Senior, LGBT +, caregivers face special problems – Press Telegram

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Author: Alice Lee, author

Daniel Diaz now lives alone in his apartment on Signal Hill, in a space steeped in memories.

He and his husband Robert Morris have been caring for Diaz’s mother, Gloria, in her apartment since 2012. Morris died in 2018; Ms. Diaz died in 2020.

The vases he and Maurice had been collecting for years stood in the hallway, as did photos from their wedding at the Belmont Brewery in Long Beach.

Signed thanks and photos of Julie Andrews have been on the mantelpiece ever since Diaz helped the actor find a good hotel reservation at his job at a travel agency.

There are two identical chairs in the living area, one of which is not used now.

Plants adorn the balcony, including the amaryllis that Maurice planted for Diaz as a surprise a few years ago.

Dan Diaz talks about her deceased husband and mother from her home in Signal Hill on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Diaz cared for her mother Gloria Diaz and her husband Robert Morris, both of whom have died in the past four years. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)

Diaz is one of 2.7 million LGBT + adults over the age of 50 in America. About 9% of all guardians in the United States are LGBT +.

Members of the LGBT + community also provide assistance much more often – one in 5 LGBT + people provides assistance, compared to 1 in 6 non-LGBT + people, according to SAGE, the national organization for advocacy and services for LGBT seniors.

This population faces unique challenges – they are twice as likely to live alone and Four times more often they do not have children, who often help caregivers as people get older.

“Care is often provided by families and, in particular, children,” said Cheryl Wayland, director of special SAGE initiatives. “So there is always concern for who we are [as the LGBTQ+ community] contact us if we need such care support. Many LGBTQ families are often peers. So as you get older and your friends get older and you all start to experience increasing differences in health as we get older, the circle of support becomes even more fragile. ”

They will also most often be cared for in isolation, which often intensifies stress and burnout.

There are not enough specific resources for the LGBTQ + educator community, but Wayland points to a national 24-hour hotline that SAGE is working with United Way Worldwide to develop for senior LGBTQ + seniors. “Before the pandemic, we saw 20 to 30 phone calls a month. During the pandemic, we saw that the hotline received almost 300 calls a month, ”SAGE officials said. “The intensity of these calls has only intensified as people continue to struggle with emotional well-being, food insecurity, housing crises, health problems.”

The severity of dementia

Diaz grew up in La Puente, the youngest of three children. At age 19, he contracted West Nile virus and lost the ability to speak and walk. His mother quit her job as an assistant teacher at the school to care for him – first in the hospital, then at home – for 11 years. On a few turns they nearly lost him; even purchased a cemetery.

“She was always by my side. I would say that she gave her life for me, ”Diaz said. “We also nearly lost the house with my medical expenses.” For many years he was confined to bed and in a wheelchair, and with the support of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, he gradually regained the ability to speak and walk — first with a walker, then with a cane, then on his own feet — at age 31.

Nearly 15 years later, when Diaz’s mother was diagnosed with dementia and his sister, who cared for Mrs. Diaz, was diagnosed with colon cancer, Diaz said it was his turn. «[Mom] always said, “Please don’t leave me.” Don’t leave me, ”and I said,“ Mom, I’ll never leave you. I will never leave you. ” It was my time to sacrifice my life for her. And I think – I hope I did a good job, “he said.

His husband Maurice supported him because he had previously worked as a nurse. “He told me, ‘If we can take care of your mother, don’t let her go.’ Don’t send her to a nursing home, because she can’t stand it, ”Diaz said.

However, before Mrs. Diaz took the medication, her dementia forced her to act. “She was out of her mind. She beat my partner with her handbag and called him bad names, ”Diaz said. “One day I was working with her at home and she was mad at me and she said,‘ You guys are nothing but a bunch (anti-gay swearing). I know how you, you (invisible against gays) ”.

Diaz did his best not to offend her words. “I know you can’t if people are like that, you know? But it still hurts to hear such things, especially from your family. But I know you shouldn’t take this to heart – because she wasn’t in her right mind. She would swear, and [when we were] growing up, she never swore – she was a good mother and she was raised in a Catholic family. But at a time when she was not taking medication, she was behaving and swearing. “

One of his fondest memories was of a day when he felt particularly burnt out. Morris said he would watch over his mother, so Diaz went to take a long shower. “I was in no hurry and got dressed and went outside into the living room. And I saw them together on the couch. She lay in his arms while he held her while she slept. And it just warmed my heart to see her like that. ”

“She was my best friend,” Diaz said. “Apart from my partner, he was also my best friend.”

