Senior man receiving physical therapy at homePrograms

VNA Charitable Care Program Helps Patient-In-Need

Like many, the COVID-19 epidemic hit *James hard. “I lost my job and health insurance,” he said, and worse, he never recovered either. Six months ago, however, he qualified for Medicare – a relief since he has had myriad health issues, including Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. But Medicare doesn’t cover all of his expenses, and it’s been a struggle to pay his bills. This issue came to a head when he ended up in the emergency room after a heart attack. His release was contingent upon him receiving home health care, and he opted for the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), whose mission is to provide health care for people regardless of their ability to pay. He said his choice turned out to be a “life saver” because he qualified for the VNA’s Charitable Care program, an initiative that ensures people who are under and un-insured still receive the high-quality home care that they need. It is funded by the VNA & Hospice Foundation through philanthropic contributions. Because of the generosity of VNA’s donors, James received physical therapy at home and also qualified for the VNA’s Telehealth Program. “I checked my vitals daily on the (telehealth) machine. If there was anything off, a nurse called and followed up. It was very helpful,” he said.

To find out more about the VNA & Hospice Foundation’s Charitable Care program or to make a secure online donation to support this program which helps the VNA provide care for our friends and neighbors throughout Indian River County, visit here.

*Not his real name

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Collage of photos showing camp attendees engaged in various activities.Programs

Visiting Nurse Association’s Camp Chrysalis Embraces Nature to Help Our Grieving Children

For a child, the loss of a loved one can be devastating and understanding the feelings that come afterwards can be confusing. VNA’s Camp Chrysalis, a one-day bereavement-focused camp that is offered through VNA’s Hospice program, provides a way for kids who have experienced a death to better understand and cope with their emotions.

Our most recent Camp Chrysalis was held on Saturday, April 20, 2024, at the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) in Vero Beach. Camp activities, which were conducted by VNA-trained counselors as well as ELC staff, were designed to help children work through their grief and understand that their emotions are a normal part of the grieving process.

The children began the day with a yarn ball activity where everyone stood in a circle and took turns throwing the yarn to each other while holding a piece of it. Then they introduced themselves and the loved ones they lost. “At the end, you see a web of yarn and how we are all connected by death,” explained Melissa King, VNA Director of Bereavement Services. “And we each cut a piece of the yarn to be connected after we leave camp.”

Other activities included canoeing along the Indian River Lagoon and taking a ‘nature journaling walk’ where the children went on a guided tour of the ELC’s beautiful grounds, walking among the trees, plants and flowers with a journal that was gifted to them and drew pictures of their lush surroundings. Another activity was the Touch Tank, where the kids had the opportunity to hold sea life, including starfish, crabs, and sea urchins.

There was also a group bereavement session that involved therapeutic writing. In addition, the children enjoyed a unique music therapy session that incorporated musical instruments and storytelling where the children learned that there are different ways to grieve. To bring the day full circle, Melissa had the children make memory lanterns that they could take home with them. The project entailed the campers writing their favorite memories about their loved ones who had passed away on tissue paper and decoupaging them on mason jars with the help of an instructor. Inside the mason jars there were battery operated tea light candles that the children could turn on later when they felt lonely and needed to connect with their loved ones.

Based on the children’s response to the memory lanterns as well as the day’s other activities, Melissa deemed the camp a success. “I was really encouraged in their sharing and exploring not only their grief, but also the ELC and the activities there,” she said.

It is important to remember that Camp Chrysalis may be the first step on a child’s personal grief journey, and it is currently the only camp in our community focused on children and their distinct bereavement needs. There is no cost to attend Camp Chrysalis, and this wonderful VNA & Hospice Foundation supported program is made possible by generous funding from the Otis G. Pike Charitable Trust and Quail Valley Charities (a huge thank you to both).

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Smiling health care worker embracing female patient.Programs

VNA, More Than Just Hospice Care

Many people associate the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) exclusively with hospice, however, we offer so much more, including multi-faceted home care services. These services are offered to all members of the community, regardless of their ability to afford their care. That’s because providing quality healthcare to local residents who are uninsured and underinsured is a key aspect of the VNA’s mission, which sets us apart from other local home health agencies.

