The early signs were subtle. Cutting pills in half when it wasn’t necessary. Difficulty recalling the names of specific places, people or objects. Maybe these were normal signs of aging but her daughters weren’t so sure. Their mother was changing before their eyes.
Mary Malloy was fortunate in the fact that she was not alone. Her four daughters were very involved in her life, especially Jeannine, who along with her husband and children, lived with Mary for many years. Daughters Mike, Susan, and Colleen, along with their families, were regular visitors. They all watched as slowly, over time, Mary transformed from the care giver to the recipient of care as she became increasingly forgetful and confused.
Following probable small TIAs and increasing forgetfulness, Mary suffered her first major stroke in 2004 at age 84. The ensuing years saw increasing dementia, an additional stroke, and, at age 87, a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer’s. She became one of 5.7 million Americans living with the disease that slowly erodes the memory of our loved ones. In fact, every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Mary’s symptoms progressed. She had a hard time making a meal for herself. She would forget where she was and even who she was. She sometimes didn’t recognize family members. Mary stopped her beloved excursions to the senior center. She didn’t want to go on her once-loved shopping expeditions either.
This was unlike their active, social mother. Born and raised in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, Mary was always on the go. Her favorite volunteer work over the years was with Catholic Charities, taking infants awaiting adoption into her home and caring for them. She also supported youth groups in Brigantine and was an active Girl Scout leader and PTA officer. Mary was a parishioner of St. Thomas Church, and in later years she was a member of the Young at Heart Club, the Red Hat Society, and the Brigantine Senior Center. But now all Mary wanted to do was stay home and watch TV.
Slowly, she withdrew further into herself. After 8 years of being cared for at home, it became apparent that Mary needed more care than could be provided there. Her daughters gathered and began the tour of nursing homes.
Finding a Forever Home
“We didn’t have a choice; we knew we had to do it,” remembers Colleen. “We’d go to these places, and they’d tell us all about the activities that they had, but the residents were just sitting around. It was depressing. We’d try to convince ourselves, well this isn’t so bad. Finally, we walked into Seashore Gardens Living Center (SGLC) and they didn’t have to tell us anything. We could see what they were doing. It was lively and cheerful. There were calisthenics on the Boardwalk. They had a drum circle in Memory Care. We asked, ‘are these the higher functioning residents?’ and they told us, no. These are all of our residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”
“We looked at each other and said, this is it,” remembers Colleen. “This is home.”
The family moved Mary, age 92, into SGLC’s Comfort Care Residence. Comfort Care is a dedicated unit for seniors with memory loss. Comfort Care is a safe and secure environment that was carefully designed for the unique needs of these residents. Activities in the Comfort Care Residence start around 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. and go until about 6:30 p.m. They include music, bingo, cooking classes, aromatherapy, massage, crafts, games and pizza parties. When the weather is nice, they enjoy outside activities as well. Families are welcome to visit, and residents are permitted to leave for outings with family members.
Alzheimer’s taught the Malloy family to live in the moment and enjoy their time with Mary on her terms. Jeannine would take her mother for long walks around the property. Colleen enjoyed painting with Mary and sitting in on the group activities. Mike loved the opportunity to bring her grandchildren to visit (Mary’s 6 great-grandchildren). The entire family enjoyed the gardens, the porch, the children’s play center, the accessible glider, and the snack bar. “We were happy; my mother was very content,” says Jeannine. “All the nurses, the aides, the social workers, and the administration made us all feel at home.”
“The Malloy family constantly amazed me with their positive attitude and unconditional love and devotion for their Mom,” says Sharon D’Angio, Fund Development Coordinator at SGLC. “Whether it was playing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” while eating a burger outside in the Gazebo, spending time in the sensory trail and garden or celebrating Mary’s Birthday on the Boardwalk complete with tiara, flowers and generations of family they are true role models for loving someone with Alzheimer’s.”
“The staff is ultra-caring,” says Colleen. “I was there twice after a resident had passed away and each time I saw staff members break down in tears. The staff really makes a connection with the residents. I never had a second thought about my Mom at Seashore Gardens Living Center. It’s just a wonderful place.”
Run for a Reason
The Malloy family heard about the annual SGLC 5K Run & Health Walk to benefit Alzheimer’s outreach, and it was a natural fit for them—a way to support their Mom and the home where she lived. Jeannine, because she was local, became the point person. The whole family got involved, from as far away as Florida, with their support. The local family ran and walked that first year, and it’s just evolved since then. Last year, Team Mary Malloy was among the largest teams with 35 members. This year, it will feature four generations, including three of Mary’s great grandchildren.
The family has continued to participate, even after Mary’s passing on Dec. 22, 2016. As a result of their contributions, the Malloys have received SGLC’s first Forever Family Award. “Seashore Gardens Living Center became my Mother’s family,” says Jeannine. “Her last years here were very good. She was very content and happy. As a result, Seashore Gardens Living Center will always be part of our family.”
Join Us and Make a Difference
The 8th Annual Seashore Gardens 5K Run & Health Walk is scheduled for Sunday, April 29, 2018 on the Atlantic City Boardwalk at Tropicana Casino & Resort. Proceeds from this fundraising event will benefit the Alzheimer’s Outreach Services at Seashore Gardens Living Center, an independent nonprofit Home for the Aged in Galloway Twp., N.J.
The run begins at 9 a.m. and the health walk begins at 9:01 am. The awards ceremony will take place at 9:45 a.m. and will feature Diane Mitchell from WAYV’s Mike & Diane Show as master of ceremonies. Free parking is offered from 7 am to 12 noon at the Tropicana Havana Tower parking garage. Refreshments will be provided following the race.
Pre-registration is available until Friday, April 27 at 5 p.m. Cost is $30 per person and includes a t-shirt. Same-day registration will be available at the race starting at 7:15 a.m. for $40 per person, and does not include the t-shirt. Register online at http://seashoregardens.org/5k/. For questions, or for sponsorship opportunities, contact Sharon D’Angio at (609) 748-4614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.