It is inevitable that many clients in our practice confront us with loss. That does not imply that each of these losses is not an emotional challenge that deeply saddens us. Rather, we are moved by our clients and they inevitably touch our hearts. They also teach us life lessons.

Recently, we lost a client in her late 90’s who has been with us for many years. We were able to support her Center City lifestyle, manage her medications, make sure there was food in her house, and serve her needs. Now, we must say goodbye. One person deeply impacted by Lena’s loss is Joanne Collier, our director of home care operations. Joanne became part of Lena’s life and she spoke to her often. When Lena passed, Joanne sent out an email to the staff describing the end of her life. That communication contributed to each of us and to the work we do every day. We would like to share it with you.

Lena’s Passing – Joanne Collier, Director of Home Care

Lena passed this morning around 6:30AM

The caregiver called me around 2AM. She heard Lena in the bathroom and went to check on her. She complained that she felt sick to her stomach. Rudy offered to get her some water, but she requested orange juice. She brought her both, but she did not drink anything. Lena returned to her bedroom and sat in the comforter in her room. Rudy heard her talking and laughing and came in to sit with her. Lena said her husband was there in bed and had been with her since last night. She joked she was glad Rudy was there because she had been with her for so long and she wanted to take her with her. Shortly after that, she threw up and Rudy said she was calling her son. Lena told her not to, but she did anyway. Rudy called me as well for the update around 3AM.  Mr. T said he was coming over and instructed Rudy not to do anything until he got there. He declined having 911 called. He arrived around 4AM. He spoke with Lena’s doctor who indicated that she was passing. Mr. T asked Rudy to put her back to bed. He said he would return but Lena passed away before his return.


Lessons from Lena

Lena demonstrated that end-of-life planning is the path to a peaceful, meaningful end to life. Advanced Directives, a Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney and Will are necessary components for those who wish to have control over their last chapter. Lena’s affairs were in order and her son was always aligned with her wishes supported by the necessary legal documents. As for us, we have been sharing Lena stories and especially support Joanne who was always directly involved with her welfare for many years. While personally confrontive, our clients make us realize how precious life is. It is always a privilege to accompany clients and their families on this last journey and to make it an opportunity for each family member to complete their relationships with the loved one they are losing.


About the Author

Beverly Bernstein Joie is the founder and president of Complete Care Strategies, a senior care management company serving Philadelphia and its surrounding communities. A Certified Aging Life Care Manager with more than 20 years of experience, Beverly has worked in senior care since 1994, both in assisted living communities and in private practice. She is a member of the Aging Life Care Association and was a former president of the Philadelphia Chapter.

Complete Care Strategies consists of care managers, specialized human service professionals, who advocate and direct the care of seniors and others facing ongoing health challenges. Working with families, its expertise provides the answers at a time of uncertainty. Along with its licensed home care division, it can help clients safely remain at home under the watchful eye of skilled professionals. Families are afforded an integrated model of care that, with guidance and advocacy, lead them to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love