A Tribute to Joan Litchfield Quinn (1937–2015)

In our collective lifetimes, few individuals changed the way supports and services were delivered to older adults and those with disabilities. Joan Litchfield Quinn was one of that elite group.

She was kind, self-assured, courageous, and willing to speak truth to power calmly but firmly. She was a woman of unparalleled vision. As thousands of older people poured into nursing homes in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Joan, starting as a nurse at a hospital in Hartford, envisioned a community care model staffed by experienced nurse and social work care managers working with clients and their loved ones in identifying precisely which combination of services and benefits would support a resilient home care plan. She recognized the advantage of an “independent” care management model, in which care managers had no vested interest in recommending services provided by their own organization. And, most important, she inspired others to engage in the work of that vision. She didn’t covet her vision; she knew it was meant to be shared.

That vision included the strategic recognition that the best way to organize a responsive service delivery model was to engage government, nonprofits, and the private sector in collaborative planning on both the individual and systems levels. Her inspired leadership guided the Triage program, one of the first demonstrations of home- and community-based services, and resulted in the incorporation of Connecticut Community Care, Inc., more than forty years ago. Tens of thousands of Connecticut citizens and their loved ones have reaped the benefits of her vision.

That vision moved beyond professional clinical practice to the convening of The National Advisory Committee on Long-Term Care Case Management. Funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation resulted in the 1994 publication of “Guidelines for Case Management Practice Across the Long-term Care Continuum.” Joan led the creation of the National Academy of Certified Care Managers, a landmark certification body in the United States and served as editor of the Care Management Journal.

Decades before the language of “person-centered planning” became part of our professional lexicon, Joan stressed the importance of a comprehensive, face-to-face assessment process with the client and their loved ones “driving the bus.” Every relevant issue needed to be addressed in the plan of care!

Her advocacy efforts led to the passage of public health regulations in Connecticut to support care management practice and to the development of a community of citizens willing to fight for home- and community-based services. She testified before the U.S. Congress at the request of Representative Claude Pepper.

Joan was an inspiration to every individual who ever worked for her. She helped and encouraged her employees to see and, more importantly, feel that they were a part of something bigger and more important than themselves; that each had a responsibility to be an agent of social change. Joan Quinn left this world a far better place.

—Molly Rees Gavin, Past President, Connecticut Community Care