Keeping Couples Together with PACE: Gayle & Mark – LifeCircles PACE
Keeping Couples Together with PACE: Gayle & Mark

Gayle and Mark have celebrated, supported and loved one another through many phases of life. Their secret has been mutual respect, the gift of time, and a sense of adventure. The two have partnered with each other through blending & growing their family, entrepreneurship, and health changes.

Mark has always had an independent streak, getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and dementia didn’t change his desire to living life fully! Gayle was taking care of business – literally, she was running their driving school, and doing what she could to meet Mark’s needs and still have a little time to enjoy one another’s company. After a rough patch, she knew they couldn’t continue do it alone. A friend suggested they look into PACE. They’ve been working with the program for more than 3 years.

We recently spoke with Gayle and Mark about their journey with LifeCircles and how it has changed their understanding of in-home senior care. Gayle and Mark share what LifeCircles means to them as we follow them through their love-at-first-sight story.

How did you meet?

Gayle: We met through friends at a beer tent during the Northside Summer Spectacular in North Muskegon. I was with my girlfriend and her husband, who was meeting up with Mark. We went to the bar and danced, then we went back to their house. Mark and I stood in their driveway and talked for a long time. When I got back to my mom’s house, I told her I was going to marry him.

Tell us about your wedding:

Gayle: We dated for 13 months before getting married right on Muskegon Lake. We had a woman minister, which was a big deal back then. There weren’t many women ministers at the time. We had close friends and family there. This was the second marriage for both of us. It was a beautiful day.

How many kids/grandkids do you have?

Gayle: Mark had two kids from his first marriage. I got to jump right into being a Mom! They would spend all summer with us, and we loved all the fun we had. We also have a daughter that we share. We have five wonderful grandkids.

What’s one of your favorite memories together?

Gayle: Our whole life together has been one big adventure. Raising all of our kids, including our daughter, Danielle and starting a driving school. We’re most proud of our kids, but we’re definitely proud of our business too!

Mark was a truck driver for a year, none of us liked that much. He returned from one drive and said he wanted to be a driving instructor because too many people were stupid on the road. When Mark was passionate about something, we’d jump in with both feet.

Can you share a memorable moment from your early days together?

Gayle: He was always the lovey-dovey one. The first six months that we were together, he brought me a flower whenever we’d meet. He’s still my sweet, sensitive man.  

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced together over the years?

Gayle: Owning your own business has plenty of challenges. We’ve owned three businesses over the years. We had a store in the old Muskegon mall. The Mugg Factory – we were innovators, the first people to put photos on mugs and hats. We also had a tool & die shop for a while. Most people know us for our driving school though.

Mark loved to ride motorcycles. At one point Mark got into an accident. He recovered from that, but eventually his health started to change. He’s had several surgeries and has had struggles with breathing. Eventually, with all his health issues, he had to stop working.

How do you support each other during difficult times?

Mark: Gayle always had a steady job, so we’d have benefits. That gave me an opportunity to try a number of different things. Which I loved. She has been my rock.

“We made every decision together! We were and we are a team! – Oh and we robbed banks” Gayle says with a laugh.

When the kids were young Mark struggled with the kids not living here. When they came home every summer, he wouldn’t leave them at all – no babysitters or anything. He would take time off work to be with them. We got to enjoy quality time with them for three straight months. We both loved it.

We have always believed that you don’t live to pay for your house. We live for our lives. We always did fun things. We enjoyed our life as we went along. For us, that was a blessing. Mark had a sister who died a year after retiring. She waited until she retired to travel but never got to. 

We would travel and dance, and we did everything we could! Mark now has dementia and Parkinson’s, so traveling now isn’t really feasible.

Tell us about a time when you felt particularly proud of your partner:

Gayle: I’ve always felt proud of Mark. He is such a great dad. And I’m always proud of that. The latest proudness is that he built a beautiful business that we could live on when I lost my job.

You’ve handled your illness very well. It’s not easy. He doesn’t like that he can’t drive. But at least now he’s better.

