support Network for advice. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough or shortness of breath, contact your primary care physician immediately or call the Yale New Haven Health COVID-19 call center at 833-ASK-YNHH (833-275-9644.)

As a result of the significant financial impact we’re seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have launched a $50,000 comprehensive campaign, We Are Stronger With You: The Campaign for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. To learn more about this campaign and to make a donation, click here.

Healthcare Decisions Day 2020

 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this event has unfortunately been cancelled. 

 

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 Thursday, 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.

It is an initiative of The Conversation Project, which is aimed at helping people begin end of life conversations with loved ones and which works in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Without an advance care plan, a person’s loved one can be left making difficult decisions during a grief-stricken time with no guidance as to what their friend or family member would choose for themselves if they could. That is why it is so important to not only put thought into what you would want in a variety of medical situations, but also to learn how to choose a healthcare proxy, and how to have the conversation about your wishes with the people you care about most.

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 the Guilford Free Library. 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:

Hamden Senior Center
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
No registration required

North Haven Senior Center
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Guilford Senior Center
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Madison Senior Center
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Advance Care Planning panel April 16:

Guilford Free Library
67 Park St. Guilford
5 p.m. hors d’oeuvres
6 p.m. panel discussion

Register 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.

Spring 2020 Program Book Released

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers many opportunities to help you improve your health, prevent illnesses and keep you independent. From group classes, personalized blood pressure checks and nurse health coaching, to clinics and cholesterol screening, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice‘s team of professional nurses will help you design a personalized wellness program.

We are pleased to announce the release of our program book for Spring of 2020. Programs include a full line up of exercise classes and several wellness programs in towns throughout our territory.

Our next edition of the program book will be released in the late summer of 2020 containing programming information for fall and winter. To be added to the mailing list, please email Mary Higgins at mhiggins@vna-commh.org or call our toll free helpline at 1.866.474.5230.

Click the following link to view the Spring 2020 Program Book.

Thank you to our corporate sponsors of the Spring 2020 program book! To learn about our corporate sponsorship opportunities, email Sandy at KHernandez@vna-commh.org.

                   

Trust Your Heart

Trust Your Heart to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice

If you were having a heart attack, would you know it?

That may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but don’t be so sure. Between the fact that women often experience symptoms other than the recognizable chest pain, and that many men and women alike don’t realize their risk factors for heart disease, a cardiac event could be more likely than you think and could potentially go ignored until it’s too late.

During American Heart Month 2020 and all year long, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is working to help educate residents in its 35-town service area about the risks of heart disease and how to protect themselves.

Heart disease is a term for any condition that affects the heart’s structure and function. Annually, about 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Women often aren’t diagnosed with heart disease until about 10 years later in life than men, yet it remains the #1 killer of women.

Coronary heart disease – which is commonly understood as clogged arteries – is the most common type of heart disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, a smoking habit, being overweight or obese, having diabetes or prediabetes, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet, a family history of heart disease, preeclampsia during pregnancy and, for women, being over age 55.

Women who have gone through early menopause are twice as likely to develop heart disease.

Having just a single risk factor greatly increases the chances of developing heart disease, and the more risk factors a person has, the more serious concern should be. In Connecticut alone, 155,000 people have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, according to the NHLBI.

The good news is that simple steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or to keep the disease from progressing and nearly 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable.

Know your numbers

Having your blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked and discuss with your health provider what these numbers mean in terms of your risk for heart disease. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers Ask the Nurse clinics in Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Killingworth, Madison, North Haven and Woodbridge, at which a registered nurse can check these numbers for you and work with you to set health goals and determine what questions you should ask your doctor. There is no cost for this service and appointments are not required. Click here to see our full list of dates, locations and times.

Cholesterol and A1c cannot be checked during these clinics, but VNACHCH offers cholesterol lipid profile and blood sugar screenings with immediate results and nurse counseling for $35 in ou Guilford and Hamden offices. These appointed can be scheduled by calling our Helpline, 866.474.5230.

Get social support

Sticking to a regular exercise plan that includes at least 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week is critical to heart health, as is incorporating a healthy eating plan into your daily routine.  Diets high in trans and saturated fats, added sugars and sodium all increase the risk factors of heart disease. Social support can make a big difference in maintaining a commitment to lifestyle changes. Exercise classes you can attend with friends and a supportive instructor can be helpful. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers numerous exercise classes for all fitness levels to help you make quick work of working out.

Get educated

Community heart health education courses offer resources, tips and information and can help increase your ability to take control of your heart health. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends people take a class, such as VNACHCH’s Living a Heart Healthy Lifestyle – offered this February 19 at 1 p.m. in the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Wellness Center, 753 Boston Post Road, Guilford. These classes also teach how to spot the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, including lesser recognized symptoms like pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, as well as cold sweats, nausea and light-headedness.

“More than 1 in 10 Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease, but by taking proactive steps everyone can reduce their risk,” said VNACHCH Health Promotion Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “As a nonprofit home healthcare agency committed to bettering the health and wellness of members of the communities we serve, we are here to help you learn about your personal risk factors and to make the changes needed to avoid a heart disease diagnosis.”