Mother Cares For Daughter With Alzheimer's

Tim Watt  |  June 25, 2012

At the age of 104, most would assume Rosario Schielzeth would need a caregiver herself. Yet despite her advanced age, Shielzeth is the one doing most of the caregiving for her own daughter, Maria Garcia.

Garcia, 86, suffers from dementia and needs round-the-clock Alzheimer's care. Shielzeth and Garcia live together and have been inseparable most of their lives, reports the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida.

More than 5.4 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The group estimates more than 15 million people provide unpaid care for a person living with Alzheimer's disease. It's not uncommon for a mother and daughter to have a strong bond that persists despite dementia, but most often it's the daughter thrust into the role of caregiver.

This situation is the opposite. Shielzeth is in relatively good health and only needs to take one blood pressure pill each day. Garcia struggles with her dementia and relies on her mother to remind her of certain things she may forget. For example, Shielzeth recently celebrated her 104th birthday and balloons are still in the house. Each day, Garcia sees the balloons and asks who they're for, despite having been present at the party.

"She lovingly reminds her, which is a difficult thing, I would imagine, at 104 to have the patience over and over again," Carol Festari, one of two 24-hour caregivers who split time at the house, told the news source. "My mom passed away when I was 17 so I think this is amazing. It's an honor. It really is."

Garcia and Shielzeth being side-by-side is not a recent development. Garcia was married briefly in the 1950s, but even then lived across the street from her mother. After Garcia divorced, Shielzeth cared for her two sons, Albert and James, while Garcia went to work.

Now, the two spend nearly all of their time together, under the watch of Festari and another live-in caregiver. The duo enjoys watching television shows like "American Idol" and recently went to see "Happy Feet 2" together at the movie theater.

"Literally these two ladies have been together all their lives," Albert Garcia told the news source. "It's a spiritual ping-pong match between both of them and that's what keeps them going and alive."