Alzheimer

Napa Valley wealth manager shares her personal story with clients | Alzheimers and Dementia Blog

Pina Carino’s mother had Alzheimer’s disease. Because of her experience as a wealth planner at Merrill Lynch -Napa, Pina knew about long-term care insurance which she was able to use to help pay for her mother’s care. Now Pina helps others in her situation, not only by advising them financially but also through her involvement with Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.

Pina (left) and Nina in Italy

Joining a convent
Nina Carino, Pina’s mother, was born and raised in Naples, Italy. At the age of 16, Nina decided she was going to become a nun and moved into a convent. When her stepsister got sick, Nina came to her sister’s aid. While caring for her sister, Nina met a man who would become her husband, leaving her life as a nun behind.

Eventually, Nina and her husband moved to the United States with their two children. “She cooked for us all the time,” said Pina. “Plenty of food for all of the neighbor kids. She loved to play kickball, dance and sing. She was an outgoing fun person.”

Getting lost
One of the 10 early signs of Alzheimer’s can be difficulty completing familiar tasks. Sometimes they may have trouble driving to a familiar location, organizing a grocery list or remembering the rules of a favorite game.

At first Nina was very good at hiding her memory problems. When she hit the house as she was parking her car in the garage, she blamed it on the neighbors. However, when she got lost driving home from Pina’s sister’s house, a route she had driven many times, Pina knew it was time to get help.

Nina was diagnosed in 2005 with Alzheimer’s.

Finding a caregiver
At the time, Pina was living in San Diego and her mother was in Arizona. Pina knew she was going to need help to care for her mother. At first, she looked at care settings, but nothing was a good fit for Nina.

Because Pina was a wealth advisor, she knew about long term care insurance and had previously purchased a plan for her mother. Pina was able to use this insurance to hire a caregiver to come and help her mother. “I had the caregiver move in and live with my mom,” said Pina. “She was with her until the day she died. My mother’s caregiver is still one of my best friends.”

Nina died at age 79, in 2015

Pina and her sister with their mother Nina who had Alzheimer's
Pina (left) with sister Elena (right) and Nina

Support from her company
Merrill Lynch, where Pina works, is owned by Bank of America, which is a National Silver Sponsor for Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Pina worked for them throughout her mother’s disease and appreciates how understanding they were.

“I had the best support,” said Pina. “I was able to travel to Arizona and back to San Diego regularly. I couldn’t ask for more support.”

In addition to this, Bank of America also matches employee donations dollar for dollar. Hourly employees who decide to participate on Walk day will also be paid their hourly wage. Pina plans to create a local Bank of America Walk team for the Napa Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s this fall.

Alzheimer’s in the LGBTQ community
In addition to being a wealth advisor, Pina is also a part of Bank of America’s Pride Leadership Council. She represents all of Napa and Sonoma Counties.

The LGBTQ community faces particular challenges related to Alzheimer’s and dementia, including finding inclusive and welcoming health care providers, less ability to call upon adult children for assistance, concerns about stigma and higher rates of poverty and social isolation.

Pina with a rainbow filter shows her support for the LGBTQ community
Pina is a proud member of the LGBTQ community

According to information provided by the Alzheimer’s Association®, 7.4% of the lesbian, gay and bisexual older adult population is living with dementia. 40% of the LGBT community report that their support networks have become smaller and 34% live alone.

While Nina was not a member of the LGBTQ community, Pina is. “When my mother was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there was nothing about the LGBTQ community. My friends and I had even discussed that there aren’t that many places for care that are specific to the LGBTQ community.”

When Pina was looking for a care setting for her mother, she could tell that many settings would avoid talking about LGBTQ couples living there. They implied that the residents were simply “good friends.”

“I was so proud when I eventually walked into the Alzheimer’s Association and found brochures talking about the LGBTQ community, discrimination, and how people are separating them,” said Pina. “I know it’s an issue and the Alzheimer’s Association is doing a great job on it now.”

Sharing her experience with other
Pina says families can look into long-term care insurance. She explains that not all long-term care policies are “use it or lose it.” There are some policies that you can put money in to, and if you don’t use it, you’ll get your money back. “I’m seeing more clients, especially because of COVID, that are more interested in talking about long-term care policies.

“I discuss my story with my clients. I tell them my real-life situation. My mother didn’t have money. If I hadn’t have done that [taken out a long-term care policy], I’d have had to take a half million out of my own portfolio. You’re going to need to plan for this.”

A second reason to Walk
About a year after her mother’s death, Pina decide it was time to make a change. “Life was too short,” said Pina. “I met my partner Lisa, and I wanted a different quality of life. I had managed all of my mom’s care from San Diego. I wanted to move up to Napa. It was much more peaceful.”

Sadly, a few years later, Lisa’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Knowing what it’s like to have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, Pina became a valuable source of information. Pina said, “I was able to advise Lisa’s family and give them insight.”

Lisa’s parents were able to live at home. However, Lisa’s father fell and was recovering at a rehabilitation facility during the pandemic. Unfortunately, while at the facility, he became ill. Because of the precautions put in place due to the pandemic, the facility wasn’t admitting any visitors, including family. Sadly, Lisa’s father died, and despite being nearby when he passed, they were unable to go in to say their goodbyes in person.

Pina and Lisa pose with promise flowers for the Walk to End Alzheimer's
Pina and Lisa on Walk day

Walk to End Alzheimer’s 
Both Lisa and Pina have their own Walk to End Alzheimer’s teams. Pina Walks in honor of her mother, and Lisa for her father. Both women are doing their part to raise funds as well. Pina says, “Lisa is going to run two miles every hour for 13 hours on the day he died, September 13, to raise money for her team.”

Meanwhile, Pina, who sings for The Rockbusters Napa, an 80’s rock band, will be holding a few performances at her home. As of the posting of this blog, The Rockbusters are performing this weekend (June 26) and are hoping to raise a lot of money.

Pina’s favorite part of Walk day is the energy. “When you’re standing there at the beginning everyone is so excited to start. There are so many people who are from every walk of life, and everyone is there out of love. It’s the hope that we’re going to have a white flower [which represents the hope for the first survivor of Alzheimer’s disease] and put an end to Alzheimer’s.”

Since Nina lived in Arizona, Pina used to walk at the Phoenix Walk to End Alzheimer’s. When she moved to Napa, she reached out to the local office to find out more about the Napa Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Pina and Lisa have been walking at both Walks ever since.

Advice for others
Pina encourages others to reach out to their local Alzheimer’s Association for resources and information. “A lot of people don’t realize they have a 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900),” said Pina. “I give that number out to many people. The Alzheimer’s Association is here to help you.”

She also encourages caregivers to be patient. “Don’t tell them, ‘oh you just said that.’ It can agitate them. You may know they told you the same story three times, but they don’t. You have to have patience and redirect them.

“My mother would want me to help anyone that has this disease. The gift she gave me is patience, love and understanding and to really value your life.”

You can join Pina’s team, Nina’s Memory Walk, or form your own team and join us for the Napa Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 25 at Yountville Park, Yountville CA. Not in Napa? Check out alz.org/walk for a Walk near you.

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