Home Health Care – Have high expectations

Comfort Life Magazine – Orella Collier

Have high expectations from your home care staff and hospital caregivers

A year ago
Lying in her hospital bed weak from surgery to remove a tumour, Orella Collier, 89, did not know the medical staff had gathered her family together to say goodbye. As a long-term nursing instructor, she was still teaching her hospital caregivers and personal support workers: “Have high expectations,” she told them from her bed.

Before retirement
Orella had always lived that way herself. She had nursed her husband for 11 years, following a major stroke, until he passed away; raised two children; taught nursing in the fields of public health, geriatrics and rehabilitation at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, was resident nurse at a private girl’s school and served as the director on a new seniors’ residence.

Moving from home to a caregiving facility

After retirement, Orella lives happily in her downtown apartment until Christmas, 1997, when an errant senior driver knocked her down on her way home from church, breaking her hip. Following recuperation, Orella didn’t have the stamina to resume her former freewheeling lifestyle. She called her children together and announced she was moving into St. Hilda’s Towers retirement residence. “I was adamant,” she says, “I wanted to do it before the kids had to.” Ever independent, she gardened in the greenhouse, joined the resident council and continued to write her poetry.

Asking for Help

About three years ago, Orella observed her memory slipping and, once again, met with her family. They touched base with Andrea Nathanson, director of Qualicare, to be prepared, should future health management or care be necessary. Then last year, Orellas health took a nasty turn and she was rushed to hospital after collapsing with internal bleeding. Her family called Qualicare and dispatched personal support workers to her hospital bedside 24/7.

Tita Honrado had started with Qualicare and Orella Collier was her first patient. Orella’s son, Paul, and daughter, Meri, huddled with Qualicare to strategize and the family credits Tita’s constant dedication with saving Orella. After surgery and only three weeks in hospital, Orella announced she wanted to go home to her apartment at St. Hilda’s. “We al thought she would be going home to die in a matter of days,” Meri says.

Two months after she got home, Paul realized that instead of planning a funeral he would have to begin preparations for his mom’s 90th birthday bash in June. Today The hospital bed brought in a year ago is gone and Orella’s home-health team now comes in four hours a day, gradually having been cut down from 24-hour care. Team leader Tita comes to help get her up and focused every morning. Then Orella looks after herself for the rest of the day, even going down to dinner on her own to the residence dining room. “Somewhere in my youth, I must have done something good,” laughs Orella. And she holds up a teddy bear she has bought for her first great grandchild, expected in May.

Orella and her granddaughter Jessica Perlitz collaborated to make a radio special for CBC Radio’s “Out Front” frankly discussing Orella’s ongoing memory loss. You can hear the documentary on the web at



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