WASHINGTON – The work of caring for loved ones in the last stage of their life is something the Hispanic community in the United States provides more than any other social group, a story told in the documentary film “Cada Paso en el Camino” (Every Step of the Way).
The way Mexican television personality and activist Marco Antonio Regil dealt with the long illness of his mother is included in the film promoted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which premieres this Tuesday.
“Cada Paso en el Camino,” as Regil told EFE in an interview, is a way of letting everyone going through that situation know that “they are not alone,” and that there is “a way they can learn to provide better care for those they love.”
“The first thing to overcome is the lack of information. I didn’t have the least idea she could have mental problems at just over 70 years of age,” Regil said about the diagnosis with Alzheimer’s of his mother, Irma Sanchez, who died last February.
“I kept arguing with my mom, I thought my job was to correct her. It took me years to realize she needed specialized care,” he said.
Regil said that in his case, the best option was to find a place for people with illnesses like hers, where she could do activities appropriate to her needs and be easily visited by her family.
“I had to stop feeling guilty, to stop acting like the father of my own mother and understand I wasn’t doing wrong by taking her to a nursing home. And in doing that I could go back to being her son,” he said.
In a country of 40 million people acting as caregivers, 21 percent of them are Latinos, despite that ethnicity making up only 17 percent of the population, according to AARP estimates. They also invest some 44 percent of their annual income in that work.
“There are beautiful things in our culture, and the most important thing we have is our sense of community,” Regil said about the reasons Latinos tend to spend more time and money taking care of their ill and elderly loved ones.