Diana Franchitto is president and CEO of Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island which was founded in 1976 by a volunteer group healthcare professionals and community members. It has since grown to care for about 3,500 end-of-life patients per year with a 300-person staff of physicians, nurses, hospice aides, social workers, chaplains, grief counselors and hundreds of volunteers.
Earlier this year the organization announced its affiliation with Visiting Nurse Home Care to form Home Care & Hospice of New England to better serve patient needs. Franchitto will be CEO.
November is National Hospice Month.
PBN: Is the fact that November is designated as a hospice awareness month because of the upcoming holiday season?
FRANCHITTO: November is a time to be thankful. We’re extremely grateful to all the patients and families who honor us by entrusting their care to us when time matters most. National Hospice and Palliative Care Month gives us a chance to formally honor our patients and families, as well as thank our extraordinary staff and volunteers for the compassionate, skillful care they provide our patients every day.
PBN: What is your greatest current fundraising challenge?
FRANCHITTO: We are grateful to the many families and organizations that choose to support [us]. We are not dissimilar to many other nonprofits in Rhode Island in that we rely on the generosity of our benefactors to help us carry out our important work. There are so many wonderful charities and causes here in Rhode Island; we are grateful to all who choose HHCRI as the recipient of their philanthropic support.
PBN: What is the greatest challenge the relatives of a seriously ill patient will face during the holidays?
FRANCHITTO: One of the biggest challenges people have is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy. For many people, the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other holidays while struggling to care for a loved one who is seriously ill can seem completely overwhelming. However, maintaining some family traditions can be tremendously comforting. Family members may find it helpful to delegate some of the tasks and logistics associated with holidays. This can lessen the overwhelmed feeling and provide a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
PBN: Last June you affiliated with the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University to become its major teaching affiliate in hospice and palliative medicine. How does this union benefit HHCRI?
FRANCHITTO: [This affiliation] brings tremendous value to the community, to the seriously ill and to the next generation of physicians. As a society, we put a great deal of emphasis on the first few months of life, but what often gets overlooked is the value and importance of the last few months. This affiliation will help ensure that the next generation of physicians is well trained in caring for people who are seriously ill and in their final months of life. HHCRI has the privilege of training every Brown medical student in hospice and palliative care and thus strengthening the connection between care, compassion, and learning.
PBN: You offer a children’s bereavement group, Camp BraveHeart. Why is a separate way to grieve critical for children?
FRANCHITTO: Children who are grieving have special needs that often go unmet. In our fast-paced culture where most people are uncomfortable with the subject of death, children often don’t get the opportunity to talk about their feelings. Without the necessary coping mechanisms, they can feel very isolated. [Our] two-day summer program helps children grieve the loss of a loved one in a way that best suits them…but also providing special programs to help kids articulate their feelings and work through their grief.