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Little did Barbara Pearce and Joseph Mooney know that weeks after marking their first anniversary, their biggest challenge yet, COVID-19, was just around the corner.

Hospice Care Began at Connecticut Hospice

February 1, 2021 marked the 2nd anniversary of new leadership taking over The Connecticut Hospice. It was a relief for the staff when Barbara Pearce, CEO, and Joseph Mooney, CFO, arrived bringing hope for American's 1st Hospice. And, while it is no secret of the mountain of challenges and changes the non-profit has been through over the last two years, it isn't until you hear them spoken out loud that it becomes apparent that Connecticut Hospice is resilient.

“We lost one third of our workforce, including 39% of our nurses, in ninety days in the second quarter of 2020."

In a recent interview, Barbara Pearce, CEO, shared her recollection of her last two years at Connecticut Hospice, with Bruce Tulgan, creator of The Indispensables podcast. Listening to Barbara share the numerous and sometimes grueling challenges the organization has faced during the last two years, it becomes clear why Connecticut Hospice has been around for forty-seven years -- hospice care started at and continues at Connecticut Hospice.

Use link below to hear the full podcast.

https://the-indispensables.captivate.fm/?fbclid=IwAR2NnKfVuKlXpTI28jQ9eJZyzKdZLSzzNYyYxrhZyqvSidcRN6uj3v4dSrU


About the Podcast

The Indispensables Podcast

Conversations with real go-to people who stand the test of time in the real world of work. Based on Bruce Tulgan's new book, The Art of Being Indispensable at Work, The Indispensables is a podcast series about how real people, in the real world, become indispensable, go-to people who stand the test of time at work. For more information, visit Rainmaker Thinking.


"Connecticut Hospice may not be able to add days to your life, but it can certainly add life to your days." -Barbara Pearce

Since Connecticut Hospice relies on contributions to provide customized services and therapies that aren't entirely covered by insurance, Scot Haney of WFSB Channel 3’s Better Connecticut came to shed some light on our virtual and socially-distant holiday fundraiser, Lights of Love.

America’s First Hospice

In the interview, Barbara discusses what differentiates Connecticut Hospice from other end-of-life care programs in Connecticut, including our rich history as America's first Hospice. Barbara also references our founder, Florence Wald, former dean of the Yale School of Nursing.

Allowing Visitors During COVID 19

Barbara speaks about how Connecticut Hospice is making significant efforts to continue allowing visitors during COVID. As a holistic program that values patient and family-centered care, Connecticut Hospice understands how important it is for patients to see their loved ones during end-of-life care, most especially during the holidays.

CT Hospice Water Views

The article also features footage of the glorious water views of Long Island Sound and the beautiful grounds for visitors to gather in larger (up to five people) socially distant groups.

Lights of Love, Annual Fundraiser.

Trees lit up for the Lights of Love Fundraiser

For the month of December, Connecticut Hospice is lighting up the grounds with many trees strung with holiday lights in memory of loved ones.  Supporters can sponsor fully lit trees or individual strings of lights or menorah bulbs.

There are also fully decorated trees on display in the lobby that have been donated by organizations and individuals. The decorated trees are offered in a silent auction, which is running through December 13th, 2020. 

Barbara offers a special thanks to the Branford Rotary Club who has helped tremendously with the Lights of Love virtual fundraiser, including putting up all of the holiday trees.

Branford Rotary Club

"Connecticut Hospice may not be able to add days to your life, but it can certainly add life to your days." -Barbara Pearce

Florence Wald, pioneer of hospice care

Honoring Our Legacy: Florence Wald and Hospice Care Over the Years

When one enters The Connecticut Hospice, it becomes almost immediately clear what a nurse-centric place it is. There’s a reason for that, and her name is Florence Wald. She was our founder, often called the Mother of Hospice in America.

In 1974, Florence Wald Founded The Connecticut Hospice as America's first Hospice

For many years, the nurses have asked for a picture of our founder on the inpatient floor. Through the good graces of two retired Connecticut Hospice nurses, Gen O’Connell and Dianne Puzycki, and portrait painter, Angela Rose Agnello, (daughter of staff nurse), we unveiled the portrait of Florence Wald on the second floor yesterday, to great applause.

Painted portrait of Florence Wald, hospice care pioneer

We have written elsewhere about our history, and the long list of our accomplishments, but it’s important also to understand just how Florence Wald changed the care of patients with terminal illnesses. After she spent time at the world’s first hospice in London, Saint Christopher’s, she returned with determination to alter the course of end of life care.

Florence Wald changed the way terminal cancer patients were treated

At that time, in the early 1970s, people often wouldn’t even say the word “cancer” out loud. Some of you remember when it was referred to as the “Big C”. There were even those who feared that cancer could be contagious, and were afraid to be too close to those who had it. Of course, in those days, the likelihood of survival was much lower. Sometimes, doctors didn’t tell patients, or families, what the course of the disease would be, or that person’s prognosis. This led to people dying without closure, or with survivors only beginning to process their grief.

For all these reasons, Ms. Wald decided early on to focus on the care of cancer patients. She was a force of nature, and was determined to change what many doctors and nurses considered standard practice at the time. Researchers can read many of Florence Wald’s papers, thanks to the Yale School of Nursing.

One of the key tenants of hospice care established by Florence Wald, was to provide holistic and comprehensive support and care for patients, caregivers, and family members.

Of particular concerns was what happened to those left behind, especially children of cancer patients. This might not be considered a good idea by many, but she got involved in the lives of the families, even taking some of the children home with her. She wanted them to have the comfort they weren’t getting in the medical system of that time.

