Maria shares her powerful story of caring for three family members over a period of 14 years. She cared for her mother with Alzheimer’s Disease for the entire time. Back then it was not a well-known or well-researched disease. Her mother had always been a kind and sweet woman, but she became another person – one who yelled and hit others. Her father didn’t understand the disease at first as he thought she was just being stubborn and unkind. But eventually he did accept the fact that she had a disease.
Maria is from Portugal where it is common practice to care for your elders, and Maria didn’t think twice about it. She also cared for her father, who had prostate cancer for five years, as well as an aunt with multiple health issues. She brought her family members into her home while also caring for her own family.
Maria says, “It was difficult spiritually, physically, and psychologically, but it was a learning experience, and I discovered my own strength.” However, she admits that she often felt overwhelmed and frustrated. She developed terrible eczema affecting her hands, which kept her from the very things that helped her relax like knitting and crocheting.
Also, her mother fell and broke a shoulder as well as a hip and was bedridden for eight years. Bedsores were always an issue, so Maria helped lift and turn her mother. She developed problems with her spine due to the heavy lifting she was doing.
Maria had also faced her own health issues. She had a tumor on her pituitary gland that she developed when she was 26 years old. Her family has always practiced the Catholic faith. Before her mother became sick, she made the pilgrimage to Fatima to ask Our Lady to help her daughter, and her prayers were answered as Maria never needed surgery.
The caregiving experience took a great toll on her marriage, and her husband divorced her after almost 30 years of marriage. It also alienated her daughter for a while. She faced terrible feelings of abandonment and sadness, but with God’s help, she persevered.
Fortunately, Maria is a “little energizer bunny” with a wonderful sense of humor. Also, she is slow to anger. All of these traits helped her to endure all of the difficulties in her life. She is an amazing example of faith to all who know her.
- Her tremendous faith.
- Her work as a church librarian.
- Staying busy and active.
- Reading Scripture.
- Reading books about Alzheimer’s disease.
James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
God, You put beautiful examples of faith in our lives for a purpose. Maria has been a beacon of light to everyone she touches. You helped her to persevere through so many trials, and she never gave up. Help each of us to endure our own trials with patience and joy.