Children caring for their aging parents is an oft-heard story. But what happens when the tables are turned? The Sarasota-Herald Tribune tells the unique tale of a 104-year-old mother who is caring for her 87-year-old daughter suffering from dementia.
Maria Garcia got divorced decades ago and her children are all grown up, with families and children of their own.
But she's never alone.
Her mother, 104-year-old Rosario Schielzeth, is always by her side.
"Literally these two ladies have been together all their lives," said Albert Garcia, Maria's 60-year-old son. "It's a spiritual ping-pong match between both of them and that's what keeps them going and alive."
According to ABC News, Garcia and Schielzeth have lived together for most of the younger woman's life. Even when Garcia got married and had her own home, it was across the street from her mom.
Today, more than ever, Garcia relies on her mother for comfort and companionship.
From nightly Bingo sessions to trips to the movie theater, the Florida mother-daughter duo are an inseparable pair. To keep her daughter's mind active, Schielzeth also spends time every day chatting with Garcia and telling her about current events.
"I talk all the time to her," the great-great-great-grandmother told ABC News. "That's the best thing for people in that situation. Talk all the time."
Carol Festari, one of two live-in caregivers for the mother and daughter, said watching the two women interact has been an incredible gift.
"My mom passed away when I was 17 so I think this is amazing. It's an honor. It really is," she said.
Albert describes his mother's condition as "happy-clappy dementia," since Garcia is usually upbeat and cheerful. Still, there are aspects of her behavior -- such as asking questions over and over -- that can be challenging.
But not for Schielzeth.
"My grandmother has to live with her 24-7," Albert said. "Not once have I seen her roll her eyes or answer curtly."
"She has the patience of a saint," he added.
Schielzeth insists that the care-taking goes both ways.
"I take care of her and she takes care of me, too," Schielzeth, who celebrated her 104th birthday last weekend, told the Herald-Tribune.
At first glance, one might be tempted to disagree with the sprightly centenarian, who is in remarkably good health.
Other than the walker she uses to get around, Schielzeth has no trouble with her memory and she doesn't wear glasses or a hearing aid.
But Albert said the emotional connection the women share has given his grandmother a passion and purpose.
"My grandma doesn't want to die. She doesn't want to see my mom left alone," he told the Herald-Tribune. "I believe that's why my grandma's been sticking around all these years. She thinks her daughter really needs her."
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