Our home health services provide comprehensive coordinated care through an interdisciplinary team of professionals who work closely with our patients’ physicians to arrange care in their home or place of residence. Our focus is to provide compassionate, innovative care of the highest quality, setting the standard for patients and caregivers needing home health services. These services include cardiac care, wound care, cancer care, neurological/dementia care, fall prevention, and care for chronic illnesses such as COPD and kidney disease.

VNA also offers the Hospital Prevention Program (HPP), a patient-centered home health service launched last year. It’s geared toward helping high-risk patients with severe diagnoses, like end-stage respiratory disease and congestive heart failure, who are susceptible to hospitalization or rehospitalization, remain safely at home. Not only do patients benefit physically and mentally, but they avoid high costs associated with hospitalization.

This respectful, comprehensive approach to healthcare is reflected in another VNA program, Community Health Services, which is supported by the VNA & Hospice Foundation. This includes the VNA Mobile Health Clinic, which provides affordable healthcare to the vulnerable in our community, including many young families.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), who are qualified to examine, diagnose and prescribe treatments and medications, see patients for illnesses such as upper respiratory infections; eye and ear infections; minor cuts, skin infections and rashes. They also provide school and sports physicals for Indian River County students. Our APRNs also provide health education and health screenings throughout the community to promote living a healthy lifestyle.

This holistic approach to healthcare is also a cornerstone of VNA’s flagship program, hospice. Home hospice care is provided by a patient’s interdisciplinary team that’s comprised of a medical director, residential nurse case manager (RNCM), social worker and chaplain. Home health aides, volunteers and music therapists are also integral parts of the team. Routine care may include pain management, symptom management, assistance with daily tasks and personal hygiene, like bathing, and emotional and spiritual counseling for the family. The frequency of visits by VNA caregivers is based on the patient’s plan of care developed by the interdisciplinary team and family.

For those patients who require intense around-the-clock care, VNA Hospice House is another option. The VNA Hospice House feels like a comfortable, elegant home-away-from-home that includes beautifully appointed patient rooms. Fortunately, VNA Hospice House is also available to home hospice patients for five days once a month for Respite Care. The goal is to provide the primary caregiver, usually a family member of the hospice patient, “time off” from caregiving while their loved one receives 24/7 coordinated care from the in-house VNA Hospice House staff.

If you would like to learn more about services supported by the VNA & Hospice Foundation, please visit www.vnatc.org.

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Karen-Formont-at-hospice-house.Programs

A Journey With Hospice Inspires A Volunteer

“My mom dying in a hospital was not the best, so that’s when I became interested in hospice,” says Karen Formont, a volunteer for the Visiting Nurse Association’s (VNA) Golf-A-Thon, VNA & Hospice Foundation’s annual fundraising event. During the monthly Golf-A-Thon meetings, Karen learned about the two types of hospice care VNA offers: home hospice care and in-patient hospice care at VNA Hospice House, a state-of-the art facility in Vero Beach for end-of-life care. She was impressed by VNA’s comprehensive approach to hospice, and when her aunt became sick, advised her cousin to contact the non-profit. “My cousin’s first opinion was, ‘Oh hospice, that’s dreary. You’re just kind of sent there to die,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, you know nothing about hospice.’”

Fortunately, Karen’s cousin took her advice, and her mom spent her final days comfortably at the VNA Hospice House. “Afterward, my cousin was just crying on the phone with me (saying) ‘thank you so much, what a wonderful way for everyone to say goodbye to her.’ I think the problem with hospice is people don’t know what they don’t know,” says Karen.

During Karen’s aunt’s stay at the VNA Hospice House, her care included music therapy, a special VNA Hospice program that Karen said her late aunt and extended family thoroughly appreciated. Another VNA service Karen was educated about was advance care planning, something she had personal experience with before her mom and dad passed away. “It’s easier for the person to make the decisions about themselves than it is for the family, and I think that’s another thing they’re very helpful with here at VNA, helping you with the steps to take,” she says.

Witnessing her aunt’s experience with hospice made Karen appreciate the benefits of having hospice care sooner rather than later. “I wish that people would contact this organization before the last few moments of someone’s death and realize they can get the support both before and after their loved one’s death,” she says.

