Community: Juniper Village at Williamstown
Submitted by: Leslie Drummond
Nominee Name: Elise Morris
All of us are apprehensive about the inevitability of dying and the uncertainty that lies ahead. But what must it be like if you face dying alone, without family or friends to comfort you? Eleanor Copeland was a “young” 95 year old resident at Juniper Village at Williamstown. She had lived there for almost two years before her death this January. She could often be found tapping her walker to the sounds of live music, sitting outside soaking up the sun and cuddling up to Gunner, Williamstown’s resident dog, or deeply engrossed in a conversation with her close friend Linda, another resident at Williamstown. Eleanor, who was married to her husband Stanley until his death 16 years ago, had no children.Eleanor believed strongly that if she could not remain independent in her daily activities, that it was time for her to say goodbye. Throughout her stay with us, she remained adamant that if she became ill, she wanted no heroics or procedures to prolong her life. In January, Eleanor suffered a heart attack. True to her convictions, she declined any treatment, including a catheter or surgery. After a short hospitalization, she returned to her home at Williamstown, but soon started to fail, requiring a return visit to the hospital. This time at the hospital the doctors informed her if she wanted to live, she needed a pacer to treat her low heart rate. Again Eleanor said no. True to her wishes, we arranged for Eleanor to be followed by hospice and once again she returned to Williamstown, where she could only maintain comfort in her recliner.During the day, Linda spent hours by her side, reading the newspaper to her and holding her hand. One evening, after Linda left her bedside to retire for the night, she alerted the wellness team that Eleanor expressed fears of dying, and of dying alone. Eleanor lived a little over twenty four hours, but during that period she was never alone. One of our caring associates was always with her, from the environmental services to wellness to dietary associates. The following evening when shift change occurred at 11:00 PM, three of our associates, Elise Morris, Katie Price and Janet Price clocked out, and then, along with associates from the next shift, stayed by Eleanor’s bedside until she died at 2:00 AM. During that time, they removed her chipped nail polish, which they knew she would have preferred, reminded her of the full life she led by reading from her, “My Life Story,” and talked lovingly to her about her beloved husband, Stanley. For all of us, death is the ultimate separation from those we know and love, making dying alone intolerable. Thanks to the caring associates at Juniper Village at Williamstown, Eleanor left this earth feeling loved and connected to those who truly cared for her.