Jayne Nothe endured a constant barrage of physical and mental health challenges throughout her entire life. As she grew older and her need for care became constant, her daughters discovered MHA. They learned the difference in quality of life that MHA’s innovations and caring people can make—and did make for their mother.
“Living with a mom who was challenged by her mental health was rough for my siblings and me, starting at a young age,” says Jayne’s daughter Karen. “Our mom’s mental health problems began when our brother Georgie died at 3 years old. She just couldn’t cope with her loss. Mom was our legal caregiver and she was there physically, but not mentally. She had 20 hospitalizations in the first 10 years of her grief and mental suffering. At 13, 11 and 9 years old, my two sisters and I were being pulled into care plans and family meetings as children. We had to grow up very fast, advocating for her treatment and care. It wasn’t the childhood we would have picked.”
Jayne’s medical downward spiral proved even harder. She had a near-fatal choking accident that landed her in a nursing home. An irreversible condition caused her to eat a pureed diet and have her pills crushed. “Our mom had a memory like an elephant, but was stuck in a compromised body,” Karen explains. “Because of her physical needs, she was placed on a dementia floor where she couldn’t make friends with her roommates. On top of that, she fought breast cancer, melanoma, diabetic coma (the first of her two brain injuries), and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. She was like a cat using all nine lives.”
During a visit to see their mom at a nursing home, the sisters found Jayne in the dining room slumped over. “If we hadn’t gone in, no one would have noticed,” Karen recalls. We rarely saw the same staff, so we had to explain our mother’s health needs and advocate for her care over and over. It was so frustrating and worrisome. We kept looking for a better way to care for Mom, for a better setting so she could live her best life. It was a huge relief to us to get her out of the nursing home and into an MHA residence.”
For two years, Jayne lived in a comfortable home environment with all the psychological and medical attention she needed 24/7. “She was well cared for by MHA staff who always did their best for her,” says Karen. “There were none of the downsides of the nursing home. Let’s just say it’s harder to hide in a program with four residents than in an institution with hundreds. And there were plenty of upsides, most notably, MHA staff treated our mom like family. Mom’s MHA home was by far the best situation we encountered. It wasn’t always perfect, but any issues were taken care of, the management was great, and the staff made her quality of life a hundred times better than before. At that stage in her life, this was a relief for her, and also for my sisters and me. With MHA caring for Mom, my sisters and I could breathe; we could just be daughters. That life balance proved important to us all.”
MHA staff was there for Jayne through it all, even coming to the intensive care unit at the hospital, Karen recalls. “We were incredibly grateful when one of her caregivers told us something we didn’t even know: Mom had said that if she were ever on her death bed, she’d want to hear the Elvis song ‘I can’t help falling in love with you.’ So we played it for Mom at her bedside and made it part of her funeral services.”
Karen’s sister Sheila recalls the thoughtfulness of MHA staff, who brought their mom’s roommates to the wake. “I thanked them for coming,” Sheila says. “I said I knew they didn’t always get along with my mother. She could be pretty difficult. One of her roommates replied, ‘Well, that’s how sisters are.’ Isn’t that just like a family? There are squabbles, but you care about the other person.”
Karen says that you should expect people in an agency to care as much as you do—and she says confidently that MHA people cared that much about her mom. “It became even more apparent with her passing. At the wake and funeral, we heard stories of day-to-day happenings in her home. There was more good going on in that house, in Mom’s home, than was known to us. That’s why, when Mom died, we asked people to honor her memory with a gift to MHA. Flowers are pretty, but our family knows it’s more important to help people live their best life in a caring environment. We know MHA helps people live their best life because we got to see it happen.”