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The Long Goodbye: Alzheimer's and a Care Giver's Helpful Family Dynamic

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- There was a time when Daisy Duarte didn't worry about the slow deterioration that comes with dementia. 

"It was just me having fun and games you know," Daisy said. "Enjoying life. Living the dream you know."

Back then she owned her own business and she maintained an active social life. 

"But I wouldn't change what I'm doing now for my mom for the world," Daisy said. "Because I know she'd do it for me tenfold."

Her mom, Sonia was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about eight years ago. 

"Being a caregiver is not easy," Daisy said.

Today, Daisy and her nephew, Martin, take care of Sonia full time. 

"I was here all the time taking care of grandma during the summer anyway so I was like 'I'll move in for the summer,'" Martin said. "The summer ended up being more like a year and a half."

Both of them sacrificing their day-to-day 

Serving their ailing loved one morning noon and night. 

"Being a caregiver is such a big job."

Julia Schreiber is a resource director at the Missouri Memory Center, a branch of citizen's memorial hospital in Bolivar, Missouri. She says more often than not, this is what happens when a member of the family falls victim to dementia or Alzheimer's disease. 

And while dividing the labor among many siblings or relatives is ideal, it's more frequent that one caregiver steps forward.

And often that one person won't want to ask for help from other family members. 

"They're reluctant to do that," Scheiber said. "They say 'oh they have children of their own. They work full time.' So there is some barrier there."

And on top of that, those family members seeing the illness from a distance might not know how best to help. 

"Unless you are living with someone with dementia you don't see everything that a caregiver needs to do," Scheiber said.

And that needed teamwork will prove useful to both the ailing loved one and the primary caregiver. 

"They need a break," Scheiber said. "They need to take care of themselves, like we tell our patients about eating right, exercising and staying mentally-socially active. They need to do the same thing because they're at an increased risk for illness just being a caregiver."

It's why, even on tough days with Sonia, Daisy and Martin are thankful to have each other. 

"I don't think people realize he's only 19," Daisy said. "He sacrifices so much. I couldn't ask for a better teammate."


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