August 23, 2018

We Are Family

For Linda Kerr, the role of caregiver began when she was only five. “Mom worked full time so I helped care for my grandmother, who in hindsight probably had dementia.” Fast forward to 1997, when her dad, struggling with congestive heart failure, was given three months to live. Linda brought him out to Los Angeles to care for him until he passed away 18 months later. And, for the past 15 years, Linda has been caring for her mother who was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2007.

“When I learned my mom was getting lost while driving back home in Miami, I knew I had to keep a better eye on her,” says Linda. So, in 2003, they made the decision to move Martha west to Los Angeles.

Born in Havana, Martha Louise Oteiza got her PhD in child psychology. She worked as a child psychologist before the family left Cuba just as Castro was coming into power. “She married my dad and they moved to upstate New York where she taught Spanish at the community college. Later, she worked at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit In Miami as a hospital ward supervisor and did a great deal of charity work, even appearing once as a model in a poster for the United Way.”

And now it’s come full circle. In 2016, Linda’s daughter, Nicolette was born and she’s become an important part of her grandmother’s care. “We have this routine. To prevent Mom from Sundowning, I’ll put on a DVD. We take turns between mom’s favorites; The Three Tenors, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Nicolette’s favorites; Dave and Ava, Sofia the First, and Masha and the Bear. Mom sings the Nursery Rhymes and ABC’s along with Nicolette and Nicolette has learned to applaud and yell “bravo” after each song. I am blessed every day to see this interaction between them. It is beautiful.”

The Three Altos: Nicolette, Linda and Martha!

In 2012, the Kerr’s were the first family chosen to be participants in UCLA’s Alzheimer’s Unit. “Dr. Reuben and the entire team have been like family – I don’t know what would have happened if we hadn’t met,” Linda adds. “I love my mom. She deserves a happy ending and I am doing my best to give it to her.”

Every day, family caregivers do a herculean job in meeting the needs of their loved ones. We offer our gratitude and a little bit of recognition for all that they do. If you are a caregiver or know someone who is, please reach out at caring@r2endalz.org so we may feature your story here and on our Facebook page.



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