Having helped care for her grandmother who had dementia, Sylvia Orozco was familiar with the warning signs. Despite this knowledge, when her mother started experiencing the same symptoms, her doctor was reluctant to give a diagnosis. Sylvia cared for her mother and continues to honor her mother’s memory by participating in Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.
Caring for her own mother
Nina Valdez was a loving, caring and outgoing person. She prided herself in her ability to help others and loved the outside world, especially her beautiful back yard.
With the help of her husband Rudy and only daughter, Sylvia, Nina cared for her own mother who had dementia. Little did she know that many years later, she too would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Noticing the signs
In 1996 Nina’s husband died. Nina remained in her home a few more years. When she decided to sell, Sylvia’s husband asked her to move in with them. After some initial hesitation, Nina was thrilled to move in with her daughter, son in-law and grandchildren.
Eventually, Sylvia began to notice little things. “Mom was a walker all her life,” said Sylvia. “We noticed as more time passed she started to have difficulty walking. So we requested a walker. We also noticed that she had started repeating things. Even my son noticed.”
Because Sylvia been through this before with her grandmother, she recognized the 10 warning signs and took her mom to the doctor. Sylvia found herself sitting in the same waiting room, in the same chair from her childhood when she was there for her grandmother.
A delayed diagnosis
Sylvia took her mother to the doctor several times. Each time, their doctor seemed hesitant to tell Sylvia what she knew was true, that her mother had Alzheimer’s.
Finally, Sylvia had a heart to heart with her mom’s doctor. Sylvia said, “I told him, ‘I don’t know if you’re doing it for me or for you, but I think my mom has Alzheimer’s disease.’”
It took Sylvia six years, but her mother finally received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Support from hospice
In 2017, on Christmas Eve, Nina stopped being able walk. On Christmas morning, Sylvia called hospice. “If someone had told me that hospice would be my Christmas gift, I’d have said they didn’t know what they were talking about,” said Sylvia. “They came to my home and set up a bed in my guest room. I put a spare bed next to her hospital bed and that was my new bedroom.
“My husband said not to worry about anything else in the household except for my mom. I’d shower and get ready to go to work. A family member would watch her while I was at work. Then I’d come home in the evening, put my sweats on, and be her daughter.”
For the next two weeks Sylvia cared for her mother. Sylvia said, “I did everything in my power as a daughter. She was my best friend.”
Nina died in January of 2018.
Finding Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Sylvia, a Modesto native, has spent her career working with the elderly. When her mother was diagnosed, she knew what organization she wanted to be a part of, the Alzheimer’s Association®.
With the help of an internet search, Sylvia learned about the Modesto Walk to End Alzheimer’s. She started a team and asked her coworkers to join her. Sylvia says, “When they knew how close this disease was to me in my life, they became bonded.”
Participating in Walk
The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease.
This year is Sylvia’s fourth year participating in Walk. In 2019, she was asked to hold the purple Promise Garden flower, which represents people who have lost someone to the disease.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, Sylvia continued to do her part and walked from home. “It was totally different,” said Sylvia. “For my mom, I’m going to do whatever I can. I had to be out there. We masked up and socially distanced and we did our walk.”
This year, pending any changes to local or national guidelines, the Walk will be in person. Sylvia is looking forward to it. She enjoys seeing who people are walking for. “It shows a lot of love,” said Sylvia. “These people are out there, giving up their Saturday, to show their love and support for whomever they’re walking.”
Asking for help
Like her mother, Sylvia likes to help people whenever she can. Sylvia says, “People are afraid to ask for help, but that’s the only way to get help. We have to help those in need.”
Sylvia has four pieces of advice for everyone impacted by Alzheimer’s:
- Tell your parents you love them, while you still have a chance.
- Ask for help.
- Call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline 800.272.3900.
- Visit the Alzheimer’s Association Website at alz.org.
You can join Sylvia’s team, Fight4Nina or form your own team and join us for the Modesto Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 18 in Graceada Park. Not in Modesto? Find a walk near you at alz.org/walk
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