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Mary McCoy has a scorpion tattoo. And it’s not from a rebellious youth, but some ink she had done about a year ago, for her birthday. In fact, to say that Mary has a tattoo doesn’t really do it justice. The 68 year old has two. Why a scorpion? That’s her husband, Dick’s, astrological sign. And her second tattoo? It commemorates their song, with the lyrics, “I Get Misty Just Holding Your Hand.”
“I’m not a shy person. I’m pretty gutsy, and if I want something I don’t care what anyone else thinks,” says Mary.
The story of Mary’s tattoos is more than just that of a woman embracing her life-long love of adventure. And Mary didn’t get her first tattoo alone, but with a friend from MPTF’s Saban Center for Health and Wellness swimming pool. To really understand what led Mary to these tattoos, to MPTF and the Saban Center in the first place, it helps to know one thing: Dick suffers from advanced dementia.
In 2005, when Dick was first diagnosed, everything changed. Only a year into their retirement, Mary found that the man with whom she thought she would spend the next decade traveling the world would soon require near constant care.
Serving as a full-time caregiver isn’t easy, but Mary has risen to her new role. “I don’t like to call it dementia. I call it Mr. Hyde, because Hyde is an evil person. One that won’t leave Dick,” she says. “Luckily, MPTF has been unbelievably supportive and has helped open doors that I wouldn’t have been able to open without them.”
MPTF’s doctors were with the McCoys every step of the way, from the beginning when he was able to keep seeing his primary-care doctor to his time in MPTF’s award-winning palliative care program. When a ground-breaking dementia study opened up at UCLA, Dick’s MPTF doctors helped him find a place in it.
But, perhaps Mary’s biggest support has come from MPTF programs not directly tied to medicine. Mary visits the Saban Center for Health and Wellness five days a week, including Friday, when she attends pool classes in the Saban Center for Health and Wellness with Dick, where Alan Marks, Dick’s volunteer pool buddy, helps get him moving.
“I can’t tell you how much the Saban Center means to both of us. It allows Dick to continue to have social interactions. For me, it’s a place I can go and be with people in similar situations as my own.”
The rest of the week, Mary spends time with new friends at the pool or using the treadmills and exercise equipment in the fitness room while Dick spends time at an adult daycare facility. The Saban Center offers Mary something other fitness centers can’t: a group of people who can relate to her struggles as a full-time caregiver.
When she’s not at the Saban Center, Mary spends much of her time caring for Dick at home. To help make this easier, Mary took advantage of MPTF’s Home Safe Home Program. She says it was remarkable how much easier caring for her husband was after a small team of volunteers visited her home and installed a shower bench, medical bed, and railings outside to help Dick and Mary better navigate their steps. They also rounded off corners and installed bumpers to make the furniture in the home safer.
Now Mary is in a much better position to bathe and care for Dick.
“He worked so hard, so many hours of overtime, and now to have this organization giving back, it’s just the icing on the cake,” says Mary, who hasn’t stopped there, because she’s giving back too.
Mary volunteers her time to help other people in the MPTF community. She helped build the Segal Family Dog Park and volunteers as a pool buddy, helping residents and older pool members to use the Saban Center facilities.
Mary hopes that soon as his needs progress, Dick can join the other residents in Harry’s Haven where he’ll get attention from the full-time staff there. In the meantime, Mary and Dick still manage to travel—they have a trip to San Diego planned for the spring. And despite the pressure and stress that comes with being a sole caregiver, Mary keeps a positive attitude about everything. “I’m OK,” she says, “I have a lot of help.”
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