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Caregiving with Heart: A Daughter’s Story

Posted by Lynn Bronikowski May 18 2016

When Becky Mays’ mother had a severe stroke in 2004, she and her sister knew it was time to come home to the San Clemente, Calif., beach town where they grew up.

“My mom in her trust said she wanted to stay home if at all possible—that was her desire—so we made it happen,” said Mays, who moved from Colorado while her sister, Amy, moved from San Francisco.

At the time, their father was suffering from Parkinson’s disease which required the two daughters to be caregivers for both parents. Their father died in 2011 while their mother, who is 76, requires care to this day as she copes with severe aphasia and an inability to walk.

“My mom was fortunate to have long-term disability insurance so we were able to have a caregiver for both parents during the week and then on weekends my sister and I took care of our parents,” said Mays, whose mother had just retired after 30 years as a secretary for the local school district when she had her stroke.

Insurance pays 80 percent of caregiving costs so the family took out a second mortgage on the family home to cover other expenses.

“My sister and I help out financially when we can and we pay rent,” said Mays. “It’s definitely not a life of luxury but we’re blessed to have a roof over our heads.”

Mays, who previously held sales jobs, changed careers to become a medical assistant. Over the years she had taken her parents to doctors’ appointments and became inspired by a compassionate medical assistant she encountered. 

“It’s a great job for me,” said Mays. “I love interacting with people and feel I’m very compassionate and can sometimes walk in the shoes of our patients. We see a lot of patients with MS, Parkinson’s, stroke, dementia so I feel I can brighten their day with a smile and make a difference in their day.”

Amy Mays is a registered nurse so both daughters bring a medical background to their caregiving.

“My sister and I have become really close,” said Mays. “We weren’t very close before and now we’re best friends so that’s a blessing.”

She also offers advice to other caregivers, including getting plenty of rest because “caregiving is one of the hardest jobs ever.”

Mays also recommends getting exercise. She goes to a Boot Camp workout class at 6 a.m. most mornings.

“When you’re a caregiver, you’re constantly giving so it’s nice to get a little exercise in to release some endorphins and bring some pleasure to yourself,” she said. “Find a release for an hour every day that is just for you—like getting a massage.”

She also tries to eat healthy although she admits it can be challenging on weekends when she sits around watching television with her mother.

“And make sure you pat yourself on the back every once in a while for making a difference in someone’s life because you really are making a difference,” said Mays.

Mays said the decision to move home to California in 2005 was a tough one but one she doesn’t regret.

“She still is a great mother,” said Mays. “She made a lot of sacrifices for my sister and I growing up. We both have college degrees because of my mother so we don’t mind doing things for her because we both feel it is something in our hearts that we want to do.”


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