At Thanksgiving, Let’s Remember That the Blessing of Loving Caregivers Cannot Be Overstated

As we are staring at Thanksgiving eve, I hope you will pardon me as I take this blog in a more personal direction.

We lost my mother-in-law, Marie Wilson, two weeks ago as she ended her earthly journey and crossed the bridge into the eternal. She died peacefully in her sleep, in her bed, in her assisted living apartment at Well•Spring, A Life Plan Community, where she had been a resident for the past three years. Anne’s mother had been a big part of our lives, especially over the last eight years as Anne served as her primary caregiver. So the shock of a death in the night stung.

But after two weeks, I think I can accurately reflect on what it means to receive the blessings of someone’s presence, opportunity and loving caregivers.

Anne’s Mom was a wonderful lady who often said I was her “favorite son-in-law,” and while I acknowledged her compliment I also reminded her (although she knew) that I was her only son-in-law (Anne has two older brothers). She loved her family and raised a beautiful, responsible, patient and loving daughter in my wife, Anne. Marie’s presence in her life will never be replaced, but Marie provided many blessings to Anne, our children and me over the years – and to others throughout her 87 years.

An educator by profession, Marie touched countless lives.

In 2014, Anne was close to her wit’s end trying to care for her parents from afar. They resided in Mount Airy, N.C. Anne’s father had suffered a stroke three years earlier. With Anne’s help, Marie – despite her own aliments – maintained a semblance of independence at home. I had been trying for some time to convince my in-laws to move to a retirement community, but alas now their physical health precluded any chance of them being able to qualify for independent living.

And then, just at our moment of crisis, the grace of opportunity was bestowed upon our family. Alan Tutterow, whom we had just named executive director of our flagship life plan community, called to let Anne know that Well•Spring could accept her parents into assisted living. (Ultimately, Anne’s dad would move to skilled care). As fate would have it, the call coincided with Marie’s hospitalization, most likely resulting from her caregiver role. So with little resistance from Anne’s parents, their Well•Spring experience began.

Now I know there had to be plenty of staff apprehension over caring for the CEO’s mother-in-law, not to mention the CEO’s wife, and at first I might have even discounted the love and care the Well•Spring staff provided Marie due to my position.

But that quickly changed.

When Marie first arrived in assisted living, and Anne’s Dad was placed in skilled care, Marie faithfully visited him every night just after dinner. Soon, though, her ability to ambulate to his room in skilled care declined, and she found herself needing a wheelchair. Staff jumped into action without hesitation to make sure Marie saw her husband and continued, at least passively, in her caregiver role. With the staff’s help, she visited every night until her death.

Then there was the time, due to a temporary chemical imbalance, when Marie had an episode of psychosis. This was difficult for family and staff alike, as this sweet woman temporarily lost touch with reality. During a time when others may have wanted to close the door and leave the room, the care and compassion the team displayed was simply amazing and heartfelt.

And then there was her death. The night shift discovered her on final rounds and stayed until Anne arrived shortly after daybreak. Their embrace as we arrived, their tears, their hugs and their leading of the processional as we departed with Marie for the last time still brings me to tears.

The blessing of loving caregivers cannot be overstated. 

So on this Thanksgiving, and on behalf of a grateful family, we are so very thankful for Marie’s presence, for the opportunity to be at a community like Well•Spring and for the staff who surrounded her – and us – with love, compassion and care.

Happy Thanksgiving for these and countless other blessings.

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  • Reply
    Beth Kingsbury
    November 21, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Steve and Anne, I’m so sorry for your lose. I just wanted you to know that my husband and I had the same experience as you. We got a call from my husband’s sister one morning that she could no longer care for their Mother. Steve called me at the Beauty Shop and told me he was leaving to drive to northern Va to get his Mother and bring her to our house. I was in a panic because I didn’t know what I was going to do with her because I was working and knew we couldn’t leave her alone. I look up and Kasey Newton was at the door and motion for me to come out into the hall. She said my Mother-in-laws name was next on the list she was alarmed as I broke into tears. It was a miracle for us and we had a wonderful experience for the next two years. The care was top notch and the staff was so helpful and nice. Wellspring was a blessing for me to work there for 24 years and also to our family
    Beth Kingsbury

    • Reply
      November 24, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Beth, Thank you for this. I now recall your situation as well. We were all blessed!

  • Reply
    Claudette Krell
    November 23, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, Steve. I’m sorry to hear of Marie’s passing and I’m sending a big hug to Anne, you and the rest of your family.
    Thanks also to recognizing the loving work of the staff at Wellspring. I haved shared many stories with my new colleagues about Wellspring, especially about how we cared for not only the residents but the families too. Some days I really miss all of you guys.
    Today I’m thankful to be here in Washington with my family and also thankful for working with a fabulous team here.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  • Reply
    November 24, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Claudette – It’s so good to hear from you. I’ll be sure to give Anne and big hug. She’s doing fairly well. Thanksgiving here was quite, but good. So glad you were surrounded by those you love and hold dear. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    November 24, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Anne, sorry for your loss- we had a lot of chats as I visited Watty in Skilled Care – Marie was visiting your Dad. As I age the passing of a Son and Wife in same year is tough but I count my blessings every day. My sympathy to you Steve and children

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