Mark: She’s stuck with me, she takes care of me, and has always helped me calm down. It (our love) just gets deeper and deeper.

Gayle: I couldn’t imagine a life without us being together.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing together?

Gayle: Watching our grandkids. We get to watch our granddaughter twice a week. We pick her up from school and spend time with her before cheer class.

What advice would you give to younger couples about maintaining a strong relationship?

Gayle: Always make time for one another, have a date night. We went out to supper one night a week alone. It sounds cliché but it works. Don’t let your kids become the only part of your life and forget about your relationships.

How has LifeCircles helped your relationship?

Gayle: When Mark joined LifeCircles, he was falling a lot. He was struggling with walking and a lot of ADLs (activities of daily living). LifeCircles came in and did therapy with him. The nurse practitioner realized he was super shaky standing up, so they got him on the right medication to walk better. Once they got him feeling better, he asked for help with losing weight, and LifeCircles helped him. He can get in and out of bed way easier now. They’ve done a lot. Not only physically but emotionally. Jen, the Dementia Specialist, has helped us understand the brain changes he’s going through and they’ve told us what to expect. Every person going through dementia is different, and they experience the world differently.

Some of Mark’s symptoms are “normal”, others are more unique. One unique thing is that Mark still has a great sense of humor and is a big flirt. That’s not always the case for everyone.  

I was still working when PACE came in. I found out about it when I ran into a friend who worked at LifeCircles. I put off calling for a while. Finally, I called and said I needed help. They even gave me a few attorney names since we also had the businesses.

Before LifeCircles, I did all the caregiving on my own. He doesn’t remember much from that time because his memory was so bad. A lot of stressful things happened, and my patience was so small. We were doing our best, but I was getting upset over simple things.

Once LifeCircles came, life just got so much better. They put bars on the toilet and bathtub. Got us a hospital bed. They sent someone to the home twice a week so I could go and get work done. But then I sold the business and retired – by then, he had improved. He and I went through a lot before LC, like falling in the shower and cracking his rib.

Mark reached out and held Gayle’s hand as he said, “I can’t believe I went from that darkness, and I just kind of woke up when LifeCircles came in.”

“Well honey, your brain was going through so much,” Gayle said through tears.

The best thing about LifeCircles is that they’re a team. The left-hand and the right-hand work together. Before Mark would go to the doctor, he would send us to all these different specialists, and he wound up on so many different medications that weren’t working well together, and things were getting worse.

“I had so much medicine that two times a day, I was taking fistfuls of pills,”  scoffed Mark.

Gayle replied, “But LifeCircles came in and said, ‘we’re taking you off these things and putting you on something better.’”

We love LifeCircles because he gets to stay home with me. We called our neurologist through LifeCircles, Lauren, and asked for a refill on a new medicine. You can’t do that with a normal doctor or a neurologist.

Last June, he fell and went to the emergency room. LifeCircles jumped in right away and sent people to our house to work with us. You don’t get that with a regular doctor.

“There could have been times when things could have been really bad that you could have ended up in a nursing home.” Gayle said as she looked to Mark.

Mark replied, “I don’t want that”.

What are you looking forward to by having LifeCircles in your life?

Gayle:

Having space and time to enjoy each other. I am not so stressed, and we know we can count on them through every twist and turn. We’re going to the LifeCircles Day Center tomorrow to watch our grandson read poems! He and his classmates are going to be guests at the day center for a few hours to read their poems to the PACE members. Our grandson’s poem is about family!

LifeCircles Making an Impact

Joining LifeCircles PACE has made life’s bumpy road a little smoother. The comprehensive care, education, and array of activities provided at LifeCircles have improved Mark’s physical well-being and enriched their emotional and social life. They are both proud that they have been able to continue to prioritize quality of life through their ups and downs. LifeCircles represents a new chapter of adventure, discovery, and contentment for them, proving that making bold decisions for better care can lead to fulfilling and vibrant golden years.

Last Updated on March 27, 2024