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Alene Garcia

Alene Garcia
Hopi Nation, AZ

My daughter Angela and I and my mother were in Flagstaff, trying to get some platters and things for Angela. All of a sudden, there was a pickup that pulled out between the parked cars, and just swerved out ... and just hit us head on, and that was it.

I think I'll have someone build us a family nursing home. There's my granddaughter, my mother, my grandmother.

I looked at my mother and she didn't have her eyes open, and she was slumped in the corner of the seat. She broke her neck and her spinal cord was injured. It was crushed; the spinal cord between 4 and 5 vertabrae was crushed, so that left her permanently paralyzed from the chest on down. And since then, we've been taking care of her.

It was a big shock, I mean, my mother was so healthy, strong, vibrant, always doing something, always working for other people, so I was afraid that she would no longer be as productive as she was at that time. And my brother is a lab technician, my sister is a nursing assistant at the hospital, my cousins are all in the nursing field, and I was the only one who was not in the nursing field. And so it was more of a shock to me; I really thought I was going to lose my mother.

All the others took it calmly and said it was going to be ok, but I was the one who was in shock, I didn't really know the results of her injuries, I was in total shock. But they knew -- my brother and sister and the rest of my family -- they knew what was expected. It was like I was left without a mother. My mother and I are very close. Before this accident, her and I would walk at least 2 miles a day. Early in the morning, about 4 o'clock in the morning, my mother and I would be out walking, and it just shocked me that she could no longer walk. I still had a lot of hopes, I still have a lot of hopes, I'm hoping that someday she'll be able to walk. I just always remain positive. Every little improvement in her health, makes me think that she will be walking.

Well, shortly after that, I finally realized that something had to be done. I love my mother so much, so I was willing to sacrifice my employement and take care of her fulltime if I could. And I got together with my family, and we realized she was ready to come home after three months in the hospital, and it was up to us whether we wanted to take care of her here at home, and we were all adament on taking care of her here. So we all went through training on how to take care of her, how to take care of her personal needs, exercising, tranfering her from bed to the chair, from the chair to the car, just everything. So, I did that, I got my brother and sister together and we decided to take care of her here at home.

You want to take care of your mother; you want to take care of your grandmother so they can continue teaching you what you need to learn even when you're an adult.

There's only three of us -- my sister, my brother and me. I had initially told my family members that we will each take one month out of our time to take care of her. So we did that. The first 6 or 8 months we went one month at a time. I said, I'll go first, I'll take care of her first, the first month it will be me. And that was in December and I was willing to take care of her, and not have anything to do with Christmas or anything. And then my sister came in the next month and then my brother the next month.

As time went I we realized that that was just a little too much, because you do get burned out. It was a lot -- she wasn't as well as she is now -- and it took a lot of our time, and a lot of just tending to her needs day and night, 24 hours. So after we were kind of tired, I said, ok, let's get back together and let's have another meeting and we'll decide how to take care of this. What do you recommend? And they just left it up to me, and I said ok, how about two weeks at a time? I'll take care of her two weeks, day and night, weekends, and then someone else will take over. And that's how we planned it, and it worked well.

This went on until June, just a couple months ago, my sister and I had an argument. And she said, ok, you go ahead and take care of mom, and I said, OK, I will. So now I'm taking 4 weeks at a time, and my brother is doing two weeks. Since I don't have any little children, I feel like I can take the full four weeks, and my brother can take the two weeks of his time, because he's got all these little kids.

The idea of putting my mother away in a nursing home -- I just can't comprehend that idea. I did send her to a nursing home for one month, for respite care, when my granddaughter was to be put in a nursing home -- she's a quadrapalegic right now -- and I didn't want my granddaughter to be lonesome. But they didn't take care of her well, and I was so upset, so I brought her back before the month was up. But it was such a coincidence. My mother raised my granddaughter, and her name is Alice, and my daughter's name is Alicia. And this happened to my mother and then two years later, my granddaugher got injured. And her spinal cord injury is a four vertabrae, so she's a quadrapalegic right now. And my mother felt so bad because she can't take care of my granddaughter. It just hurts her -- it hurts all of us.

And my mother was always taking care of my grandmother. I think she was just a caregiver all these years. There was my grandfather, and the old uncle.

We're taught to honor and respect our mothers and our grandmothers because they have raised you and taught you us everything we need to know to carry on your life. So we're taught that when the time comes when your mother or your grandmother including our fathers, but mostly our mothers…So they teach us everything, from cooking to taking care of children, taking care of our husbands -- I would say it just comes from your heart. You want to take care of your mother; you want to take care of your grandmother so they can continue teaching you what you need to learn even when you're an adult.

I pass this on to my daughers. They're very close to their grandmother. Unfortunately they have always lived off the reservation, in Albuquerque, but they'll come out and take care of their grandparents.

My husband is good and understanding. When I come to take care of my mother he is by himself. On the weekends he'll come out here and he is such a big help. He has learned to transfer her when we go traveling, he is helping me with my mother. I take her out shopping, to the casinos. So we take her out a lot; almost evey weekend. But lately she's been feeling kind of ill, so we haven't been taking her out that much.

My best advice to you is to like what you're doing. Be patient with your patient and give them all the love and attention they need. I give my mother a hug every night. In the morning before I leave I always give her a hug and a kiss and tell her that I love her. There's a lot of affection. I think that if you're going to be a caregiver, you have to have a lot of love in you for that person. And if it's a professional caregiver, I'd say have a lot of care and, patience, again.

Death is something that we all have to go through. I hate to think I'm going to lose my mother. I think I'd fall apart if she left me, including my grandmother, because she's the one helping me out physically with things, making pieke and cooking, they're still giving me a lot of guidance, they're still teaching me things, and I think that bridge is broken.

I'm 55 years old myself. I'm hoping I've learned enough to pass it on to my children and my grandchildren, but, I would be totally lost and devistated. I depend on them a lot. I tell my brother I wouldn't know what to do without my mother. I probably would continue on. There's my granddaughter to take care of. I tend to take care of her. I wish I could have her out here with me. At the home where she's at they have a lot of activities. She's able to go to the movies and to the mall and stuff. If she were here, she wouldn't be able to do things like that, she would just be in a home. So if my mother ever leaves me I would probably try to relocate and take care of my granddaughter. She's such a sweet girl too. If I'm able I'll take care of my granddaughter.

This is something I was joking with my husband about. I said, you know honey, if I ever hit that lottery, I think I'll have someone build us a family nursing home. There's my granddaughter, my mother, my grandmother. And his father has alzheimers and we had to put him in a nursing home, so that way we could take him home. He's hard to take care of because he wanders around and needs to be followed. So I would hire special nurses, and we could all be together and live together and all be happy. So I'm hoping for a lottery ticket. Hoping for a million, so I can have my family nursing home. But…it would be devastating if I ever lost my mother or my grandmother. My grandmother's 97, she's lived a full life, but she'd still be a loss to us.


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Alene Garcia

Alene Garcia

Granddaughter & Grandmother

Angela DelGarito and her
great-grandmother, Edna Tallas


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