By Aileen Delgado
Ivette Teyra, of Miami Gardens, a compassionate teacher, found herself thrust into the role of caregiver when her father, Aurelio Teyra, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75. Alongside her sister, Yudit Marin, she embarked on a life-altering journey, giving family a whole new meaning.
It all began with subtle signs of memory loss that gradually escalated. Then, Yudit received a phone call, and “Neno’s” (Aurelio’s) speech was slurred, serving as an alarming wake-up call. Following this concerning incident, a diagnosis was confirmed, shattering the family’s world.
“It tears you down emotionally, but ‘Neno’ has always taught us to make something good out of something bad,” said Teyra.
Her father, known for his strength, independence, and selflessness, had always been the type of person who would give the shirt off his back and go above and beyond to brighten others’ lives.
Growing up, her father’s love was evident through the weekly bouquets of roses he bought for her. His kindness even extended to the widows in his community who he would buy flowers for on certain special occasions.
However, with the diagnosis, their once vibrant and community-involved lifestyle changed. The progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease made their father increasingly reliant on assistance and transformed him into someone unrecognizable.
Their roles as caregivers often lead to tension or conflict due to differing opinions and approaches to treatment. Amidst the challenges, the disease has made Teyra and her sister closer. She compares the dynamic to co-parenting a child between divorced parents. Nonetheless, they persevere, with Ivette taking charge of managing finances, educational resources, and medical appointments.
“When COVID hit, we felt the pressure to prioritize precautions, and we weren’t able to take our father out anywhere that wasn’t necessary,” added Teyra.
As she navigated the complexities of caregiving, she discovered the importance of seeking help and support.
“Caregivers have a great system, but we are always on our own. You can reach out for help, you’re not alone,” she continued.
Teyra found solace in a support group offered by Easter Seals in Pembroke Pines, Florida, and hopes to become involved in other support groups across the state. She also encourages continuous education about Alzheimer’s disease.
Now in the moderate stage of the illness, her father’s long-term memory remains intact, granting Ivette glimpses of their shared past. As a teacher accustomed to instructing others, she has humbly assumed the role of a student, navigating uncharted territory and learning valuable lessons along the way.
“Try to make every moment count. Treat people with Alzheimer’s how you would like to be treated. What they’re going through is not their fault,” Teyra advises to others.