Karen’s recent familial experience with hospice has also inspired her to volunteer even more. “I want to start sitting with people (on hospice) that have no one to be with them because I just think it’s very important to have someone in the room,” she says. “Everybody deals with death at some point, whether it’s a spouse, a parent or a child, and that’s why I feel really passionate about it.”

To learn more about VNA services or becoming a VNA volunteer, please visit www.vnatc.com.

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Senior couple discussing advanced care planning paperwork.Programs

Why Advance Care Planning Is So Important

While advance care planning is useful for anyone, it’s particularly important for those looking for the best end-of-life care experience and considering hospice. At the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), we understand this process may initially seem daunting, which is why we’ve made it as seamless as possible with the help of our advance care planning team.

The first step of the program is an information session, where you meet with a nurse practitioner and licensed clinical social worker in your home to evaluate your health and educate you on available services and treatment options. They will also provide you with supportive literature and tools to empower informed decision making and self-advocacy after the visit.

The importance of advance care planning cannot be overstated. It plants the first seeds of thought about your long-term healthcare wishes and serves to invite open conversation and consideration of what are often deemed uncomfortable topics. If appropriate, it affords the opportunity to receive accurate education about hospice philosophy and services, dispelling myths and breaking down barriers to what is the only service that can support the needs of the dying.

Advance care planning not only provides the opportunity for choice and active participation in your plan of care, but it is a way of planning proactively rather than reactively – before a health crisis occurs. It’s also a way of saying ‘I love you’ to your family. By having an advance directive in place, it alleviates the burden of decision-making for them.

For more information about advance care planning, please call our office at 772.567.5551 and ask to speak with one of our advance care planning specialists. You can also find more information about advance care planning at vnatc.com/home-health/advance-care-planning.

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Programs

Recognizing VNA Donors During National Hospice & Palliative Care Month

November is recognized as National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. In 2020, about three quarters of the Medicare patients who used hospice in the United States were age 65 and over (NHPCO Facts and Figures, 2022 Edition). According to Indian River Indicators provided by the Indian River Community Foundation, 33% of the residents of Indian River County are over the age of 65. As a large part of our community ages, it’s important to understand the type of care that is available if someone becomes affected by a life-limiting illness and hospice care is deemed appropriate.

As the only hospice provider in Indian River County, the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) provides compassionate, innovative care of the highest quality, setting the standard for patients and caregivers, and we extend that care to the uninsured and underinsured in our community. In addition, we strive to collaborate as a team to provide excellent care so that patients experience optimal quality of life at all times. VNA Hospice Care is about living fully through the care provided by an interdisciplinary team wherever a patient calls home.

As a non-profit organization, the VNA relies on our loyal donors to provide the funding needed to provide our services to our community. Because of the generosity of our donors, the VNA is able to provide additional hospice programs and services, including Project Wish, Bereavement Services and the VNA Hospice House, for our hospice patients and their families. The financial support we receive from our donors demonstrates that they understand what hospice care is and the importance of it.  The funding we receive towards these hospice related programs, no matter the amount, allows the VNA to provide the care needed to help our patients navigate this emotional journey with dignity and respect.

At the VNA & Hospice Foundation, we want to recognize National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. To the people in our community who understand the importance of delivering quality hospice care to those with a life-limiting illness, thank you for providing the necessary funding so our clinicians can serve these patients every day. Every single donation made to VNA Hospice’s programs and services goes toward creating an experience with not only the highest quality of healthcare but also one that brings peace and comfort to our patients and their families.

For more information about what hospice care is from the NHPCO, go to https://www.nhpco.org/.

To learn more about the hospice programs and services supported by donations to the VNA & Hospice Foundation, go to https://vnatc.org/programs/.

Sources: Indian River Indicators, provided by the Indian River Community Foundation: https://dashboards.mysidewalk.com/indian-river-cna

NHPCO Facts & Figures (2022 Edition): https://www.nhpco.org/wp-content/uploads/NHPCO-Facts-Figures-2022.pdf

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Collage image of project wish recipients.Programs

Project Wish – Small Wishes Making a Big Impact

When the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) cares for a hospice patient, our focus is on ensuring they experience optimal quality of life at all times. One way the VNA achieves this is through Project Wish. Project Wish is a donor-funded program that allows the VNA to grant end-of-life wishes.

