Former Wilton resident heads first-of-its-kind hospice center

About four weeks after its Jan. 26 opening, Regional Hospice and Home Care’s Center for Comfort Care and Healing began checking patients into the brand-new facility at 30 Milestone Road in Danbury.
The 36,000-square-foot, stand-alone, nonprofit-run facility with all private patient suites is the first of its kind in Connecticut.
The center has 144 employees and will house about 1,000 patients a year, said Cynthia Roy, CEO and president of Regional Hospice and a former Wilton resident — “a majority of them being young individuals.
“The building has 12 patient suites and it allows for patients and their families to come stay here at the end of a patient’s life,” said Ms. Roy.
To stay at the center, patients must be on hospice care, said Ms. Roy — “they have to have a six-month or less prognosis in order to be eligible for the building.”
“Patients can come to live here for days, weeks or months, but they generally only stay for five days to a week,” she said.
“The building has a bereavement center for children and families, and it also has a number of family living areas like a family kitchen and living room, a chapel, library, spa room, and then a variety of other living spaces that families can congregate in.”
The facility is designed to take care of patients of all ages — from babies to adults.

“My hope for the building is that we’ll be able to service a large pediatric population of patients who are dying,” said Ms. Roy. “My goal is to take care of those children in this setting [since] there aren’t a lot of other setting options for them.”
“If there is a 5-year-old who’s dying of a rare cancer and the family doesn’t want the child at home because it’s just very sad and difficult because there are other children in the household, for example, the 5-year-old can come and be here and her family can come stay here with her, or we can take of her and her family can come visit,” said Ms. Roy.
“Essentially, the child will die here peacefully, and the child’s home becomes a place that the child lived in and didn’t die in, which is important to a lot of families.”
Ms. Roy said the cost to stay at the Center for Comfort Care and Healing depends on the patient’s level of care and needs.

“If they’re a private-pay patient and they’re somebody on hospice and they want to have a room here, they pay $495 a day,” said Ms. Roy.
“It’s actually less than the cost of many facilities for a private room that’s almost 500 square feet.”
Ms. Roy said one of her responsibilities is to work with corporations and foundations to raise funds for Regional Hospice’s programs.
“We’re a nonprofit hospice [that] raises funds to offset the cost of care, so we take patients regardless of their ability to pay,” said Ms. Roy.
“If I have a 5-year-old and her insurance only covers 50% of the care, we always raise funds for the other 50%. We don’t ask families for money if they can’t afford it.”

Cynthia Roy

Ms. Roy grew up in Wilton, and after receiving a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University she worked for the Alzheimer’s Association in New York City. She found that “there were a lot of families who were really struggling with end-of-life care decisions” and she decided that end-of-life care was something she had an interest in.
Ms. Roy moved back to Wilton, where she worked as executive director of Mid-Fairfield Hospice for nine years, and in 2007, she moved to Danbury to work for Regional Hospice.
“The hospice here in Danbury was very committed to doing it,” she said, “so I came to work for them for the sole purpose that we would build this building and grow.”

State regulations

Ms. Roy said Regional Hospice went through an eight-year process to build the center.
“We’re the first of its kind in the state, which means we’re forging the path that no one else has taken. One of the things that we worked on at the state level was changing the hospice regulations in the state to allow this kind of best-practice model,” said Ms. Roy.
“The regulations that were around prior to us building this were 1970s regulations that said things like you have to have a water fountain near the bedside and you have to have a curtain between beds. The regulations didn’t require private rooms — they didn’t require best practices in health care.”
Ms. Roy said it took about two years for a bill that changed state regulations to pass in both the House and Senate and be signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Construction and design

After the bill was signed into law, Ms. Roy said, construction of the $12-million facility took “almost two years to build and certainly much longer to plan.”
“It took about four and a half years to plan the actual structure and all that was involved in it,” said Ms. Roy “and a lot of thought was given to certain elements of patient rooms.”
The “feel” of the 450-square-foot patient rooms was taken into consideration, said Ms. Roy. To make each room feel more like a bedroom rather than a medical institution, she said, medical equipment is hidden behind works of art on the walls.
“A lot of those kinds of things were taken into consideration when we built this,” she said, adding that “all the finishes are residential-looking.”

“Ethan Allen actually did all of our furniture for the building and they staged the building, so it looks very much like a large home,” she said.
“That was very important to me — that it felt like someone’s last home, because this is probably going to be the last home that they live in.”
For the youngest patients, Ms. Roy said, the rooms are designed to be “age-appropriate.”
“We have a little room for our 4- to 8-year-olds, a middle room for our 8- to 12-year-olds and then we have a teen room,” she said.
“They’re really cool rooms with activities and games for kids to play in. We also have a playground as well.”
Ms. Roy, who has worked in the hospice field for 17 years, said she loves her job.
“I love meeting with patients and families, but most of all, I love the fact that every day, we take care of people and we do something that’s meaningful in somebody’s life,” she said. “That’s important to me — that we have made a difference in somebody’s life.”