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Joy Smith Padilla

My mom loved to work picture and word puzzles, she was a lifelong pet lover, she loved caring for others and she was so proud of 50+ years of independence. I relied on her for so much emotional support, life and financial advice. My mom and I loved to travel together and my mom took two major trips (Hawaii and Greece!) without me! I’m an only child and my mom always supported me living my life as I wanted to. Now, I have tremendous guilt because I live in California and my mother still resides in our native Texas. I wasn’t seeing or talking to her every day so I didn’t realize or acknowledge the early, early signs. She was getting lost and I thought it was just a matter of knowing how to use the GPS device/new technology. I have had my own health issues and my mom used to be able to support me in my times of ailment. My mom still lives alone. Since the progression of her Alzheimer’s, I go to Texas from California, monthly, to help care for her. We have family friends that live in her neighborhood who help with her daily needs and care. I quit a full-time job here in California to be able to make the monthly trip back home. My husband has been the ROCK by holding down the full-time income (paying for my flights to Texas).

My favorite memory of my mother is our cruise to Alaska. We had a wonderful time sightseeing and going on amazing excursions. It also started our other mutual love of whale watching!

Alzheimer’s took “my mother away”. The little loving aspects of my mom are gone (no more hugs or kisses; no more impromptu laughs just because…). My mother no longer recognizes my adult self as her daughter. She does see me as a “loved one” and that is all I cling to. The disease has rendered my helpless and angry at so many moments, I couldn’t recount them all. I’ve had to become “the adult” and the care provider. My husband and I have stepped up to responsibilities that we have never had to address in either of our lives.

My piece of advice is to know your loved ones’ financial details. My mom was completely financially independent and handled her financial affairs meticulously but when bill payments were being missed, I had no idea! I had to research for weeks to gather and connect all of the dots of her finances (she almost lost her home!).

As a caregiver, I would want everyone affected by the disease in any, to take stock of their own capabilities. It took a lot for me to accept that as the human I am right now, I’m not the BEST caregiver for my mother. I’m saying love isn’t enough; you also need caregiver skills and help. I attempted to take on my mom’s care all by myself. When I did ask for help from extended family, the disease had progressed to the point where it “too much” for her siblings to care for my mom.