Rosie Castillo spent her whole life taking care of her son David. Now he’s returning the favor as Ms. Castillo battles Alzheimer’s disease.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Castillo, 56, would dutifully visit his 86-year-old mother every day at the Comprehensive Care Center at Lompoc Valley Medical Center.
The CCC offers 24-hour care and treatment; Ms. Castillo has lived there for the past year.
“It’s tougher than anything. She’s got two partial hip replacements and they were a year apart and this is so much harder. That was okay because I knew she would get stronger. This is so much harder. I go there and I just pray that she knows it’s me and I take my dog with me every time when I go. She’s got Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I just want her to either know it’s me or see something familiar. If she can see us both, oh that’s even more of a blessing for me. This is extremely hard and the sad thing is, I’m not alone in it, I mean, there’s a million people that are like me that are going through it,” Mr. Castillo said.
Ms. Castillo has battled dementia for the last five years, and Alzheimer’s for the last three years. Mr. Castillo said when the coronavirus outbreak first started making headlines, he was able to continue to visit his mother because Santa Barbara County did not have a confirmed case of the virus.
He remembered how quickly that policy changed when the first case was confirmed on March 15.
“They were supposed to (stop visits) on a Monday and they did it on a Sunday. I was preparing myself knowing that it was coming and I told myself, ‘Okay, I have Sunday night. I’m going to see her and I’m going to stay with her as long as I can,’ and all of a sudden I went there early to spend time with her and I couldn’t get in because of that case in Santa Barbara County. So it was like, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t expect it to be that quick. I guess that’s how quick everything can change,” Mr. Castillo said.
Now Mr. Castillo visits his mother five days a week. He can only go as far as the center’s foyer, where he is separated from his mother by a glass window.
“I just hope she could see me because she gets distracted right away. I’m over there beating on that window, but they say people with Alzheimer’s, sometimes they comprehend it and sometimes they’re just off looking around,” Mr. Castillo said.
CCC Activities Director Michele Hunt said the center is working to keep residents connected to the outside world during the pandemic despite the “No Visitor” policy. CCC staff are setting up Skype and Google Duo visits for out-of-town families or those unable to get to the facility.
“This is important not only for our residents but for their family and friends who care and worry about them,” she said in a press release.
While the visits aren’t like they used to be, Mr. Castillo said he is grateful for them, and they do give him some peace of mind that his mother is being well taken care of.
“Before the virus, I would always feed her at dinnertime and give her medicines. She weighed 97 pounds on the last day I got to see her, now her weight is maybe 92. At this home, there’s a few people that she’s really comfortable with and she’ll eat. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia, if they’re familiar with some people, they’re okay, but once they change, once their routine changes, then they change. I’m grateful for CCC, I really am, because there’s other homes and you see everything that is happening at other homes. You have to worry about the virus coming in,” Mr. Castillo said.
Ms. Castillo was born in Oxnard in 1933 to migrant farmworker parents. She moved to Lompoc in 1934 and is the oldest of seven children.
Mr. Castillo proudly mentioned that a mural with her picture in Lompoc was published in National Geographic.
The mural is called “Flower Industry” by Art Mortimer and is located at 102 West Ocean Ave. on the north side of the Odd Fellows Hall. According to the Lompoc Mural Society, the mural was painted in 1989. The original photo of Ms. Castillo that is depicted on the mural was taken before Mr. Castillo was born.
Mr. Castillo said he was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and was adopted by his mother in Lompoc. Sadly, Mr. Castillo’s father was killed in a car crash when he was six years old.
“She told me when I was young, the only person I can count on is her and the only person she can count on is me. But as I grew up, she raised me by herself, and now that she’s older, she got sick. I’m here for her. So it’s something that I live by with her,” Mr. Castillo said.
“Most mothers carry their child for nine months, my mom carried me in her heart for years. Yeah, all she ever wanted was her own son or daughter,” he said.
Before she got sick, Ms. Castillo used to enjoy going out to restaurants around town with her son. Mr. Castillo remembered that she didn’t have a favorite meal of the day, any meal they shared together was her favorite.
“She loved to go out and eat. It didn’t matter if it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, she’d say, ‘Let’s go out and eat,’” Mr. Castillo said.
“I don’t know how else to say it, it’s all about a son’s love for his mother.”