As VNA clinicians and social workers interact with our patients, they help identify last wishes. These wishes could be reliving experiences they once enjoyed, experiencing something on their bucket list, tying up loose ends or even simple requests like a home repair that would improve their care environment. Some wishes are simple to orchestrate and some require more planning and coordination. A dedicated team of volunteers help execute these wishes, arranging transportation, trying to find in-kind donors willing to supply their services and so much more. These generous volunteers and the donors who fund Project Wish impact the lives of our patients by giving them an experience that will improve their quality of life during a difficult and emotional time.

In September 2023, Project Wish was able to grant three wishes to hospice patients. First, we were able to help a hospice patient replace their broken air conditioner since he did not have the funds to pay for a new one. A local church donated the window unit and Project Wish donors covered the cost of installation. Now this hospice patient can keep receiving care in his home comfortably. The second wish was for a hospice patient with a love of fruit. Her shopping volunteer noted that her weekly food costs were mainly from the fruit purchased that she really enjoyed. However, the high cost of fruit was hurting her small food budget. This patient’s hospice counselor asked the Project Wish team if we could send her a fruit basket. Thanks to Project Wish donors, the VNA was able to subscribe this patient to a monthly fruit basket for three months so she can enjoy something she loves without worrying about how she would pay for it. The last wish granted in September was also about creating a comfortable environment for a patient. This patient’s counselor noted that the family did not have any living room or kitchen furniture in their home; our patient was sitting on a beach chair. Our Project Wish team knew that the VNA’s thrift store, Hidden Treasures, would be able to assist with this wish. Project Wish purchased a couch and dining room set, and some end tables and lamps were generously donated from Hidden Treasures as a surprise for the family. What makes this wish very special is that the end tables given to this family were donated by a long-time VNA Hospice volunteer whose wish was for her belonging to be donated to Hidden Treasures when she passed.

Often when we hear about granting wishes we tend to think of grand trips and experiences of a lifetime. For many of our patients, their wishes are simple, and September’s wishes demonstrate that: a new window unit air conditioner, some fruit to enjoy, and a comfortable chair to sit in. Even the smallest wishes can have a huge impact on a patient’s life. Imagine being at home, receiving hospice care with no air conditioning when it’s over 80 degrees outside. The end-of-life journey is difficult to navigate and doing so in an uncomfortable environment makes it even more difficult. Replacing an air conditioner seems like such a simple ‘ask,’ but even granting a small wish like this makes an immediate positive impact on our patient. Sara Bumgarner, Director of Volunteer Services and the head of our Project Wish Program, shared: “One of my favorite quotes that speaks to the mission of Project Wish is from actor, Misha Collins. He said, ‘Even small acts of kindness can make a profound difference to someone else.’ For our hospice clients, it is the small kindnesses that bring joy, contentment and quality of life.”

Whatever the wish is, the VNA and our Project Wish team do their best to try to make it happen. Since 2019 we have granted over 30 wishes thanks to the generosity of our donors, volunteers and community partners who have donated their services. Your continued support of this program will allow the VNA to keep granting these wishes. A donation to Project Wish contributes toward an experience that brings a smile to the faces of our patients and families. As they navigate a difficult and emotional time in their lives, the experience created by granting their wish helps us achieve our mission to ensure our patients experience optimal quality of life.

If you would like to support Project Wish and positively impact the lives of our patients, please visit: vnatc.org/project-wish/.

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word cloud using hospice termsPrograms

Focusing on Living with Hospice Care

In February 2023, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter announced that he was entering hospice care. Over six months into his hospice care, Former President Carter is still receiving the care he needs at his home in Georgia. Hospice has long been a word with negative connotations, becoming synonymous with imminent death. When a loved one hears the word ‘hospice’ from a doctor, they believe that hope is lost, and someone’s passing is impending. That couldn’t be further from the truth about hospice care.

