Children caring for parents in their old age is nothing new, but Rosario Schielzeth and Maria Garcia have turned the old formula upside-down as it is the 104-year-old mother who is looking after her dementia-plagued 87-year-old daughter.
The two women from Sarasota, Florida, have been inseparable for decades. Even when Garcia was married for five years in the 1950s and had her own home, it was across the street from her mom.
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‘Literally, these two ladies have been together all their lives,’ said Albert Garcia, Maria’s 60-year-old son. ‘It’s a spiritual ping-pong match between both of them and that’s what keeps them going and alive.’
Garcia’s children are all grown up, with families and children of their own, and nowadays she relies more than ever on her centenarian mother for companionship.
The duo does everything together, from watching American Idol and Dancing With The Stars on TV to playing six rounds of Bingo a night and making trips to the movies – Happy Feet 2 in 3D was a recent favorite, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
Shielzeth is there to remind Garcia where her pudgy 14-year-old dog Frankie is, what day it is, if she ate.
To keep her daughter’s mind active, Schielzeth constantly talks to her octogenarian daughter, telling her about current events.
Carol Festari, one of two live-in caregivers for the mother and daughter, said watching the two women interact has been an incredible gift.
‘My mom passed away when I was 17 so I think this is amazing. It’s an honor. It really is,’ she said.
Albert Garcia said despite her dementia, his mother is usually cheerful and upbeat, but the disease rears its ugly head when the 87-year-old begins repeating questions over and over again, which can be challenging.
But not for her mother.
Shielzeth, however, insists that the care-taking goes both ways.
Every morning when Garcia wakes up in their home filled with delicate hand-painted China and other works of art created decades earlier by the 87-year-old woman, the first thing she does is ask for her mother.
The two women then sit down to a leisurely breakfast and chat. After lunch, Schielzeth retreats to her bedroom to pray, but she can’t stay long because Garcia always asks after her.
Rosario has been taking care of other people since youth. When she was a girl, living in Costa Rica, it was her siblings. She was born in 1908, one of ten children, so the older ones were expected to help out. Then it was her two daughters, and then her grandchildren, Albert and James Garcia.
When Albert Garcia was a baby, his musician father, whom he describes affectionately as ‘a Puerto Rican Clark Gable with a pencil mustache,’ ran off with a flight attendant
His grandmother, living across the street, quit her job as a seamstress and spent her days cleaning and cooking for both households so that her daughter could go to work.
However, between her duties as a wife and mother, Schielzeth still found time during her long and fulfilling life to see much of the world, jetting off with her girlfriends to Thailand, Venice, Rome and Switzerland.
Last Wednesday, Schielzeth celebrated her 104th birthday. The colorful balloons left after the party have not been taken down yet, prompting her daughter to repeatedly inquire, ‘Whose birthday is it?’
‘My grandma doesn’t want to die. She doesn’t want to see my mom left alone,’ Albert Garcia said. ‘I believe that’s why my grandma’s been sticking around all these years. She thinks her daughter really needs her.’