One of the greatest joys in my life is interacting with people who are involved with The Care Company community. I love receiving emails and feedback. Sometimes someone needs a little help. Sometimes someone needs A LOT of help and sometimes someone wants to share a story. This story crossed my desk today and I thought it was special. It’s also a great lesson about how careful we must be when dealing with our aging loved ones and understanding their spirit. When you read this story, you will quickly understand that Maggie’s daughters did everything they could for her. The challenge is when the medical team does not work with the family to make decisions. Things happen and usually pretty quickly. There is little time to act. Often we can only react. I encourage each person who reads this story to go deeper with your loved ones. Take the time to know EXACTLY what their wishes are, share those wishes in writing with the people who are caring for your loved one. It’s uncomfortable, for sure, but it helps alleviate the guilt. In the spirit of privacy, I’m withholding the last name of the woman who submitted Maggie’s story. I thank her for having the courage to reach out and share it with others.
Maggie loved cruising in her RV truck on the Alaskan Highway, from Canada to Anchorage, Alaska.
At age 77, Maggie was a mother of 6 children, a grandmother, and great grandmother. She had buried her husband, Leo, a U.S. Navy veteran in Riverside Veteran’s Cemetery 24 years ago. She was a European traveler, backpacker and hiker. Maggie was a free-spirited, independent, open-road adventurer.
A daughter relates to her mother emotionally as a child, “My mother will never die.” Maggie came down the rushing river of the end of her spirited life swiftly.
Maggie fell on the sidewalk outside of her $2,000 a month “assisted living apartment.” The gardener had to help her up. Maggie had osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and dementia. Who was watching out for her care and safety at that place? My sister, Kathleen, was her caregiver. She had to now place our mother in a nursing home. Stress, grief, guilt were the result of this move.
Maggie was mad as a wet hen! Her freedom and independence in life was over. She tried to escape from the nursing home by climbing out the window. She was angry at her captors, the nursing staff. So what did the nurses do, they informed her doctor of her behavior. The doctor’s solution? Prescribe the sedative drug, Thioridazine. This behavior suppressive drug extinguished the light from Maggie’s fighting spirit, and she lost her will to live. She just sat in a chair staring into space out the window where her spirit and will to live floated right out that window. That’s okay, Mom. At that point I believe she embraced and reclaimed her right to her own decision and will of her dignity in the last days of her life.
Early one morning, my sister, Eileen, had breakfast with Mom. As Eileen left, my mother waved goodbye to Eileen and told her, “I love you”, and then also told Eileen that she wanted to go be with her husband, Leo, now. My mother died that night.
You see, no drugs, no doctors, no nursing home was going to inhibit my mother’s free will and spirit. The power of the human spirit can overcome the boundaries of this physical planet. I’ll walk into the ocean. I miss you, Mom. Are there RV’s in heaven?
Your loving daughter, Nanette.
In Memory of Carolyn Helen Martin Toomey
August 29, 1928 – September 6, 2005
Rest in peace, my beloved Mother, Maggie
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