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From Child to Caregiver

Michael’s advice for caregivers: “get into a routine that you both enjoy—it’s comforting. I always make sure we eat meals together so I can make sure she is nourished. We get her hair done on Saturdays and we always go to church on Sundays.”

When Michael Cockey’s mom, Irene Vitak, had a stroke, it tossed both of their worlds upside down. Michael, who was working for the Department of Education in Maryland at the time, had to use family leave in order to travel to Rehoboth Beach to take care of his mother. 

“It was clear to both of us that nothing would ever be the same,” Michael recalls. While he was able to return to work, he knew he needed to relocate to Rehoboth to help his mother. Soon, Michael and his partner were planning their move to Fenwick Island where they had a home. “It was a frenzy, we had some things in Delaware, some in Maryland, and it was all overwhelming,” Michael says.

On the advice of a neighbor, Michel made an appointment with Beebe's Adult Activities Center at Gull House (now in Lewes). “It was like a godsend for us. They welcomed Mom and me with open arms … they are now an extension of my family.”

A few years later when Michael’s partner passed away suddenly, the Gull House was there for him again. “It was such a relief for me to know that mom was having fun and cared for while I was taking care of estate details and starting my own grieving process,” Michael says. 

Michael attended the caregiver support group hosted by Gull House, making friends who are also caring for parents. The connections and support have made all the difference for him. “The transition from child to caregiver can be incredibly difficult, but can also be very rewarding,” Michael says. 

Irene, 85, loved going to the Gull House during the week. “I like playing Bingo and joking around with everyone … I make them laugh whether they want to or not,” Irene says. “The people are grand—both the people working here and the people who come.”

“We call it our vacation.”


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This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of the Beacon.