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Juggling Two Lives: A daughter struggles to care for her mother with Alzheimer’s

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Martha Diaz, a 63-year-old Boyle Heights native, describes the challenges she has faced since her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than a decade ago. Her first-person Eastside Story was provided through a representative of  Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles.

By MARTHA DIAZ

My name is Martha Diaz. In 2004, I was married, had worked for the government for 29 years, my family was healthy and most importantly, I was happy. Little did I know that this same year would be the year I’d have to leave my old life behind and enter into unfamiliar and uncharted territory.

Sudden Forgetfulness, a Sign of Alzheimer’s

My mother, who once had a mind as sharp as a tack, was starting to experience gradual symptoms of Alzheimer’s. She was becoming increasingly forgetful, the neighbors oftentimes found her wandering outside, and my mother had even left the oven on at one point to where the neighbors luckily smelled smoke before the incident could progress further. What started out as a gradual cognitive impairment for my mother, turned into the inability to feed and bathe herself. My mother was officially diagnosed with this devastating disease in 2004. Caring for her has become my full time job.

Juggling Two Lives: My Mother’s and My Own

Shortly after I was forced into retirement to tend to my mother full-time, both my marriage and happiness suffered. I was not only experiencing feelings of loneliness, but I was simultaneously being forced to learn how to be a “mother” to my mother, who now had the mindset equivalent to that of a three-year-old. This loneliness quickly turned darker in which I began to experience impatience, anger, and signs of depression. Who was this person that I had become? I knew this person was not me, not Martha. It was at that moment that I realized I was not the same happy person I once was and that something had to be done.

Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s

I began to educate myself more about the disease by reading online articles and books. I researched local support groups and came across Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles (ALZGLA), who provided me with a wealth of information and made me feel like I was no longer alone in this journey. I’m now in a much better place and hope that others going through the same thing know there is help out there as long as they seek it out. Education is key and yes, some days will be harder than others but we are all in this together. Don’t allow this disease to take another victim, take care of yourself and know there is support waiting for you.

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2 comments

  1. That was a nice read. Glad it pointed to a resource that other people in similar situations can use

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Maria. Alzheimer’s (or any sort of dementia) is so very difficult, especially for the family and caregiver. You are both. There is a small book that is very helpful for caregivers called “The 36 Hour Day”. Perhaps you have read it, along with getting much needed information and assistance from ALZGLA. Your dear Mother is lucky to have such a wonderful caring and loving daughter. Please take good care of yourself!

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