Villa Marie Claire

Beth Sengson Viapiano - Comfort and Family

More than 30 people came to see Beth Sengson Viapiano over three purposeful days. There were children and cousins, friends and nieces. She didn't carry on long conversations with everyone but she knew who they were. Most importantly, she was surrounded by family and friends and comfortable seeing everyone.

Before the visits, Beth, 83, had been living in the same New York apartment she called home for 36 years. She was battling breast cancer and though she put up a valiant effort, the disease was advancing. She didn't want to worry her family, however, so she started lying to her son, Richard Viapiano, about how well she was eating and sleeping. Her ruse worked for a short while but he soon saw she was declining.

"Mom always said she wanted to die at home but she also said she didn't want to suffer," Richard said. "By then, though, I knew if she died in her apartment, she would suffer."

Beth had enjoyed a full, multi-faceted life here in the U.S., after growing up in the Philippines. She trained as a dentist, but also used her stunning good looks to model for a while, and that was after having children. Vibrant and engaging, she lit up a room just by walking in and never wanted to be a burden to anyone.

But Beth's skin had yellowed from the effects of the disease and Richard knew it was time to move her out of her home so she could receive care and stop the pain. Richard and his wife, Susan, wanted to bring Beth to the residential hospice, Villa Marie Claire in Saddle River, New Jersey.

They knew how well the staff would take care of Beth and that family and friends would be welcome at all hours to the serene, elegant estate. She wouldn't be in pain, and she wouldn't die alone. Beth agreed to leave her apartment and they transported her to the Villa, when the family visits started.

"The Villa went above and beyond all my expectations," Richard said. "The nursing staff was amazing and everyone made it so comfortable for my mom, for us and our extended family. We had people coming and going and no one batted an eye."

Family members would sit quietly with Beth, some laughed as they told old stories while others reminisced about good times or just held her hand. At one point, they put a phone to Beth's ear as a cousin in Chicago sang opera. She moved slightly in response, after she had been lying still for several hours.

When Beth's lungs started to fill with fluid and she was having trouble breathing, she was given morphine. She never showed any signs of distress, discomfort or pain. She passed away on April 6, 2018, four days after arriving at Villa Marie Claire.

"It was the best decision we could have made," Richard said. "I don't know how the people who work with the patients there can do it every day. They know their patients aren't getting better and going home and yet they are such upbeat, truly extraordinary people. I'm so grateful they were there for my mom and made her last days so comfortable for her and all of us."