VNACHCH strengthens presence in Hamden

HAMDEN – There is a common thread that all caregivers share, and VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is committed to strengthening the fibers of that thread as it invests in the community.

After a decade in North Haven, the nonprofit healthcare agency decided earlier this summer to consolidate its successful efforts to foster health and wellness in its Hamden location. The North Haven Family Caregiver Resource Center was moved to One Hamden Center, located on Whitney Avenue, which offered a strengthening of the agency’s Hamden presence and growth of its already robust resource center for this region of the 35 towns it serves.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice also operates out of its main office on Boston Post Road in Guilford, as well as Family Caregiver Resource Centers in Old Saybrook and West Haven.

The agency serves as the official Visiting Nurse Association for the towns of Hamden and North Haven and works closely with Elderly Services in both towns, though its offerings are far more vast than nursing alone. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is a century-old nonprofit organization with a rich tradition of offering exceptional home healthcare services and extensive community care resources, including a variety of wellness and caregiver programs, a Helpline and an award-winning fall risk reduction program.

The vitality of the area’s services in the Hamden area was further strengthened by the introduction of a new Manager of Therapy Services, Donna Casablanca, and a new Branch Clinical Manager, LouAnna Wilkinson.
Wilkinson has years of experience with VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice under her belt, but with her recent move to Hamden she has found renewed passion for her job.

“It is extremely rewarding to help folks stay in their home while caring for them and teaching them to care for themselves,” Wilkinson said. “We offer so much to the community in services from skilled nursing and therapy to private care through LIFETIME Care at Home, to our caregiver support groups. I feel very lucky to work for an agency that can help people and families in so many different areas.”
Casablanca worked in acute care and outpatient orthopedic settings before settling into home healthcare and is finding she enjoys the community presence VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice works to maintain. She noted the Ask the Nurse Clinics, physical therapy clinics, community exercise classes and range of services the agency provides.

She is proud to have helped the agency implement the New Beginnings program in assisted living facilities to asses a person’s mobility so they can safely transition into new surroundings and navigate their new environment.
Casablanca hopes that as VNACHCH strengthens its presence, the community will respond.

“Hopefully we become familiar, comforting and trusted faces to people when they are in the middle of an unsettling time facing a healthcare challenge,” she said.

When it comes to working with caregivers, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s Family Caregiver Support Network Coordinator Jo Ann Begley is committed to helping individuals in need.

“Our Resource Center is a place where caregivers and individuals can come for information and referrals to whatever resources might support their situation,” Begley explained. “We welcome our patients and their families, former patients, wellness class participants and any resident of Hamden or North Haven seeking guidance. It doesn’t matter if you have an established relationship with our agency or the length of time you’ve worked with us previously. We’re here to help.”

Begley noted that individuals are being discharged from medical settings more quickly and with greater needs than they ever have been before, so family members and patients are often unprepared or underprepared for what is expected of them.

“Our intention is to help give people the tools that they need to be well so we can prevent hospital readmissions and keep people safe at home, where they want to be,” she said.

All visits to the Hamden Resource Center must be scheduled in advance and consults can be done on the phone or in person. Call the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Helpline at 866-474-5230 to make an appointment.

The agency also offers a caregiver support group the last Tuesday of the month from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Miller Senior Center. The support group will soon include visits from guest speakers and is led by a facilitator who happens to specialize in geriatric care management, though Begley stressed caregivers of all ages and walks of life are welcome and will find the help they need.

She is grateful to have spent many years working with caregivers and seeing firsthand the impact VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice support groups have on participants.

“There is this synergy you can just see among these people who didn’t know each other at first. It’s beautiful to watch them support each other and give each other suggestions and ideas. This one’s loved one may have chronic heart disease, this one Alzheimer’s and this one COPD, but they are all there to help each other cope with whatever their situation is,” Begley said.

“Anybody who is struggling with the ins and outs of day-to-day life and navigating caregiving for a loved one will benefit from involvement in this group,” Begley added. “Whether you’re a parent, a spouse or a child or sibling, we have the resources you need. There is a common thread that all caregivers share, regardless of what the relationship to the person is or the diagnosis.”