It’s a precious getaway. Mr. García spends most of his waking hours caring for his 81-year-old mother, Antonina Hernández, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Mr. García, a fitness trainer, first noticed her decline four years ago. Every day on the phone she described eating identical meals. He checked her refrigerator and it was nearly empty. He saw that she was losing track of time and forgetting to eat. A neurologist soon diagnosed Alzheimer’s, a disease Ms. Hernández shares with an estimated 44 million others around the world.
In the early days, she could manage on her own, with steady prompts and visits from Mr. García, who lived next door. But two years ago, he saw that she needed help with the most basic tasks and so he moved into her two-bedroom apartment. He dropped most of the clients in his fitness classes and became a full-time caregiver.
Mr. García relentlessly consults the Internet for advice. The most important point, he says, is to build routines for his mother, to keep her engaged. “If I’m cooking, I have her peel the vegetables, and when I wash the dishes, she dries them,” he says. “It takes much more time than it would to do it myself.” But the activities keep her busy and distract her from the growing gaps in her memory, which can produce frustration, anger and despair.
He creates daily worksheets for her, and has her circle words or draw a wavering line through a maze. He also leads her in exercises. She mirrors her son’s movements, lifting small pink weights in each hand.