Lupita Mora and Christine Lopez quickly became friends as managers of nursing departments at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. In addition to their passion for nursing and their Hispanic heritage, they discovered they share a similar focus on family — Lupita is mom to daughter Docché and son Garneo; Christine is mom to two daughters, Katia and Valeria, and two sons, Emiliano and Giancarlo. They also learned they share something else in common: They both have moms with Alzheimer’s disease.
This similarity shouldn’t be surprising, considering that nearly one-third of all Americans have a family member with Alzheimer’s. Ten million women have Alzheimer’s or care for someone with it, with one-third providing care around the clock, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the United States and about 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than other ethnicities.
Add raising children and working full-time to the demands of caring for a parent with advancing Alzheimer’s disease and it’s no wonder that nearly half of all female caregivers report high levels of emotional and physical stress.
“Meeting Christine has been a blessing,” Mora says. “I can always relate to her and share my feelings. We just look at each other and understand.”
Both Mora and Lopez say that the signs of Alzheimer’s showed up over time: Increasing forgetfulness; a pot on the stove left unattended; and changes in behavior, to name a few.
Forgetfulness is a common sign, but not all instances of forgetfulness are cause for concern. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, other signs and symptoms include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion about times or places
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- Problems with speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
Despite advancing Alzheimer’s disease, Mora and Lopez continue to make their moms central in their lives by following the examples set for them.
“My mom did not attend college. She always gave me consejos (advice), telling me she wanted me to do better in life than she did. She would tell me, ‘Mi hija (my daughter), please finish school. I don’t want you to have to depend on anyone.’ She worked hard to give me opportunities,” Lopez says.
“If it wasn’t for my mom’s guidance, unconditional love and inspiration, I would not be who I am. She always did whatever it took so all my needs were met,” Mora adds.
For children in similar situations with aging parents, Mora and Lopez have advice.
“Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Seek support and do not feel bad about not being able to do it all,” Mora says.
“Enjoy and cherish moments with family now. Journal, take pictures and share stories with family and children because one day they may be sharing those memories with you,” Lopez adds.
Learn more or register for Sharp caregiving classes and support groups around San Diego County.
For the media: To talk with Christine and Lupita about their story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.
For Spanish-language media: Contact Claudia Llausas, specialist for multicultural relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was updated in August 2017.