Lily from New Jersey

I was the main Caregiver for both my parents. My Mom, Juana passed away 5 years ago of Alzheimer’s. My Father, Mateo passed a year later of a broken heart. He deteriorated after my Mom passed. Our amazing PCP warned me ahead of time of what to expect each time. There was never a question about putting them in a care facility. It wasn’t easy; it was an emotional rollercoaster. I had been widowed at 37 and our firstborn had just turned one year old; my husband died instantly in a car accident. My parents help raise our son while I was working in a high stakes job. I never thought watching my parents disappear mentally, physically and emotionally would be as difficult after my husband died.

Our PCP kept telling me Medicare covered respites for me and my parents could go to a facility for a couple of weeks a year. I couldn’t do that. I knew consistency was important. Our son at the time was 13 when my Mom’s deterioration began in 2012. He couldn’t have friends over anymore, but every free time he had, he was there for my Mom and Dad. Then there was Walsh, our Golden Retriever... he’d get me or wake me when they were awake, having night terrors or they started wandering. He always laid right next to them; he’d try and break a fall; he’d nudge them or get my son if I wasn’t around.

When the hospital beds for each of my parents came, he never left the side of the bed. They say dogs are wonderful therapy and can sense things. When they died, it was Walsh who alerted us. After their bodies were taken away, he would lie by the empty bed and then the spot where the bed had been and bring his stuffed animals and mourn. Our son just absorbed everything and did all his grieving privately. He had lost his Dad, (who he doesn’t remember); he lost his 2nd Mom and then he lost the only Father he ever knew.

Our family had fallen apart. It was him, Walsh and me. We had to start being this new family and we were lost. He took it the hardest and spiraled. After lots of counseling, he started getting better. He’s now a very hard working 19 year old that is amazing. He’s always been an old soul, but the man he is today has dealt with too much. We are closer than ever, but you never get over a loss. You get through it. I’m thankful for so many friends that stepped in. The advice I got from AARP, and an organization made it better. I still have regrets how I could have done better. In the end, my son and I took care of my parents. I am eternally grateful the major choices I made. I am thankful for having an amazing PCP and the aids that were there for their final weeks. My parents were together for 69 years. I believe with all my heart that they still are.

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