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Saturday, November 3, 2007

An Alzheimer's Family Caregiver Speaks on Isolation, Exhaustion and Stress

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month today's blog post is dedicated to family caregivers and people whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer's.

In the picture are two ladies whose story highlights this month's messages, and who represent so many others who are in similar circumstances.

Stella Carrasco, on the left in the picture, is a 63 year old family caregiver who is going through tests for a liver transplant. For the last four years she has been the sole caregiver for her mother, Mary Chaparro, 82, who has Alzheimer's. Stella gave permission for her story to be part of this blog, and she hopes it will help others to understand what a situation like hers is like. In the photo Stella and Mary are at a local Craft Fair, held today, displaying some of the beautiful items they create by hand at home.

There is no caregiver relief or support because Mary, due to the Alzheimer's symptoms, rejects the relief caregivers they've tried. "Mom has been so against it," Stella said. "She doesn't trust anybody, she's always thinking they are taking her money, then she hides, it, and accuses me of taking the money."

Stella is with her mom 24 hours a day because Mary cannot be left alone due to the Alzheimer's Disease. They tried having some outside help, but Stella explained the caregivers who came in were young and inexperienced, and did not understand Alzheimer's Disease or communication with someone who has it.

Stella explained, "What hurts me to no end is when she accuses me of taking her money. It brings me to tears." She said that when exhaustion and stress get to be too much she sleeps all day, but keeps the door to her room open in order to hear her mom and wake up if she is needed.

She said, "Being at the craft fair at the Central Coast Seniors Center today is the first real outing since 2003. On Sundays someone takes Mom to Mass and I can rest for awhile. Otherwise we are at home working on crafts. I don't have anybody I can really talk to. I don't have a social life. I am isolated."

Stella and I met when I was taking digitial photos of a Craft Fair and Bake Sale for the Central Coast Seniors Center site. She explained about her mother, and we sat down for a visit. Stella donated a beautiful handmade afghan for the raffle today. The exquisite heirloom quality handmade crafts that she and her mother make use many vintage items as decoration.

What can be done? The manager of the Central Coast Seniors Center, and a local church pastor, and I gave Stella our phone numbers and took her number. She won't be alone because we will call her, she can call us, and we will get together to visit. We are working on some ideas for some relief and support for Stella.

Betty Milne, the manager at the Central Coast Seniors Center, is checking the schedule to see when we can schedule a caregivers day out with lunch and a video on the large screen at the center. Stella said a humorous movie would help reduce stress. She will bring her mother to enjoy the movie too. We exchanged hugs, and I am so happy to have met such a dedicated caregiver and friend.

Additionally, we are getting into contact with the local Area Agency on Aging and the local Alzheimer's Association, as well as resources at San Luis Seniors. As we progress with support more updates will be available.

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