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Gary Brown is a Program Specialist in Business Diversity & Economic Opportunity program at University of Southern California. He previously also provided care to his mother, a long-time Los Angeles resident. During his time as a caregiver, Gary received support from the Family Caregiver Resource Center, home to Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center. Read below to learn more about his experience.

The Interview

Who did you care for?

My brother and I provided care to my mother here in Los Angeles for many years. 

Share your story – how your caregiving journey started and how you got to where you are today. 

I was familiar with the Family Caregiver Support Center at USC – I heard about it back in 2015. This was shortly after my father passed away, and a friend introduced me to FCSC for a support system. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and had symptoms of dementia, as well. At that point, I reconnected with FCSC. We have a very small family, so it was my brother and I providing the care. We were fortunate that my mother’s financial situation allowed for daily caregivers in the home, but we supplemented that care. I would take care of her finances and shopping, for example. My brother was there day to day with our mother. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew then? 

Find other people who are going through the same thing. You are not alone in this and it’s important to have support. Learning from other people would have alleviated some of the stress that we experienced while caregiving. Also, learn how to let things happen as they are going to happen. 

How has LA CRC helped you with your caregiving journey? 

LA CRC was able to provide us with some additional resources – such as supplies we needed that were discounted and delivered to us, Adult Day Care, financial support, etc. I also attended support groups, which at the time were in-person on campus at USC School of Gerontology. 

What did you do for self-care?

I was fortunate to be able to separate myself from my role as a caregiver on occasion. I had my own apartment, so I could be with my mother at her home, but still go to my own place. This helped me be able to breathe at the end of the day. I would recommend keeping as normal a routine as possible while caregiving. I also learned what respite care was from LA CRC. This is an incredibly important resource!

What else would you like to share with fellow caregivers?

Expect the unexpected. Be patient. Talk, express what’s going on, and ask for help. Take advantage of resources. Learn the options early. When you start seeing the signs, do what you can to make that person comfortable and get as much support around them – the process could take 1 month or multiple years. At one point of another, we’ll all go through it, whether we’re caring for a friend, family member, or we need care ourselves, so don’t think it can’t happen to you and don’t ignore it. 

Any closing thoughts?

I was not a trained nurse, I was not a trained doctor. I went to business school, and was in education. When you’re put into a caregiving situation and you have to figure it out, as much support as possible will make it better. You’re not alone in it. It can be a very overwhelming and lonely situation. You’re dealing with your parent in a way that you’re not necessarily prepared for.

ConclusionWe are so grateful to Gary for sharing his story. To hear more about his experience with caregiving, check out this panel discussion he moderated for LA CRC’s Caregiver Experience series. If you are a family caregiver, click here to find your local CRC to connect with resources today!

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