According to the National Institute on Aging, hospice care “focuses on the care, comfort, and quality of life of a person with a serious illness who is approaching the end of life.”  Hospice is often elected when a patient has no possible treatment options or elects not to undergo continued treatment for a life-limiting illness, and the medical care received switches from curing the patient to ensuring the patient is comfortable.

At the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), our hospice care provides the following:

  • Managing pain and symptoms – help controlling pain and symptoms through medication management and non-clinical therapy services.
  • Medication management – help monitoring and administering medication.
  • Care wherever you call home – providing care at your home, an assisted living facility, the hospital, or the VNA Hospice House.
  • Counseling and support – support from bereavement counselors, social workers and chaplains who help guide the patient and family through this time.
  • Personal care – help with bathing, grooming and personal care.
  • Volunteer support – support from volunteers for companionship, respite for the caregiver, or help running errands.
  • Hospice care has specific guidelines for eligibility; typically, it is for patients with a life-limiting illness who have a prognosis of six months or less and are no longer seeking curative treatments. Additionally, a physician’s referral is needed before a patient can receive hospice care. The VNA’s mission is focused on ensuring all our patients experience optimal quality of life at all times, the cornerstone of the definition of hospice care.

    It’s often the myths pertaining to “what is hospice” that prevent patients from starting hospice at a time when they would most benefit from it. Many times, patients only receive hospice care for a few days prior to their death. Former President Carter’s announcement was a gift from a very philanthropic man, a gift of knowledge and understanding of hospice that he shared with the world. Now six months into his hospice care, Former President Carter exemplifies the fact that hospice is not just for that last week or those last few days before someone passes. Hospice is a care plan focused on the comfort of the patient so that they can live those last few months with dignity and optimal quality of life. It creates an environment that removes the biggest fears people have about death – being in pain, being alone, and being a burden to others.

    Former President Jimmy Carter will be remembered for many accomplishments – his presidency, his philanthropic endeavors, and his Nobel Peace Prize to name a few. For the VNA, we are forever grateful that he decided to put a spotlight on hospice care, bringing awareness to millions of what hospice truly is and hopefully dispelling the many myths surrounding the word. We can only hope that his announcement will make it easier for patients and families to elect hospice care, knowing it’s about living more than dying.

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    Programs

    Becoming A Champion for the VNA Through the Golf-A-Thon

    In 2007, Deb Lockwood began her relationship with the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) through our annual Golf-A-Thon fundraiser. Deb and her husband Mike, members of Indian River Club, wanted to support their club pro, Joe Kern, during his marathon day of golf that benefited the VNA’s Charitable Care Program. As friends of Joe’s, they wanted to volunteer their time out on the golf course the day of the event and make a donation to support him.

    Shortly after Deb began volunteering for the Golf-A-Thon, her father-in-law needed home hospice care from the VNA. Deb thought that hospice was only for the last week of someone’s life, but her experience with VNA Hospice for her father-in-law’s care opened her eyes. Deb saw firsthand that hospice is so much more. Of the VNA’s services, Deb noted: “It was an awesome way for him to be able to stay at home because that’s what they wanted, to be able to have quality care come to the house.”

    It wasn’t just the care he received, it was the support for the family as well. Deb was impressed by the educational component of hospice care, helping the family understand the different stages of end-of-life. “It was a great way to help not only him but also a family through end-of-life,” she said.

    After her firsthand experience with the VNA, Deb has continued her support through her Golf-A-Thon participation. She continues to donate her time volunteering the day of the event and financially support the VNA through this annual event. Serving on the Golf-A-Thon Committee for Indian River Club since 2019, Deb loves that she can see her effort through the end result. Deb has seen the Golf-A-Thon become more successful year after year. She knows she is a part of making that happen while helping patients receive the care they need.

    Her time on the Golf-A-Thon Committee also gives her the opportunity to learn more about VNA’s programs and services through educational sessions held with the 60-plus members of the Committee. Deb was surprised to learn about the breadth and depth of VNA’s services, including the VNA’s Respite Care Program at the VNA Hospice House, We Honor Veterans, the VNA Mobile Health Clinic and so much more. Deb’s involvement with the Golf-A-Thon as a donor, volunteer and Committee member has reinforced her belief that the VNA’s mission is a good cause worth supporting.

