Villa Marie Claire

Sandi Klein - Family Feels at home at Villa Marie Claire

Jerry Klein had been back in the hospital, this time in isolation, for about two months. His body was rejecting the bone marrow transplant he received months earlier to fight leukemia and now, the standard protocols weren't working.

"I'm done," he told his wife, Sandi Klein, and his doctors, who didn't disagree. But what to do next? Home hospice wasn't an option, Jerry's situation was too complicated. And the last place they wanted to be was in another hospital-like environment.

Then a friend told them about Villa Marie Claire. Their son, Matt, and his wife, Katie, visited the residential hospice and raved about it.

"That was good enough for me," Sandi said. She saw it for the first time on the day Jerry was admitted.

"I was blown away by how beautiful and calming it was," she said. "The staff was simply amazing."

Sandi also found the physical and emotional space to deal with the confusion and disbelief that comes with having to face such a tragedy.

"The staff had an innate knowledge of how to provide comfort and support — to a person, no one was phony, patronizing or overly solicitous," she said.

Jerry, 66, a Teaneck resident who spent the better part of his career as a judge in Manhattan, died of acute myeloid leukemia on March 8, 2015. The bone marrow transplant he received from his sister the previous May initially seemed to be working but after feeling poorly he was re-admitted to a New York hospital the day after Christmas and never went home. He endured three different protocols, beginning each one with high hopes that were ultimately dashed when the treatments didn't work.

At the Villa, he found peace.

"He just seemed relieved to be there," Sandi said. "He spent most of the two weeks he was there visiting with family and friends. Really, as soon as we saw the Villa — it was a no-brainer.

"And we weren't the only ones who felt that way," Sandi said. "Jerry had dozens of visitors, including our 2-year-old granddaughter. Everyone couldn't believe how great the place was. Stunning, actually."

Villa is a residential hospice nestled on 26 acres in Saddle River. Patients and visitors are afforded views of the estate grounds from every room, including those provided for loved ones to stay overnight.

Knowing the Villa was owned by Holy Name Medical Center, Sandi said, "I was a little nervous that religion would be crammed down my throat. But it didn't happen. Not at all."

While Jerry spent time with other loved ones, Sandi would visit the Villa's library and take walks through snowy paths.

"We just felt at home there, even though it was such a tough time. I got to know the entire staff, including the custodians and cooks. There was always such a great connection — talking about everything and anything. It was so non-clinical. The staff members are a special breed. I could never do their job and I am forever grateful to them."

"I just wish more people in positions at the hospitals - the doctors, nurses, discharge planners, and social workers, would tell patients' families about it," Sandi said. "No one even told us it existed. It's such a shame because the people there are so respectful, there's no trauma and the surroundings are so peaceful. It's 24-hour nurturing and care."