Tom Flahavan: The life of the party

June 2016

Tom Flahavan was a outgoing, charismatic man who loved to sing and dance. As his wife Rose says, “he was the life of the party. Everybody loved him.”

Married in 1963, the two native San Franciscans enjoyed dancing, travelling, and raising their five children in Millbrae. Tom had a long and successful career with Pacific Bell and the San Francisco Dept. of Electricity.

Flahavan familyIt was a huge change when this gregarious, active man started slowing down and stumbling. He was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and gradually withdrew, becoming non-communicative. As his physical struggles became more severe, he moved into a residential care facility in Millbrae.

It was about this time that Rose ran into her acquaintance Libby Hagman, a Mission Hospice Outreach Nurse, who knew that although Tom didn’t quality for hospice, our free Transitions program could help the whole family.

Libby, along with Social Worker Anthony Lupian, formally evaluated Tom, and admitted him into Transitions right away. Libby, an RN, accompanied Rose to appointments with Tom’s personal physician, and helped her understand options for treatment. Anthony visited both Tom and Rose regularly, providing emotional support and counseling.

Anthony explains, “Parkinson’s is a difficult disease, for both the patient and the family. It can be hard to predict whether someone is going to have a good day or a bad day. Tom fluctuated a lot, and part of my job was to answer Rose’s questions, and help her figure out how to cope with that.”

After a brief hospitalization, Tom became eligible for hospice care. Although his paperwork moved him into a different program, his Mission Hospice care team stayed with him, building on their existing relationships. “It was a perfect opportunity to care for the entire family as Tom’s disease progressed,” says Libby.

Anthony explains, “we’d started the conversation about hospice very early, so when it came time for that, Rose and her children understood what it meant.”

Tom was in hospice care for nine months. His Case Manager, RN Ellen Chao, worked closely with Anthony – and in coordination with Wilma and the rest of the staff at Millbrae Family Care Home – to be sure that Tom was supported physically and emotionally.

Throughout Tom’s journey, the team also stayed by Rose’s side. Spiritual Counselor Rachel Rosenberg prayed with Rose’s bible study group. And Rose says that her meetings with Anthony kept her going. “Anthony was a huge help. He helped me deal with things when I didn’t know which way to go. I knew I wasn’t alone with all of this.”

When Tom died, he and Rose had been married 52 years. Rose says that while she had always been the quiet opposite of her vivacious husband, after his illness quieted him, she came into her own. “I am as busy as I have ever been,” she says.

Spirited and energetic, Rose is an avid member of the Millbrae Racquet Club and enjoys entertaining in her Millbrae home. Perhaps she is honoring Tom’s legacy – continuing his tradition by being the life of the party.