SAN ANTONIO — Maria Louisa Rodriguez loves her family, especially her husband Arturo Rodriguez, who she’s been married to for nearly 59 years.
“We’ve fallen in love and we’ve never fallen out of it,” Maria Louisa Rodriguez says.
Their love stems back to their days of growing up on San Antonio’s West Side in a low-income Mexican American neighborhood.
“I was very, very fortunate to pick somebody that was going to care for me and treat me the way that she does,” Arturo Rodriguez says.
She’s created lifelong memories with her family all over the world, but there’s going to be a point in time where she doesn’t remember them because she’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’ve seen it with my brother. He died from it. My dad, who was a brilliant man, self taught he was showing signs of Alzheimer’s also,” Maria Louisa Rodriguez says.
Data shows Latinos are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than non-Latino whites. And it’s projected by 2030 that 1.1 million Latinos will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Despite these numbers, there’s a disparity in research. Only 8% of enrollees in clinical researcher are Latino, but UT Health San Antonio plans to fill that void with a project of their own and the Rodriguez family volunteered to be part of it.
“Sometimes I tell myself I wish I didn’t know as much about the disease as I do because I can tell myself when I go from one step to the other,” Maria Louisa Rodriguez says.
It can be challenging for Arturo Rodriguez, who is her caregiver.
“It’s harder to lose your loved one a piece at a time,” Arturo Rodriguez says.
It can be as simple as forgetting their wedding anniversary or misplacing a water bottle somewhere. Arturo Rodriguez says they have their good days and they have their difficult ones, but caregivers must remain respectful and patient. He suggests caregivers avoid questions like “Do you remember?” or statements like “I already told you.”
This is extremely vital for Alzheimer’s patients.
“I’ve never heard him say… I don’t think I’ve ever hear him tell me ‘I already told you,’” Maria Louisa says.
Everyday Maria Louisa is playing Mahjong on her computer at an expert level, exercising her brain, and finishing the games quickly.
It’s through this research project that she wants other Latinos dealing with dementia to understand that they can still live a productive life.