As part of a lifestyle and aging series, we’re working with renowned photographer Terry Lorant to showcase inspirational leaders in the industry. Each month, we’ll feature one or a few inspirational member(s) of the Amazing Care Network community who is using his or her voice to empower others in the collective aging experience. Read, in their own words, what the Amazing Care Network’s efforts mean to them.
This month, we’re proud to feature Duarte Batista, an ACN Member and President of our sister company, Sterling Administration.
ACN: Please share your story!
I came to the United States from the Azores as an immigrant, at seven years old, in 1966. My grandmother was a citizen of the United States and for political and family reasons the whole family immigrated to California, 25 family members in total. My mother and father were around 30 years of age with four children aged 5 to 9, not an easy decision to make.
The cultural roots never left us. My family was hard working, steadfastly religious, and bound by family ties like in many cultures from all over the world that took the same journey. These were just a few of the traits that many immigrants brought to this country. We were grateful to be part of this new home that we quickly adopted as our own. We embraced and treasured our new culture, understanding that it would always be influenced by tinges of the culture and heritage of our motherland. The dichotomy of two cultures has created a beautiful blend of personalities and traits that are amazing to see and experience in my children.
ACN: What are your thoughts on aging?
On a personal level, my early remembrances of aging and caregiving all had a common thread; aging and death were personal matters of the heart and family, and that, much like birth, these two events were in the charge of the only caregivers we can rely on, the care of family by family. It was their obligation and duty as engrained by their ancestors. As a 5 or 6 year-old, going to relatives homes and hearing the gentle moans of sadness or pain emanating from a room in the back of the house, away from visitors that may occasionally appear, door always closed, except for an occasional peek allowed by the entry and exit of family caregivers making a parent as comfortable as possible, or grandparent or other family soul waiting for the final goodbye.
I cannot tell you how fortunate and blessed I am to have both of my parents still part of my life. They are both in their upper eighties now and the signs of a long life being ever more evident each time I see them, and each time I communicate with them. A reluctant smile overcomes me at times, treasuring every word, every thought, every piece of wisdom they feel obligated to impart. “Family”, my father tells me, “is what really matters now”. “I know Dad, you tell me that all the time and I don’t forget”. I look over at my mother, hands weak and trembling, nodding her head in agreement with that comforting smile that always put my brother and sisters at peace knowing she was there to make things better, to protect us in any occasion. Her strength slowly sapped, I still look to her for strength to this day.
I’m an hour and a half away from my parents on a good day by car. When we all immigrated in 1966, and of the 25 that took the original journey, 21 are still living. From that journey, we have lost both grandparents on my mother’s side, an aunt and an uncle. Remaining are the five of six sisters on my mother’s side, all very close in age, their respective husbands, and the offspring that grew the family over the years. The interesting thing is that the remaining five sisters all live very close to each other and have, for the most part, been each other’s caregivers over the years. But what happens when the caregivers become the ones needing the care. Who will take care of them?
ACN: What caregiving roles do you play in your life?
The remnants of my parent’s generation and what they passed on to us is still alive in my siblings and myself. Torn between the notion of caregiving instilled in us by parents, and matching that against a very different generation their four children live in today is a struggle for us. We have not accepted the possibility that our parents would ever live out the rest of their lives in a convalescent home; they will live with us or they will end their remaining life in the comfort of their home. That’s what’s ingrained in our DNA, realistic or not. That path, we all realize, will be fraught with struggles we have yet to conquer, especially with the challenges of work and the distance between us.
As the four siblings tackle these issues with our parents, we are also caregivers in our own personal lives. A sister, whose husband, for almost two years is still rehabbing at home from a double transplant (heart and kidney), is the main caregiver along with her two children. I see daily the toll it has taken on her. Her sole focus caring of her husband has worn her down mentally and physically. What if something happens to her? We care for special needs children, cancer, dementia, and a host of other ailments that naturally come with aging. And as the frequency of these challenges increase, I internalize my own situation as I grow older with my wife, my children and how my own personal aging will affect them. My mother, more frequently now, tells me that this is life, as if to make me feel better about what is happening to her and my father. Don’t be worried she says. They have both accepted the cycle of life and what the backside brings, but it makes it no easier for me. And now, much like my mother, I start thinking about my time and how I will handle the very situation I am living when it’s my turn. I don’t want to be a burden on my wife or my children.
ACN: How did you come to know about ACN?
When Cora started Amazing Care Network, I had a glimpse into what she was going through in caring for Pablo. I’ve worked with Cora for 13 years. To sum her up in a few sentences does not do justice to who she is. Cora is a person of great vision, common sense and compassion. She is one of the best people I have met at taking life experiences, breaking them down into smaller pieces and turning them into opportunities to help others. She sees things through a visionary lens different from others and is always steps ahead the challenges. This is what she did with Sterling, this is what she is doing with the Amazing Care Network.
ACN: How does ACN, it’s work and services affect you?
ACN opens a path to other people, like myself and my siblings, immigrants in our case, caught between the norms of caregiving brought here by my parents and the reality of caregiving in our new home. The caregiving my parents brought with them is not realistic, nor sustainable, in my life today. My parents and the rest of my family came to California and were always physically close in proximity; my situation and that of many others nowadays is that we live all over the place; even though with modern technology it has become easier to communicate. However, caregiving requires a physical presence.
ACN allows me to put the power of knowledge and solutions in my hands. Much like my parents who don’t want to be a burden to their children, I too wish the same for my children and I can’t think of a better way to start than to be armed with as much knowledge as possible to be able to take matters into our own hands.