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Caring for Your Parents

Chapter 4: Thelma and Maria [5:37]

"Payback for what she gave me."

Thelma and her family care for her bed-ridden mother, Maria, at home, though she is slipping into dementia.

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Transcript 

Chapter 4: Thelma & Maria "Payback for what she gave me."

THELMA (SUBTITLE):  

Okay, Mom, I am going to take your blood. 

NARRATOR:

THELMA CANDEIS IS ALSO RUNNING A ONE PERSON NURSING HOME...HER MOM, MARIA, IS 83.  SHE HAS DIABETES, AND SHE'S IN THE EARLY STAGES OF DEMENTIA...SHE ALMOST NEVER LEAVES THIS BED...

THELMA:  

Morning is a busy, busy morning because I like to have her blood sugar drawn in the morning, the earlier the better.  My oldest one will be heading off...

Sarah 

Did I wear this one day and you washed it? 

THELMA:  

My little one will be getting ready to go.  Getting the husband up and going to, you  know,  work and down to his mom's downstairs for a little bit.

It's crazy.  Sometimes in the afternoon, too, when I get home from work it's a little crazy because, you know, everybody waits for the mom to get home, to do stuff, to cook.

Oh she won't eat this. It's got black.  That's another thing--she gets picky about her food, if a banana's got a little touch of black she won't eat it.

There we go.  

NARRATOR:

IT'S BEEN ABOUT FORTY YEARS SINCE THELMA'S MOTHER MARIA LEFT THE AZORES...SHE WORKED HARD, RAISED HER OWN FAMILY AND LATER, SHE HELPED RAISED THELMA'S AS WELL.. 

THELMA:  

She's a big part of this family....she raised my kids. We wouldn't have lives, because she took care of them. I never knew what it was like to take my kids to a day-care center. So you know, to me, I think it's just...I don't know...like a pay back of what she gave me.  

NARRATOR:

THELMA HAS BEEN KEEPING UP THIS PACE FOR FOUR YEARS NOW...BUT FOR HER HAVING MARIA HOME...SURROUNDED BY FAMILY...IS ESSENTIAL... 

THELMA:  

Hey Ashley, say "Hi Bo, Bo..."

ASHLEY:  

Hi, Bo Bo... 

THELMA:  

By being in the family home, the kids go in, they visit her. We're more able to spend more time with her. 

MARIA (SUBTITLE):

Hi, darling. You are so pretty. 

THELMA:  

I think that means a lot to a sickly person. I think that actually gives them a little more hope of life.  

NARRATOR:

THELMA'S APARTMENT IS THE CENTER OF HER LARGE EXTENDED FAMILY...NIECES, NEPHEWS, COUSINS...HER MOTHER IN LAW EVEN LIVES DOWNSTAIRS... 

THELMA:  

I went to bed at 1:30, I was up at quarter of six. So it's a short night and a long day. Hopefully I won't break down. 

NARRATOR:

DOWN THE STREET...THELMA'S HUSBAND JOE PUTS IN LONG, LONG DAYS AT HIS GARAGE... 

THELMA:  

How are you? Lunch is on!  

JOE:  

Alright. 

THELMA:  

Okay? It's been a hectic mornin'.  

NARRATOR:

THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE MUCH TIME FOR HELPING THELMA WITH HER MOM... 

THELMA:  

Okay, bye. Have a good day. 

NARRATOR:

ON TOP OF IT ALL...THELMA HOLDS DOWN A FULL TIME JOB...

THELMA:  

Thank you for coming in  Mrs. Gagney.

CUSTOMER:  

Thank you very much. 

THELMA:  

Thank you for bringing your letter in, you have a great day. 

CUSTOMER:  

Thank you. You have a good day, too. 

THELMA:  

Thank you.  Buh-bye.

I feel guilty going to work for eight hours, and the kids going to school and everybody's out of the house. At one point I took all the afternoon shifts at work because I could leave at one, my kids would come home at three, that'd only leave her for two hours. At this stage of the game right now she wouldn't be able to be by herself for eight hours.  She'd forget how to eat, she wouldn't get up by herself to go to the bathroom.

NARRATOR:

THELMA'S KNITTED TOGETHER A PATCHWORK OF HELP TO MAKE SURE HER MOM ISN'T ALONE TOO LONG DURING THE DAY... 

LINDA:  

Buen dia Donna Maria, como esta?  

NARRATOR:

NURSES PROVIDED BY THE STATE...COVER FOUR HOURS EACH DAY... 

LINDA (SUBTITLE):

Have you had breakfast? 

SARAH (SUBTITLE):

Hi Grandma, are you okay? 

NARRATOR:

AND HER 12 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER LENDS A HAND AFTER SCHOOL... 

SARAH:  

I help her with the bathroom, I give her the food, I give her her medication, I change the TV when she wants me to, I fix her pillow under her feet, like I change the beds for her, I make the beds. 

THELMA:  

Mom hasn't gone to the tub in about two years. It's always sponge baths. And that makes life a little more difficult, too.  

It's like this all the time, it's like a child. Okay, you look beautiful. Okay. 

The worst thing I had to do was that living will. Ah, geez, making that decision for her, whether she would want to live or die at the last breath, oh my gosh, that took me over a year to do that.  That living will paper was over there for over a year and I'd take it out, look at it, put it back, start cryin'....oh.

NARRATOR:

DURING THE DAY MARIA PRAYS ALONG WITH THE CATHOLIC MASS IN PORTUGUESE...ESPECIALLY DURING THE HOURS WHEN SHE IS ALONE... 

THELMA:  

Sometimes I feel bad I have to go to work and leave her for those three hours, but I can't do anything else.  I'm doing everything else I can for her.