When my sweet, kind, gentle mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer ’s disease, it was extremely painful and difficult to accept. So shocking was it that the whole family went into denial.
My parents lived in Puerto Rico and for thirty years had shared their home with my youngest sister and her family. Living in New Jersey, it was easier for me to erase the diagnosis from my mind, that is, until my father passed away and my mother came to live with my husband and me.
My mother’s gentle nature remained the same, but she would constantly cry for my father and repeatedly ask when he was coming back from work. Having been removed from familiar surroundings, she would wake up every morning not knowing where she was. I would rush to her bedroom, before she awakened, to make sure she saw a familiar face.
When she first arrived, we had not senior-proofed our home. My husband and I were both pastors, and resided in a parsonage-- a church owned home. The house had two stories with no shower on the main floor, therefore, mom had to be helped up and down the stairs a few times a day. Our ministries also called us away from the house many hours of the day. At first, I would take mom with me on sick visits and communion calls. In spite of her illness, she would willingly comply, as she loved being in my presence. She would allow me to dress her, groom her, put make-up on her and my grown up children began to call her my “Senior citizen Barbie.” She was a willing participant always, except on Sundays when I needed to get her ready for church. She would beg to stay in bed, asking me not to go. I kept telling her that I was the pastor, but she wouldn’t understand. That is when some of her grandchildren began to take turns driving for hours on Sundays, just so that I could make it to church on time. As mother’s condition worsened, she refused to leave the house, would not accept a caregiver and weep when we insisted on grooming her.
My mother’s family doctor was very kind. He cared for her as best he could, but her disease kept progressing and I felt completely helpless. This is when my son spoke to us about Dr. Joe Baez, explaining that he was a psychiatrist who specialized in geriatrics, or senior citizens. Dr. Baez was so helpful, thorough and skillful that we were very impressed. He spoke to my mother and us with compassion and care. To Dr. Baez, she was not just another patient, but a very special person. He did not speak to us about her in her presence, as if she did not exist, like other physicians had, but treated her with great professionalism and respect. Dr, Baez changed some of my mother’s medications and adjusted others. He monitored her carefully and made himself available for consultation. He not only treated her, but listened to us with care and concern. Under Dr. Baez’s compassionate care, my mother began to improve.
My daughter took some time away from her obligations to spend a couple of months with grandma. Mom did not cry as often and began to go out with my daughter. They went to the movies, to restaurants, even to Atlantic City. In a few months mom had more fun than some have in a lifetime.
When mom passed away, Dr. Joe was by our side offering comfort and support. He has been a blessing to our family. We hold Dr. Baez in the highest regard and are very grateful for his care.