In 1983, Connecticut Hospice was the first hospice to be reimbursed by Medicare.

Medicare set up what are now known as COP, Conditions of Participation, and they govern what hospice care needs to include. One of those requirements, 13 months of bereavement care for the survivors, is now practiced everywhere, and most likely came from those early principles espoused by Florence Wald.

Principles of hospice and palliative care were established at Connecticut Hospice in Branford.

8 disciplines of the hospice care team
Hospice and Palliative Care is a Team Approach

Much of what we consider essential for death with dignity also harks back to those first patients. We now have a Plan of Care for everyone, and patients participate to whatever extent they can in planning for their end of life care. Doctors are now taught in medical school to have those difficult conversations, although many of them say that much more training is necessary. And, even though there is still a tension between the medical profession’s drive to keep patients alive, and the realities of the likely outcomes, we do see people choosing palliative care, when curative treatment becomes risky or speculative.

Cancer is not a verboten word anymore, but our tradition of treating the dying, no matter the cause, continues. We took wonderful care of AIDS patients in the early days of that scourge, and today we accept COVID-positive patients into our care. We try to give patients peace, comfort, freedom from pain, and closure, in whatever form that takes for them.

We honor Florence Wald in our continued pursuit of providing quality, comprehensive, and compassionate care for patients and their families.

Hospice male patient in hospital bed outside with doctor and black horse standing at beside.

Florence would have been proud of us when we arranged for a dying man to say goodbye to his horse on our lawn, or when a social worker put another man’s feet into buckets of water pulled up onto his bed, so that he could feel the seawater one last time. Or, when a patient got to experience one last surprise birthday celebration, and share it with her family living on the other side of the country.

Female patient in hospital bed wearing pink crown and holding stuffed cat celebrating birthday with two hospital staff members

We are grateful for the wonderful legacy we have from Florence Wald and those early nurses who toiled alongside her. The world is a better place because of her work, and what better closure could there be to a life?

Birthday Party at Connecticut Hospice brings surprises

Smiling hospice patient sitting in bed with tiara on and holding a siamese cat soft toy

Making our patients feel special is always a major goal of the Connecticut Hospice Interdisciplinary Team. Helping our patients and family members to make the most of their time together and to make new memories is another rewarding focus of our work. 

Recently our team came together creatively to help make hospice patient Catherine Simpson’s birthday a very special event for her and her family. 

Hospice staff bring ice cream cake to patient sitting up in bed

Knowing her birthday was approaching, Cathy’s caregivers casually asked what sort of cake she would like, and she shared that having her favorite ice cream cake was one of her final wishes.  Big Y stepped in to donate a large ice cream cake, while Social Work and Arts Department staff prepared for a surprise birthday party with a twist.

Balloons decorated her room, along with a giant birthday banner, hand-painted by staff artist Karen Burgess and adorned with her favorite cat pictures. 

Coming as a surprise to Cathy, arrangements had quickly been made for her to have a Zoom Party with three generations of family members who live out of state. 

Hand painted birthday banner with calligraphy and cat pictures

Sporting a tiara, and assisted with her make up by her CNA, Cathy saw her beloved sister, nieces and nephews far away in Nevada and California.

Each member of the family took it in turns to share a special memory of the patient with her.  During this precious birthday “visit”, she smiled broadly and shed joyful tears.  She clearly felt their love, and was able to say “I love you” to her closest family members “face-to-face” even though they are far away.

Hospice patient's family members are pictured on tv screen facing hospice patient's bed while staff
Hospice patient points to tv screen where her out-of-state family members give greetings on her Zoom Birthday Party
Hospice Social work  and Arts Program staff members stand next to patient's bed with balloons and birthday banner hanging behind.

"She looks so very happy"

On speaking to the team later, Cathy’s sister said

“She looks so very happy. I can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful things you do and have done for my beautiful sister.  I will be forever grateful”. 

Permission was given to publish this story and the patient's name.

Olympic sized swimming pool at Connecticut Hospice

Connecticut Hospice is pleased to join forces once again with Branford Parks and Recreation Department to offer the Hospice Pool Program.

Socially distanced swimming is easy when our pool is Olympic-sized, and numbers are kept low. 

Add beautiful views of Long Island Sound and ample free parking, and there's no reason not to join us. 

Options include; Open Swim, Aquacise Classes, and Senior Swim.  

For eligibility and details, please visit:  Branford Parks & Recreation Hospice Pool Program

Yale Hospice & Palliative Medicine Fellows train at Connecticut Hospice

Two doctors face camera with welcoming CEO Barbara Pearce between them

We are delighted that clinical rotations have recommenced at Connecticut Hospice, following a temporary hold forced by COVID-19.  

On July 13 CEO Barbara Pearce and Medical Director Dr. Joseph Sacco welcomed Hospice and Palliative Care Fellows Dr. Alex Choi and Dr. Bryan Terry for orientation prior to their rotations with Connecticut Hospice in partnership with Yale-New Haven Medical Center's Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program.

While at Connecticut Hospice, they will spend time Inpatient and in Home Care with the Interdisciplinary Team, and will expand their knowledge and experience in all aspects of hospice and palliative care, including:

Recognized nationally and internationally as a pioneering hospice and palliative care teaching institution through its educational branch, The John D. Thompson Hospice Institute for Education and Learning, Connecticut Hospice is proud to share its expertise with clinicians from around the country and the world.  We look forward to welcoming Dr. Faisal Radwi of Saudi Arabia shortly.

Contact Admissions

Admissions may be scheduled seven days a week.
Call our Centralized Intake Department: (203) 315-7540.

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