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‘Voices Matter’: Powerful life stories of caretakers bring students to tears during Multicultural Day

Kathleen McCall shares an

Kathleen McCall shares an "embarrassing" story with a packed class room of students. McCall's mother suffers from dementia where she sometimes forgets what she does in front of people.

Ulises Koyoc

Kathleen McCall shares an "embarrassing" story with a packed class room of students. McCall's mother suffers from dementia where she sometimes forgets what she does in front of people.

Ulises Koyoc

Ulises Koyoc

Kathleen McCall shares an "embarrassing" story with a packed class room of students. McCall's mother suffers from dementia where she sometimes forgets what she does in front of people.

‘Voices Matter’: Powerful life stories of caretakers bring students to tears during Multicultural Day

Caretakers are responsible for helping millions of families care for their sick, disabled, and elderly loved ones, helping them with day-to-day tasks. Two passionate caretakers shared their experience with the students at Moorpark College, bringing some to tears.

This year’s Multicultural Day, with the theme of “Voices Matter,” brought both Gale Taylor and Kathleen McCall to share their stories. Taylor and McCall spoke about their lives as former caretakers and the effect it has had on them.

Taylor and McCall’s mothers both suffered from severe dementia. According to McCall, her mother, Joyce, was so severe that at times she would throw fits and not even realize what she was doing. Joyce was in her own little world. McCall recalls being embarrassed, frustrated and saddened by her mother’s conditions.

“It was a challenge to try and make them realize because they just don’t know,” said McCall. “But everything my mother put me through matured me as a human being.”

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Emil Avanesian, right, shares a personal story from his life after McCall and Taylor’s presentation. McCall was left touched by Avanesian’s story.

Taylor, like McCall, lived through difficult times with her mother, Roslyn. However, these strenuous times are not to be blamed on Roslyn. On the contrary, they should try to be understood and learned from, said Taylor. This was the message that she hoped students would get out of the presentation.

“A person with dementia is not giving you a hard time. A person with dementia is having a hard time,” said Taylor.

McCall and Taylor met during a support group for individuals who were struggling to cope with the stress of being caretakers. According to both McCall and Taylor, caretakers have shorter lifespans compared to non-caretakers.

The theory is full-time caretakers focus too much on their clients that they forget to care for themselves. Today, McCall and Taylor run their own support group located in Montclair. These groups specialize in helping caretakers express their emotions and alleviating the pressures they may face from their responsibilities.

According to Taylor and McCall being the primary caretaker for their beloved mothers was something dear to them. However, they believe caretakers who work for individuals whom they’ve never seen before can be different.

This is exactly the case for Lori Trinidad and Angel Arabaca. Trinidad has been a caretaker for 19 years while Arabaca has 13 years of experience under his belt. Both currently work for Leisure Living in Agoura Hills. They aid the residents, whom they have not met outside of work, but express affection for their patients.

Both said that no matter how stressful being a caretaker is, nothing can beat the bond they share with their patients. Trinidad and Arabaca have seen their share of violent fits from dementia and Alzheimer clients, but assure that maintaining patience is crucial.

“We get in touch with our patients by talking to them … we may even learn new life lessons from them,” said Trinidad. “Our goal as caregivers should be to make our patients as comfortable as possible. They are our family.”

For McCall, sharing her story was important. To her, her voice needed to be heard by the others. One student expressed how the presentation impacted her greatly. To her, McCall’s and Taylor’s voice mattered greatly in a society that tends to glorify other jobs.

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McCall and Taylor pose together after their presentation during Multicultural Day on April 9, 2019.

“This journey is painful, but it has given me something to share with others,” said McCall. “I know my mother will die one day, but it will be a relief. I will miss her because this woman has taught me so much about life.”

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