If you visit the Saban Center for Health and Wellness, you may already know Mary McCoy and her husband, Dick. Keep reading to see how this pair received help from MPTF, then decided to give back in return. 

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 Woman with the Scorpion Tattoo

The story of Mary’s tattoos is more than just that of a gutsy woman embracing her life-long love of adventure and her love for her husband. It is a layered story that celebrates friendship, community, support and, yes, the love of her life.

In 2005, just one year into their retirement, Dick was diagnosed with dementia — a diagnosis that would change everything. This was the man with whom Mary had planned to spend the next decade traveling the world, and now she was faced with the reality that he would soon require near-constant care.

From the initial diagnosis, 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 groundbreaking dementia study opened up at UCLA, Dick’s MPTF doctors helped him find a place in it.

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.”

Finding Support Through Health & Wellness

While the medical services associated with MPTF have provided a wealth of physical assistance, perhaps Mary’s biggest support has come from MPTF programs not directly tied to medicine. Mary visits the Saban Center for Health and Wellness (link to Saban – /saban) five days a week, including Friday, when she attends pool classes 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.

In fact, it was a friend from the Saban Center swimming pool who accompanied Mary when she received that first tattoo.

Paying It Forward

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.

She hasn’t stopped there because she’s giving back, too. Mary also volunteers her time helping 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 use the Saban Center facilities.

Despite the pressure and stress that comes with being a sole caregiver, Mary keeps a positive attitude about everything. “I’m okay,” she says, “I have a lot of help.”

Mary hoped that as his needs progressed, Dick could join the other residents in Harry’s Haven where he would get attention from the full-time staff there.  That came to pass in 2015, and in March of 2016, Dick and Mary renewed their wedding vows on campus, in the company of their children, grandchild and many friends, fellow residents, and MPTF staff. Dick doesn’t walk much due to his illness, but they both walked down the aisle together – and danced, kissed, and hugged. He doesn’t speak much now either, but when asked if he would continue to love and cherish Mary, Dick answered, “Yes.”