Three Faces of Grief: Anger
Matt and Rosemary
Matt and I connected through social media a few years ago. Both of us were sharing our dementia journeys with the world; his travels included his mom and father-in-law, while I was immersed in my dementia tip-toe-through-the-tulips trek with Mom. (STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!) We hit it off, so when I decided to make a dementia family caregiver documentary I knew talking to Matt and his wife Lindsay would be a definite destination.
Our film shoot day was a few days after Matt had moved his mom Rosemary from a memory care community she had thrived at to one that took Medicaid. Rosemary's life savings was gone. Along with the fears the effect of this move would have on his mom, he expressed hope that the new facility would be, if not as good a fit as her previous home, at least a step-up from adequate.
While his words were optimistic a subtle hint of anger writhed in the muck below, born from a sense of defeat that the absolute best he could do for his mom was not going to be good enough; financial circumstances rendering him powerless to make it better.
What follows is a fiercely loving and righteously angry obituary for Rosemary Perrin, by her devoted son Matt, who is coping the best he can in the wake of her death.
She was born to the late Ruth (Allen) and Urban "Bobo" LaDuke, September 25, 1946 in Worcester, MA. Rosemary grew up in South Grafton, MA, graduated from Grafton High School, and received a Nursing degree from St. Vincent Nursing School. She married the late Alan F. Perrin in 1974 and they lived together in Bangor, ME and Berlin, NH before relocating to Orleans, MA in 1988.
Rosemary was a Registered Nurse until she retired from the VNA of Cape Cod in 2010.
In her twenty plus years at the VNA, she cared for hundreds of patients across the Lower Cape as if they were her own family.
Rosemary is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Matthew and Lindsay Perrin of Amherst, NH; three grandchildren: Caroline, Emma, and Lucy Perrin of Amherst, NH; and was predeceased by her beloved brother Richard "Dick" LaDuke.
In addition to her family, what Rosemary cherished most were her friendships, from all chapters of her life. This includes a group of childhood friends from Grafton affectionately known as "The Grafton Girls", who were with her in the final days to shower her with love and culminate 65 years of sisterhood.
Rosemary lived a good life. She worked tirelessly as a widowed single mother to raise her son and somehow managed to be the life of the party along the way. While Alzheimer's Disease was a cruel and uninvited guest in her retirement years, she set an example of how to laugh, love, and live in spite of it.
She did that until she couldn't anymore and eventually became collateral damage of our country's broken long term care system.
Within 4 years, every penny of Rosemary's life savings was gone, all spent on the care and supportive living arrangement she needed because of Alzheimer's. When her money was gone, she was too; forced to move into a less supportive environment because she could no longer afford to pay.
Rosemary left Cape Cod for the last time on September 9th, 2021 while still ambulatory, verbal, and full of life.
She would spend time in 6 different facilities over the course of the next 6 months, due in large part to a pervasive lack of dementia training throughout long term care and a system structured to transactionally treat conditions instead of truly caring for the people living with them.
We're eternally grateful for the kindness and compassion showed to her by many staff members at various facilities, and recognize they have impossible jobs because they're set up by the system to fail. Or they're not invested in, such that they can succeed. Either way, the result is the same.
Rosemary died relatively peacefully 6 months after leaving Cape Cod, with her son Matthew by her side.
As she drew her last breath, she was three steps away from a leaking sink and broken dressers, and a literal arm's length away from her concerned and confused roommates--Ruth on the left and Arlene on the right--separated only by a curtain that hadn't seen a washing machine in at least a decade.
If she were still here and cogent she would think nothing of her own circumstance and say something like "I was one of the lucky ones". She would also be appalled by the quality of life provided to her fellow residents in their respective final days and how badly the long term care system is failing our most marginalized and vulnerable. And she'd let the world know it.
Because that's who Rosemary Perrin was.
Companion Posts: Three Faces of Grief