“I’m a fighter. We’re going to turn this thing around or die trying. That’s just how I’m built.”
An only child, Sergio Rozzelle does everything to support his mother, Margaret. Three years ago, friends and neighbors started noticing a change in Margaret’s behavior.
“She started having symptoms of dementia and some friends reached out to me and said, ‘I think you need to come back home,’” says Sergio, who had previously lived in Atlanta, GA for 24 years. At first, Sergio commuted back and forth from Atlanta to DC every few weeks. Then, as his mother’s symptoms progressed, it became clear that a move was necessary.
“I had this decision: do I move her to Atlanta or do I move here,” Sergio recalls. A trial-run in Atlanta, however, revealed just how difficult a move would be. “I flew her down to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and it was an ordeal,” says Sergio. “And even when she was with me, she was not happy. I could see the symptoms were much more prominent because she wasn’t in familiar surroundings. She was confused. There was no way.” So, in December 2014, Sergio left Atlanta. “I just dropped everything and moved up here,” he says. Once in DC, Sergio’s fight for his mother’s care only deepened. “I have no reverse,” he says. “I’m going to do anything I can if it helps.”
For Sergio, that meant getting his mom to Iona’s Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s.
Sergio first learned about our program from Vivian Harris, a family friend who worked for Iona. It seemed like a great fit for his mom. The only problem — Margaret refused to go.
“Mom was not interested in coming at all,” Sergio says. “It was like pulling teeth.”
But, Vivian had the perfect solution: why not frame the program as going to work? “The whole idea was that mom would be going to work with Vivian to help others,” says Sergio.
Margaret agreed to go with Vivian, and immediately fell in love with our program, and manager Courtney Tolbert. “Mom really, really loves Courtney. Courtney is absolutely amazing. She treats everybody, every single person, with the care and personal touch and interaction that they need.”
That first visit was nearly two years ago.
Today, Margaret attends the Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s every day. “I drive her myself and we live all the way out in Southwest DC, but she’s attached to this program. She just loves it,” says Sergio. “It’s made her feel good about herself again. She’s not just sitting around, watching TV. She’s doing things and having new experiences on a daily basis. She’s excited to go every morning.”
Despite the distance, Sergio has no hesitation about making the drive. “The conversations, the activities, the field trips. It’s all worth it. That’s why I come up here every single day. I could get her into a program closer to the house, but it wouldn’t be Iona.”
The positive effects on his mom, Sergio says, have been plenty. “She’s not as anxious anymore. She has a sense of accomplishment because she’s contributing to a community again. And we have something to talk about in the evening.”
Sergio has also noticed positive changes in himself, too. “I feel comfortable,” he says. “Mom is here. I don’t worry about her at all during the day.”
Because of your generous donation, Margaret and other older adults have a wonderful daytime program full of activities and friends. You make it possible for otherwise isolated folks to have a warm and welcoming community.