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'Need does not take a holiday': A caregiver's Thanksgiving




Barbara Cano is the caregiver of 3 people, including her parents. Her caregiving job does not permit her to spend Thanksgiving dinner with her family.
Barbara Cano is the caregiver of 3 people, including her parents. Her caregiving job does not permit her to spend Thanksgiving dinner with her family.
Taylor Orci/ KPCC

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November is National Caregiver's Month, which is cold comfort for folks who juggle orchestrating Thanksgiving dinner and caring for a loved one. According to The Los Angeles Caregiving Resource Center, 66 percent of caregivers are women, and 6 in 10 have jobs apart from their caregiving duties.

Montebello resident and Lincoln Heights native Barbara Cano falls into both these categories. This is the first Thanksgiving where she will be taking care of both of her parents, in addition to a 91-year old client that, like her parents, requires 24-hour care. Cano's mother and her client share the fact that they both suffer from Alzheimer's and have recently broken a hip. 

Cano is considering getting a reverse mortgage so she can afford long-term care when the time comes.
Cano is considering getting a reverse mortgage so she can afford long-term care when the time comes. "I have promised my parents that I would never put them in one, but I think I would go into one rather than have a family member take care of me like this."
Taylor Orci/ KPCC

On the steps of  Sacred Heart Church in Lincoln Heights, Cano maps out her Thanksgiving.

"I'll probably start at around 8 o' clock in the morning. I'll prepare the turkey — put that in the roaster. Then I'll prepare the stuffing and the gravy."

After that it's time to take care of her mother.

"In the mornings we have to give meds, give my mom a sponge bath change her, get her dressed for the day and give her her breakfast."

After that it's off to her shift as a professional caregiver.

"If she can handle the crowd we will come out to the dinner table, if not I will take her to her room."

This means that Cano may be spending Thanksgiving dinner with only one other person whom she's not related to. When asked what might go through her mind during the meal, she says with concern, "I hope my mom eats, sometimes it's hard for her to swallow."

She adds, wiping away tears, "This might be my mom's last Thanksgiving. And in my heart I just believe my father will not last much longer when my mother is gone."  

Cano's employer would not give her the day off to spend with her family, which is typical for caregivers. Need does not take a holiday. 

"My husband and I have already talked about if we have to get a reverse mortgage so we can have long-term care so that nobody has to take care of us this way," Cano says. "Even though I have promised my parents that I would never put them in one, I think I would go into one rather than have a family member take care of me like this."