The Toronto Star
By: Jesse McLean nvestigative News reporter, David Bruser News Reporter, Published on Wed May 20 2015
Blue and brilliant, Mary Bishop’s eyes glistened with a liveliness that prompted one of her daughter’s to call her “my beauty queen.”
“Mom’s eyes told everything,” said Benny Smith. “That sparkle was there.”
But that sparkle vanished soon after her mother was put on quetiapine, an antipsychotic, around 2010 to treat emotional outbursts caused by her increasing dementia.
The drugs calmed her mother, but Smith watched as they robbed her of emotions and purpose. A proud cook, her mother now stayed away from the kitchen, often sitting on a nearby loveseat.
She no longer spoke. She slept all the time. Her eyes turned dull.
“We lost the emotions,” Smith said. “Everything just didn’t register.”
In January 2011, her mother was admitted to the Village of Humber Heights long-term care home, where she stayed in supportive care to recover from a broken hip.
She continued taking the antipsychotic drugs for several years. Then, in early 2014, under director of care Caroline Shemilt, the nursing home sought to reduce the number of their residents taking these kinds of medications.
Staff at the Etobicoke home identified Mary as an ideal candidate.
They consulted her family and in February 2014, they weaned her off one of her two daily doses of quetiapine. Within weeks they saw changes. Mary was now standing up on her own, folding towels and cleaning off her own wheelchair, Shemilt said.
“We were able to discontinue completely after just under a month because she was improving so much,” she said.
Mary’s story is featured in a new report by Health Quality Ontario on the use of antipsychotic drugs in the province’s nursing homes.
Smith said her family would not have even considered taking their mom off any medications and is grateful the home approached them with the idea.
“It’s really important for me to be able to put my hand out and say thank you,” she said.
In the months after she was taken off the drugs, Smith’s mother continued to improve. One day, after having lunch, Smith and her mother were sitting in one of the nursing home’s common rooms, where some residents watched TV.
“My mom looks right at me and says, ‘I love you,’ ” Smith remembers, her voice choked with tears. “I keep that with me forever.”
Mary Bishop died on Dec. 21 at age 87. Near the end, as her dementia worsened, doctors decided it was best to put her back on antipsychotic medication. But her daughter fondly remembers the final months she shared with her mom.
“I am so grateful to have had that opportunity to have spent more time with the person who raised me and nurtured me, and who made me the woman I am today,” Smith said.
“I got a piece of that lady back.”
Story first published in the Toronto Star on May 20, 2015. Click here for the original link.