Growing up in Ireland during the Great Depression, poverty was the norm for Winnipeg-born Maybelle Summers.
Despite those hardships, or perhaps because of them, she’s always had a flair for music. Maybelle discovered her beautiful singing voice at an early age, and when her family moved back to Canada when she was 14, she began building a career with it.
After graduating, Maybelle worked as a secretary at Eaton’s by day, but when night fell she became Maybelle the performer, working with theatre groups and singing at local clubs. She got the chance to sing alongside many talented artists, including famed crooner Robert Goulet.
Maybelle’s husband David remembers their courtship as though it were yesterday. Maybelle dazzled him when he went to see her onstage at a hall on Howe Street in downtown Vancouver.
The venue was packed with people who had all come to see Maybelle, the songstress. David was smitten. He and Maybelle soon married and in the years that followed, they raised five children together.
Maybelle focused all her energy into running the home, raising her children and working for the family company, Summers’ Auto Body, but music remained a great love for her.
At 38, Maybelle underwent surgery that altered the course of her life. Surgeons inserted wooden screws into her lower back to correct a spinal malformation, but the procedure left her with crippling chronic pain.
As the years passed, Maybelle’s narcotic pain medications began to take their toll. Becoming increasingly forgetful, disoriented and restless, Maybelle would refuse to sit, bathe, eat or take her medications. She would wander aimlessly around their home day and night, groaning in pain.
In an effort to obtain relief for Maybelle, her family enrolled her in a day program for seniors, but she frequently needed to be taken to the hospital for her pain and confusion. Doctors there recommended she be transferred to an extended-care facility, where she resided full-time for several months.
During this time, David and his children agonized as they watched the wife and mother they loved deteriorate alone, so in 2009, they brought her home. Her family was glad to have her back, but soon realized Maybelle, now 75, needed more support than David could give her on his own, so they made a decision that changed her life again – they asked a professional home care agency for help.
They brought in a nursing supervisor from Classic LifeCare, who assessed Maybelle and recognized that the large doses of narcotics she had been taking were very likely contributing to her behavioural issues. Sure enough, as Maybelle was weaned off the painkillers, her erratic behaviour started to subside.
In the two and a half years since that first visit, Maybelle has improved dramatically thanks to her family and the agency’s caregivers, who have provided her with consistent, gentle companionship and care.
Now she’s fully accepted her caregivers into her life, she eats and enjoys the meals they prepare, and she’s taking more control over her personal care. As a result, Classic has pared down her care plan from full-time to three days a week, and Maybelle’s caregivers continue to adjust her care schedule as her needs change.
Meanwhile, David is able to go out, work and putter in their garden.
Perhaps the most comforting moments for David and Maybelle are those they spend together. They continue to share their love of music, and the radio at their house is always on. They often take drives to have lunch or visit family, and they share a bed again. Maybelle takes comfort in knowing David is close.
She continues to face challenges, but her life has improved immeasurably since she was given the chance to live in comfort with the man she loves.