Taking Mom Home

By Wendy Johnstone
August 25, 2016

I wrote this article for Inspired Senior Living as part of my ongoing work with the Family Caregivers of British Columbia. I can’t encourage readers enough to use this amazing provincial resource on family caregiving, as well as being able to talk to someone about how best to care for someone without losing yourself and how to access services.

This a very special column to me. Tiiu was a client of mine and she brought much joy and inspiration to me in our time together.  She has a family that continues to find ways for her to continue to enjoy those meaningful activities that are so important to her.  Thank you to her children for allowing me to share their story.

Taking Mom Home

“Home is where the heart is.” If you asked Tiiu McCormick what this means to her, she’d answer, “By the ocean in Sointula.”

Severely affected by three strokes, Tiiu, now 78, lives in a complex care facility in Comox, BC. Born in Estonia, Tiiu and her family came to Canada as refugees after WWII. Her love of the outdoors is something all her children remember. Summers always included a trek from Ontario to BC to visit with Tiiu’s sister, Mai, and to be by the ocean. She passed on this love of the outdoors to her four children.

Her youngest child, Julia remembers being outdoors all the time. “We were always outdoors, in a kayak, in a canoe, wilderness camping or just out playing in nature.”

When her children were grown, Tiiu applied to a variety of teaching positions in British Columbia. She got her first posting in Alert Bay and never looked back. She eventually bought a piece of land on Malcolm Island and with the help of her four children, built her stunning home overlooking the ocean in Sointula.

One of the greatest losses for people having to move into complex care is the loss of their home. In Tiiu’s case, she was hit doubly hard as the stroke affected her independence, specifically her ability to walk and talk. Being almost completely dependent on others, coupled with the loss of her home and her freedom to be outdoors was a very difficult transition for Tiiu.

Her four children wanted to find a way to honour their mother’s love of the ocean and nature.

With the help of a team of professionals and her family, Tiiu is able to get outside in nature three days per week.

But the family didn’t stop there.

Her eldest son, Peter, could see how much his mom would benefit from spending time in her home in Sointula. This meant taking on the daunting challenge of not only making her home accessible for someone in a wheelchair, but being able to provide similar care levels for Tiiu. One wet and cold February, Peter and Tiiu made the trip to Malcom Island to build a ramp and adapt the home to make it possible to provide personal care. They also found a local home care professional who could provide the same level of care Tiiu receives in complex care.

For the past two years, Tiiu has spent as much time as possible in her home. One of her favourite places to be is on the deck enjoying the ocean air.

This story of family caregiving, love and honour doesn’t end here.

The family’s next goal: getting their mom on the ocean in her boat.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC

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