    Deb’s philanthropic endeavors span across multiple non-profits in our area. She served for many years on the board and committees of the Indian River Community Foundation. She has an active role with Head, Heart & Hands of Indian River Club as well. It was this work that made her aware of the needs in our community. For a long time, Deb thought of philanthropy as exclusively monetary donations because while she was busy traveling most weeks of the year for work, she only had time to write a check. But when her travel time lessened and she retired, Deb realized that donating time is also needed and can be just as meaningful as a monetary donation. She enjoys volunteering to assist organizations with their strategic planning as well as events like the Golf-A-Thon and plans to continue to do so.

    Deb told us: “I think philanthropy is important not only for the community and the organizations and the people that need the help but also for you as a person to reinforce just how thankful you should be.” We are thankful there are people like Deb in our community who understand the importance of philanthropy and are willing to donate their time and funds to ensure those who need help receive it. Deb and others like her are champions of the VNA, philanthropically supporting us to ensure we can achieve our mission in the community.

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    Image of Bill & Kate FreemanPrograms

    VNA Hospice House – A Gift from Our Donors

    The VNA Hospice House opened its doors in 2000, creating a place where hospice patients could go when they could no longer manage their care at home. Careful consideration was taken to ensure the 12-bed facility felt more like a home and less like a cold, sterile medical facility. The VNA wanted to ensure that patients at their end-of-life journey had a space for them and their families to experience dignity and compassion in those final days.

    Kate Freeman knew of VNA Hospice through her clients and the community. She experienced the VNA firsthand in 2019 when she visited the VNA Hospice House to see a close friend, experiencing his passing while there. “The whole experience was really rather beautiful and peaceful,” Kate said of her first VNA experience.

    In 2022, the Freeman Family faced a tragic situation that brought them back to the VNA Hospice House for their son Jack. While Jack was in the hospital, Kate made the decision to bring him to the VNA Hospice House, knowing she wanted to be in a place that would focus on a peaceful transition for both Jack and her family. Kate knew moving Jack would mean he and the family would have privacy while surrounded by dignity in a non-institutional setting.

    The Freeman’s knew this was not a typical hospice case. Jack had been young and physically healthy, but a mental health crisis had become too much for him. The situation was emotionally intense for the whole family, but to Kate, being at the VNA Hospice House was about giving the family and Jack the opportunity to say goodbye. Jack’s siblings noted the importance of having space to say goodbye to their brother in their own way. The ability to have privacy and leave the room to visit the gardens or gathering space made the whole experience feel more personal to them.

    Of the whole experience, Bill Freeman said “The entire environment…the staff was extraordinary.” Kate added that peacefulness surrounded the entire four days Jack spent at the VNA Hospice House. The family was able to come and go as they needed, with family members arriving late at night or early in the morning and his siblings staying overnight and sleeping sometimes on the floor next to Jack’s bed. The room’s porch allowed the family another space to sit and visit with friends who would come by to give support to the Freeman’s during this time. Kate noted that “people react differently to grief and tragedy” and the VNA Hospice House’s thoughtful setup gave the family the different spaces they needed to process this situation.

    Summarizing it perfectly, Kate noted that the VNA Hospice House “let us be Freeman’s” and handle things their own way. The staff balanced giving the family the space they needed during such an emotionally charged experience while providing the care that Jack and the family needed. Kate and Bill believe that it would have been a challenge to find the space to do what they needed to do in a hospital setting, so they know they made the right decision to move Jack to the VNA Hospice House. And the family is grateful for this community resource. “All your donors gave us that gift,” Kate notes of being able to say goodbye to Jack in a way that was dignified and peaceful.

    Through the generosity of our donors the VNA Hospice House was built and later renovated. And every year, our donors, understanding the importance of this facility, support the operation of the VNA Hospice House through donations to the VNA & Hospice Foundation. Our loyal donors are the reason that the Freemans, and so many other families, have the support and space they need during an emotional and challenging time. Supporting the VNA brings dignity, peace and compassion to patients and families experiencing end-of-life.

    If you or someone you know is struggling, there are a variety of resources in our community. You can call The Mental Health Association (772-569-9788),  or The Mental Health Collaborative (772-217-3663) to get the support needed.

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