Meet Daisy, who has been taking care of her mother since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.
“Don't think you're alone in this battle. There are thousands and thousands of people
out there fighting this battle, too. We have to work together.”
Daisy has been a caregiver to her mother since 2011, when her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
She was 55 years old. Daisy was 36. Her mother has been with her ever since.
"When she was first diagnosed, my brother took care of her for a month and then from there, my sister took care of her for a week," Daisy remembers, while she recounts the chain of events that resulted with her mother living with her. "And then my sister couldn't do it, so she brought her to my house and said, ‘You have to take care of mom.'"
In the seven years since then, Daisy has learned more than she ever thought she would about being a caregiver — and a daughter. She's learned how to make sure her mother takes her medication (crushed in applesauce, and then spoon fed). She's learned how to change diapers. She's learned how to lower an adult gently into a bathtub. She's had to make radical life adjustments to be able to care for her mother. But she's also learned to continue to love the person her mother has now become. "She may not be there 100 percent, but she's still human," she says about her mother, who was a teacher's aide for 29 years in the Chicago public school system. "She still needs the same love we need. I hate that she has the disease, but I love that I get to spend her final days with her."
Daisy hasn't been on this journey alone: she identifies her partner, her faith, and her family as the hands that help hold her up. "I have an inner circle. I have an amazing partner who's there for me. I have an amazing 18-year-old nephew who helps care for her. But I also have this optimism within me that comes from my faith and my mom. She instilled good values in me and that helps."
And then there is Daisy's work as an advocate for Latinos Against Alzheimer's, a network of Us Against Alzheimer's focused on raising awareness of Alzheimer's impact on the Latino community. "If I can make a difference in one person's life, I'm happy with that," she says of her work, which includes community outreach, speaking at medical meetings and even going to Congress.
"If there's somebody who's going through the same thing I'm going through and doesn't know how to face it, I hope I can change their way of thinking. If I can do that, I'm happy."
Although Daisy has risen to the occasion to care for her mother, that doesn't mean learning how to care for someone with Alzheimer's — as well as helping them through the devastating progression of the disease — hasn't been a challenge, or heart-breaking. "She was very, very, very independent," remembers Daisy, who says her mother taught her three children how to depend on themselves to get ahead. "All diseases are horrible, but there's nothing more awful than seeing someone you love who was once so independent deteriorate day after day. In my eyes, Alzheimer's is the worst disease because I'm seeing it firsthand."