Caregiver calls Mindful Care a ‘Lifesaver’
Twenty-five years ago, had you walked into the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Shelbyville, Tenn., you might have seen Annie Couch standing up front delivering a sermon. After four years of religious study, Annie, at age 65, became a local elder in her home church. Her position authorized her to perform such pastoral duties as serving communion, baptizing, and officiating at wedding ceremonies. Today, daughter Mary Maupin is her mother’s primary caregiver, and she says that at age 90, her mother’s faith in the Lord remains as strong as ever.
“If you walk up to mother, she’ll probably say, ‘God bless you. He is the One who keeps us alive and well,” Mary says.
Approximately 15 years ago, Mary and her two sisters noticed that their mother’s cognitive abilities were diminishing. At the time, Annie, whom Mary describes as strong-willed and independent, was living alone in Nashville.
“We noticed she was stockpiling food,” Mary recalls. “We were unsure what she was eating when we were not there. She was also giving a lot of her food away. Her refrigerator was crammed with take-out food, and I was concerned that she might be eating spoiled food. Her needs were becoming greater than my weekly visits. In February of this year, I was able to persuade her to come live with me.”
Mary and her mother live together in Murfreesboro. Shortly after Annie moved in, a friend told Mary about Mindful Care Adult Day Services, a program that operates in donated space at New Vision Baptist Church. She explored Mindful Care and liked what she saw. The people there were involved in many of the activities that Annie loved to do—crafts, painting and coloring.
Annie started attending the program three days a week, which allowed Mary to take a class in caregiving. “I think we’re going to continue three days a week because she likes it so well,” says Mary, having just completed the six-week class. It gives me some free time. Mindful Care is a lifesaver.”
Several families that participate in Mindful Care appreciate the fact that their loved one can attend up to five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., then go home to their family. Most caregivers who have loved ones with dementia prefer to keep them at home as long as possible. Mindful Care is often referred to as a second family.
Annie doesn’t remember much of her past, but her personal history is rich in service to others. She was born and raised in Shelbyville, the oldest of 12 children. Four of her sisters and one brother are still living. Annie and her husband were divorced after 32 years of marriage.
“Mother took us everywhere,” Mary recalls. “She wanted us to grow to be strong, educated, Christian women. She would buy books for us so that reading would expose us to places where we could not afford to travel. We would dress up on a Sunday to go to a garden tea. We would wear our hats and gloves—we were little princesses eating cake and sipping tea out of China cups. She would tell us many stories of her growing up. I remember she told us how excited she was when she got a new toothbrush for Christmas.”
Mary said her mother, although a strict disciplinarian, was always there for her daughters. Even though Mary did domestic work for a white family for 30 years, working six days a week, any time the school needed a band-booster or homeroom mother, Annie would be there. Because she received some nurse’s training, Annie also worked in a hospital as a nurse’s assistant. “Mother was taught to give injections and help deliver babies, among other things. … She would tell you she was a nurse, but she did not go through all the formal training.”
In addition, Annie was a skilled seamstress. “She made all our dresses, even our wedding gowns and special formals for social gatherings,” Mary remembers. “And she used to love to work with flowers. She would take Queen Anne’s Lace and dye them with food coloring to make beautiful bouquets.”
Eventually Annie remarried. She met her second husband at church where they both sang in the conference choir. “Mom does not remember her second husband, but she does remember my father. If you asked her who she is right now she would give you her maiden name, Flack. She does not remember Maupin or Couch.”
A former teacher, administrator and supervisor in both Bedford County and Murfreesboro City Schools for 30 years, Mary makes no bones about it—being a caregiver is hard and stressful. “You go through a range of emotions. After the death of my son [nine years ago], this comes in second. Mom requires close care. I cook all her meals, select her clothes, supervise her bathing, supervise everything she does. Although my sisters are still working in their careers, they are a support for me.”
Mary also has a daughter, “a wonderful son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren who are always encouraging. Grandparents become just plum silly when it comes to your grandchildren,” she quips with a laugh.
“My mother has three daughters, 10 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and another one on the way,” Mary says. “Her regard for education, her love of family, and her compassion for others and her faith are qualities we’ve all received from her. Mother loved helping others. She always used to tell us, ‘If you have two slices of bread, be willing to give someone one slice.’”