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In My Community
Yudit Rivas - A Twenty-Something Family Caregiver
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 (Left) Salvador Rivas and his wife, Juvencia Mendoza

Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic Community

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that causes problems with behavior, memory loss and thinking. It occurs in all ethnicities and races; however, according to the article “Hispanics/ Latinos and Alzheimer’s Disease,” by the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is an emerging, but unknown public health crisis in the Hispanic/ Latino communities.

The article reinforces that one of the risk factors that make Hispanics/ Latinos susceptible to Alzheimer’s is lack of education. One in 10 Hispanic elders have no formal education, according to “Hispanics/ Latinos and Alzheimer’s Disease.” Yudit Rivas, a 24-year-old Milwaukee resident, can relate to this statistic as she and her grandmother, Juvencia Mendoza, are the main caregivers for her grandfather, Salvador Rivas. Salvador has Alzheimer’s and never, throughout his 77 years of living, has attended school.

“He’s a really hard working man,” Yudit said. “He started working at seven in Michoacán, Mexico.”

Yudit immigrated with her grandparents to Milwaukee from Mexico City at the age of 10. She doesn’t live the average life of a 24-year-old, aside from having two children of her own. She lives on the opposite side of her grandparents duplex so she can be there to care for her grandfather at all times. Her grandfather not only is living with Alzheimer’s, but also has had a stroke and a colostomy.

“Four years ago, he would clean at Rockwell (Automation) and he used to feel useful,” Yudit said. “Then he stopped working and that changed him as he would sit at home doing nothing.”

 The day she found out her grandfather had Alzheimer’s was approximately three years ago, while she was attending school at MATC- Milwaukee’s Campus, to become a medical interpreter. One day while in class she received several missed phone calls. When she replied to the missed phone calls  she was told her dad (grandfather) was in the hospital. When Yudit first arrived at Aurora Saint Luke’s Medical Center, they told her he wasn’t there. Salvador told the doctors not to let anyone know he was in the hospital. Therefore, for three days Yudit and her family were unsure of where he was.

“After the three days, they (the doctors) told us that he was in the E.R. because he hurt himself and he had long term consequences having a colostomy,” Yudit said. “After that it was doctors and doctors, examinations and at the end he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and what he did was a response of dementia.”

Yudit was unable to attend her graduation because she was in the hospital tending to her grandfather. The truth behind her grandfather having Alzheimer’s was a surprise to her entire family because as she says, one would think he was a normal person.  Virginia Zerpa, Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association,  called the Rivas family to help educate them.

“The hard thing to do is accept it and make a difference,” Yudit said. “Make a change for ourselves too.”

Unsure of why Yudit is always around, Salvador often tells Yudit that she needs to get her own life. Yudit’s mother passed away when she was three and her father has never been an active part of her life; therefore, she feels as though her grandfather is her dad. When talking about caring for her grandfather she said, “When you have to you have to, you don’t have an option.”

Yudit hopes to start working again and would like to go back to school.

“Education is the key to success,” Yudit said. Yudit’s seven-year-old daughter, Yoalli, is already listening to her mother’s advice, as she is fluent in Spanish, English and French.


 

Alzheimer's Association

Our vision: A world without Alzheimer's disease®.
Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.