It's all love for Esther Ruiz Garcia and her dad, but she's dealing with the sad reality that he may not recognize her in a few months since Alzheimer's has quickly taken over. That's what brings her and her parents to Leeza's Place in Edinburg.
They're taking caregivers like Esther through a virtual tour which gives a little glimpse into what it feels like to be cognitively impaired.
Caregiver specialist Noemi Rodriguez outfits Esther in stockings filled with beans and gloves filled with popcorn, then tapes her fingers together to simulate arthritis. She places goggles over Esther TMs eyes and earphones with loud sounds and leads a virtually blindfolded Esther into a dark room with a flashing light to begin simulating a day in the life of her dad.
Noemi asks Esther to set a table for four and Esther clearly can only hear some of what she says but begins gathering cups and plates to set the table.
After just seconds in the room, Esther is anxious but continues to go through the experience.
Minutes later she wants out.
Esther realizes what her father must be going through and is visibly moved.
She says, "It was a very scary experience. Now I can understand how he's feeling, going through that. I just can't, it's very hard."
A very hard reality for this family, but although the virtual tour shook Esther, Leeza's place makes it easier to deal with Alzheimer's as a caregiver.
"It was very touching knowing my mom puts up with a lot of that and us as assistants we see it. They show us more about how it helps us and then we can help him. We're losing my dad, he's not like he used to be. I keep telling him I love him and taking him to places makes me feel a lot better."
If you are a family member or caregiver of a person suffering from a mentally debilitating disease contact Leeza TMs Place or the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council TMs Area Agency on Aging at (956) 683-7180 and (956) 682-3481.
Leeza TMs Place will conduct virtual tours once a month.