By Laura Flynn McCarthy
After Joan Rodriguez's mother, Alicia Ferguson, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Joan and her four siblings took turns staying overnight with Alicia in her home for a year. But as the disease progressed, so did her mom's needs. Joan had recently retired early from a career in long-distance communication to start up her own business. Instead, she decided to care for her mom in her home in San Jose, California. She was able to do that for eight years, until her mother died.
The Solution When her mother moved in, Joan's two daughters were in their early 20s and her son, Darin, was just 13. "The way I dealt with all of the different roles in my life was simply to include my mother in as much as I could," says Joan. "When Darin was young, my mother cared for him a lot while I worked so he had a special bond with her. He never squawked about having her with us at different functions."
Costs Though most medical needs were covered by insurance, Joan didn't work outside of her home while her mother lived with them, which strained finances dramatically.
Key to Success The family became a team. When Alicia was diagnosed, Darin, who was away at college, transferred to a local school so he could live at home and help. Joan's siblings relieved her at least one day a week. Helping her mother, Joan says, changed her life. "I used to work long hours and always wanted more of everything," she says. "I learned to slow down and appreciate a different kind of 'more.' I was able to help care for my three grandkids. And I discovered a love for gardening. I'm so grateful for the time I had with my mother."