Dan Diaz lives at home with his two favorite photos showing the wedding day with his late husband Robert Morris and his late mother Gloria Diaz hugging Robert at Signal Hill on Thursday, April 21, 2022.  Diaz has cared for her mother and his husband, both of whom have passed away in the last four years.  (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)
Dan Diaz lives at home with his two favorite photos showing the wedding day with his late husband Robert Morris and his late mother Gloria Diaz hugging Robert at Signal Hill on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Diaz has cared for her mother and his husband, both of whom have passed away in the last four years. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)

“My mother held me”

Diaz and Maurice met by chance in 1999: Diaz worked in the sales and marketing department in downtown Los Angeles, getting 45 minutes from his family home in La Puente. One day, returning, he had to go to the toilet. He found the nearest bar, a small establishment, and went out, looked at the pool tables, darts on the wall, visitors and realized that this is the Gold Coast – a gay bar. “I didn’t know that,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve never been to this area and never, never, never been to a bar like that.”

Diaz stopped to drink a glass of water. Morris, who was sitting next to him, asked if he spoke Spanish. Diaz is not, but Maurice. Diaz was surprised by his words. A connection was made.

Shortly thereafter, in the early 2000s, they moved together and married in 2014. Morris moved from a nurse and became a science teacher, Diaz continued to work in sales at boutique hotels. Before they took full care, they enjoyed lunches and small trips along the California coast and to Florida to visit Maurice’s parents, but never for long – Diaz wanted to be near home to be able to help his mother.

In 2017, Morris got up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, tripped over a box in the hallway and broke his knee. Diaz began caring for both mother and husband – a set of trips to the hospital, blood transfusions and coordination of care.

Six months later, in February 2018, Maurice’s platelet count dropped dangerously low and he was taken to the emergency room due to septic shock. Diaz could not go with him. “I felt so guilty. I still do. I wasn’t next to him as I should have been. But I couldn’t leave my mom alone, I felt so sandwiched between them. ”

Diaz’s sister came an hour later to take care of their mother, and Diaz spent a week next to Maurice at a hospital in Long Beach. “In the emergency room the doctor said,‘ Your friend, he’s not very kind, ’and that made me angry because it was my partner, we were legally married. I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to cause trouble, I just wanted to be well taken care of. “

Morris was later transferred to intensive care. “He lasted about a week,” Diaz said between sobs. “I was really hoping for a miracle … but everyone knew except me. I probably refused … I stayed there and just hoped, but it should never have happened. “

“I had to make that decision to shut down,” Diaz said. “I mean, it was so hard. I never want to go through this anymore with anyone in my life. To see the one you loved like that, and in a couple of seconds when the car was turned off, not to see them more alive. ”

Morris died surrounded by Diaz and his family, as well as their neighbors. “My neighbors and my sister … tried to do everything they could for me, but it was never the same. Everyone said they had never seen love like ours. We loved each other and I still miss him. ”

“I was held by my mother,” Diaz said. Two weeks later, when all was well, his mother returned to live with him – she will live with him the rest of his life.

Dan Diaz talks about her deceased husband and mother from her home in Signal Hill on Thursday, April 21, 2022.  Diaz cared for her mother Gloria Diaz and her husband Robert Morris, both of whom have died in the past four years. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)
Dan Diaz talks about her deceased husband and mother from her home in Signal Hill on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Diaz cared for her mother Gloria Diaz and her husband Robert Morris, both of whom have died in the past four years. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram / SCNG)

At first she kept asking him where Maurice was. “I had to constantly remind her,“ He’s no longer with us. Mom, it’s just you and me, we have to take care of each other. We have to take care of each other. “

Diaz and his mother spent days, months and years together, looking at photos, watching Turner’s classics and talking on the phone with their relatives. When the pandemic started, they were alone. Diaz took her out to the balcony to look at their plants, and they admired the amaryllis that Maurice had planted many years ago.

Mrs. Diaz’s death was much calmer. “I knew it was going to be,” Diaz said. “And that she lived a good long life.”

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