Above and beyond is ordinary for Jewish Eldercare team 

Lisa Bercovitch (seated, centre), surrounded by staff from the Kastner 4 Behavioural Unit at Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare.
Lisa Bercovitch (seated, centre), surrounded by staff from the Kastner 4 Behavioural Unit at Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare.
By Richard Dagenais, SAPA Communications Specialist

They say home is where the heart is and thanks to truly exceptional care, 60-year-old Lisa Bercovitch has learned she is surrounded by love. 

Small in stature but physically strong, Ms. Bercovitch arrived at Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare five years ago with a diagnosis of severe non-verbal autism. Site Coordinator Carla Baquiran admits that in the beginning, it was difficult.

Ms. Bercovitch would bang her head against walls, throw herself to the floor, pull hair, hit herself and others, and constantly shout and scream. 

Also resistant to touch, she was initially placed in Hope Pavilion before being transferred to the fourth-floor Behavioural Unit at Kastner.

“The staff on Kastner 4 has always been very open and receptive to different and challenging cases.” 

Site Coordinator Carla Baquiran

Although initially instructed to keep Ms. Bercovitch isolated in her darkened room, Kastner 4 orderlies and nurses noticed she preferred being out of her room and in bright surroundings. For this reason, she was permitted to follow one orderly in particular: Donna Koutsandreas.

Lisa Bercovitch (left) enjoys a quiet moment with Orderly Donna Koutsandreas
Lisa Bercovitch (left) enjoys a quiet moment with Orderly Donna Koutsandreas

“Lisa loves companionship and attention,” explains Ms. Koutsandreas. “Caring for her is like caring for a baby. For me, it’s second nature. I love it. It’s fun.”

Ms. Koutsandreas is there to hold Ms. Bercovitch’s hand as she falls asleep, and she accompanies her during stress-filled trips to unfamiliar locations for mammograms, ultrasounds and other medical procedures.  

When Ms. Bercovitch first arrived at Jewish Eldercare, she was heavily medicated for various behavioural and medical difficulties but today, her medication is minimal. 

Ms. Bercovitch’s room has been equipped with music, projected lights, drawings, and stuffed toys on walls where she cannot destroy them.

She reluctantly tolerates invasive medical procedures and from just two initial words, her vocabulary has expanded tenfold. 

The staff has learned to differentiate between Ms. Bercovitch’s yells and cries, so they know when she wants something in particular, or is in pain. 

Life is all about the little things and for Ms. Bercovitch, those include chocolate, cola, chips and having a hand to hold. 

“You know that when she physically reaches out, she just wants to hold your hand or finger, and that’s all she needs,” says Social Worker Mariana Sosa. “When she’s done, she’ll let go and walk away.” 

Nearly two years ago, Ms. Bercovitch’s father, her only involved family member, passed away. A grateful stepmother is in regular contact.

Ms. Bercovitch’s quality of life has improved by leaps and bounds and the team on Kastner 4 is proud of how safe she feels on the unit. 

Ms. Koutsandreas and other members of the team, including Orderlies Dawnmarie Charles and Orlando Wright, have offered extraordinary patience, dedication, support and attention to earn Ms. Bercovitch’s trust. 

“Lisa is the baby of the family. Staff members are very protective of her and act as a buffer when new clients and their family members arrive on the unit. I find that very beautiful.”

Khaleda Begum, Kastner 4 Head Nurse

Visitors to Kastner 4 will usually find Ms. Bercovitch quietly shuffling along the corridor, or calmly sitting in a hallway chair, or in a manager’s office. 

Ms. Koutsandreas often works with residents who are alone in the world, and for the generous quality of care she has provided Ms. Bercovitch, she was recognized in May with an Award of Excellence for Quality of Care from the Executive Committee of the Council of Nurses (Comité exécutif du conseil des infirmières et infirmiers, CECII). Ms. Koutsandreas won in the category of Orderly and Health and Social Services Assistants.

Along with the care provided by Ms. Koutsandreas, Ms. Baquiran attributes much of Ms. Bercovitch’s progress to the culture of “Care Everywhere” that pervades CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. 

Life is better for Ms. Bercovitch. She continues to face challenges as she battles breast cancer, urinary tract infections and a variety of risk factors, but love is on her side. 

Ms. Bercovitch is home.