“She was perfect, so easy going, bubbly, spontaneous and really fun to be with. We travelled together a lot…went on a cruise, we were exactly the same,” reminisces Theresa MacKinnon, a 71-year old caregiver to VHA client, Lynda Adair (Hope).
But true friends are there not just for the laughs, they’re also there for the challenges. So when Hope was diagnosed with colon cancer, Theresa didn’t hesitate to step up with 24/7 care: “Hope was an absolute gem. This was my chance to look after her and I knew she wouldn’t be happy in a nursing home,” says Theresa. “I’ve had four strokes myself, but if I can help someone, there is nothing more rewarding than that.” Without hesitation Theresa dedicated two years of her life to care for her friend until Hope passed away. “I had great support from VHA…the organization is phenomenal, I would praise you (VHA) up to the top and I couldn’t have asked for anything better during that time,” she adds.
She admits it was a steep learning curve for her, but she didn’t hold back to find out everything she could to help her friend “I’m so nosy, I have to know everything, so I got training (from the nurse),” she says.
Sasha Nazarchuk, a VHA nurse visited twice a week to provide home care for Hope and instantly noticed the “special bond” shared by the two women. “Once, while I was talking to Theresa, she got up mid conversation saying that Hope needed her, even though I didn’t hear anything,” says Sasha. “We checked and Hope did need Theresa’s help but was too weak to call for her,” he says.
“Months after she died, I would hear her voice calling my name…in her last week, she would do that a lot, call my name in the middle of the night, just to make sure I was there,” recalls Theresa.
Although, Theresa worked in an office most of her life, she feels that being a caregiver comes naturally to her, “I must have missed my calling,” she smiles. Always willing to go the extra mile for her friend, Theresa whole-heartedly dedicated her life caring for Hope, not only by attending to her physical limitations, “I’d put her in a wheelchair when she wanted to go out,” but also by being a positive emotional support. “I didn’t let her dwell on her sickness…we played cards all the time, we laughed a lot, swore at each other…shared stories—it was a lot of fun.”
Theresa’s unconditional love for caregiving has made her famous. “People call her St. Theresa because she will help anyone, anytime, under any circumstances…she’s extraordinarily special,” says Theresa’s friend, Idela. Hope is not the only lucky person to have been cared by Theresa, “In my lifetime, I’ve taken care of almost 30 people, where one person needed care for eight years.” She secretly dreams about owning a home where she could care for people so they don’t have to go into nursing homes. Hope once said to Theresa, “You are a miracle” she laughs, “it made me feel like a million dollars.”
For more information on services by VHA Home HealthCare, please call 416 489 2500