Carolyn Richel discusses Hospice of the Valley's Ryan's House

Carolyn Richel has devoted much of her professional life to supporting not-for-profit agencies. She has worked for Hospice of the Valley since 2005, first in the agency's MediCaring program and currently serving as a community liaison for the Speakers Bureau. Prior to moving to Arizona, she lived in the Buffalo, New York area and worked with Niagara Hospice in several different administrative capacities. Her background includes a B.S. degree in education and a Master's in education and counseling. Carolyn's passion is her family. She and her husband, Frank, have three children and four grandchildren, whom she lovingly refers to as the "adorables."

The opening of Ryan House in March 2010 marks a new chapter in a story that began years ago.

Planning began in 2003 as a community of volunteers rallied around the concept and the cause. Ryan House was incorporated as an Arizona 501(c)(3) non-profit in August 2004, with its formative Board of Directors of community leaders. In February 2006, the first Executive Director was hired and a Professional Services Committee was established to provide input regarding developing operational aspects of Ryan House. In 2007, a unique partnership was formed with Hospice of the Valley to help make this pioneering concept a reality.

Since its inception, Ryan House Founders and Board members have been extremely encouraged by the generous support received from the private and non-profit sectors of Greater Phoenix. Founding community partners include The Board of Visitors, The Junior League of Phoenix, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Hospice of the Valley, Orcutt Winslow Partnership and Kitchell Contractors. A Medical Advisory Council – including physicians from Banner Desert Medical Center, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hospice of the Valley and Children’s Rehabilitative Services – provides professional advice.

Ryan House provides a welcoming, comfortable environment where some of Arizona’s most special children can truly be themselves among other children like them. Parents get a much needed short break, while the kids receive care from an experienced professional nursing staff that lovingly provides care in place of the care received at home. It all adds up to a well-deserved and essential opportunity to focus on being families and living life to its fullest.

The Heart of Ryan House: Pediatric Palliative Care

Designed from the ground up to deliver multiple adaptive modes of care on-site, Ryan House is Arizona’s premier setting for realizing both the philosophy and the practice of pediatric palliative care. But what is pediatric palliative care?

“Pediatric palliative care is both a philosophy of care and an organized program… focused on enhancing quality of life for child and family, minimizing suffering, optimizing functions, and providing opportunities for personal growth.

“It is achieved through a combination of active and compassionate therapies intended to comfort and support the child, as well as family members and other significant people in the child’s life.  Effective management of pain and other distressing symptoms, together with psychosocial and spiritual care are of critical importance beginning at diagnosis and continuing throughout the entire course of a child’s life and beyond.  Therapies take a holistic approach, assisting children and families in fulfilling their physical, psychological, social, and spiritual goals while remaining sensitive to personal, cultural and religious values, beliefs and practices.

“It affirms life by supporting the child and family’s goals for the future and hopes for cure or life prolongation.  It aims to guide and assist the child and family in making decisions that enable them to work toward their goals.

“Pediatric palliative care is planned and delivered through the collaborative efforts of an interdisciplinary team including the child, family and caregivers.  It supports caregivers, allowing them to work through their own reactions to the situations they encounter and the care they are providing.”

- Quoted/Adapted from recognized pediatric palliative care sources