The Joys and the Burden of Caregiving

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Poet and artist Yosimar Reyes moved home to take care of his grandmother during the pandemic. Sometimes he cries in his car from the stress and pressure of caregiving. But he also knows how lost he’d be without her. In this beautiful and honest conversation, Yosimar shares how he supports his 90-year-old grandmother – financially, mentally, and emotionally.

Learn more about Yosimar Reyes on his website and follow him on Instagram @yosirey.

This season of Uncared For is presented by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit foundation making grants to promote an equitable, high-performing health care system.

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To follow along with a transcript, go to shortly after the air date.



SuChin Pak, Yosimar Reyes

Yosimar Reyes  00:07

At her age, her body feels she can’t deal. She calls me. I’m at a bar, trying to distract myself from the responsibilities of being a caretaker.


SuChin Pak  01:36

This is Yosimar Reyes. He’s a first generation poet and artist. He’s also the primary caregiver for his 90 year old grandmother.


Yosimar Reyes  01:46

I know it took a lot for her to dial, I will assume […] Because she’s mindful that I have my own life to live. Hey, I gotta go home. I told my friends at home. She’s in bed. Sorry, she says she doesn’t know it’s an honor. It’s my duty.


SuChin Pak  02:11

Caregiving is an honor for Yosimar, it’s even a joy. If you’re a family caregiver, then you might relate to this poem, trying to have a night off while having to be on call. As a caregiver, you’re always in two places at once. Like when I’m here hosting a podcast talking about caregiving. I’m also wondering if my parents are waiting on me for lunch. And when I’m there with them. I’m tracking when my kids are coming home from school so I can be back in time. Once you’ve taken on the care of someone else, you’re never not thinking about them.


Yosimar Reyes  02:44

I worked like 10 minutes from my house. But on my lunch break, I’m driving back and like checking it on her did you eat? Did you do this? Did you do that? The I eat really fast and then I go back and then I’m constantly calling her to make sure that she’s good.


SuChin Pak  03:01

Yosimar is literally between two places while caregiving but mentally he split between two realities too. And that’s hard for anyone but even more so for younger caregivers. Yosimar moved home to care for his grandmother at 31 years old. So today we’re talking about being stretched, stepping up, and finding fulfillment as a caregiver. This is Uncared For. I’m your host, SuChin Pak. I want to start at the beginning or as far as back as we can. Tell us about where you were born, where you grew up, how you came to America, that whole sort of story.


Yosimar Reyes  03:44

Yeah, so I’m originally from the state of Guerrero, Mexico. I was born there. And at the age of three years old. I migrated to the United States with my grandmother, my grandma was the one that like, physically carried me into this country. And then we landed in Eastside, San Jose, which is like 45 minutes from San Francisco. I was raised in this in this kind of little neighborhood, surrounded by immigrants and just all these people and yeah, that’s kind of my, my Genesis.


SuChin Pak  04:18

Well, I grew up in Union City, so not too far. So I am an East Bay gal myself. So I know San Jose very well also. So you were primarily raised by your grandmother. Tell me about your grandmother and her parenting style and tell me about your grandmother’s personality.


Yosimar Reyes  04:39

Besides the adversities that we lived in, like the the socio economic settings that we lived in, I grew up with a strong sense of self I grew up very confident. I grew up with somebody that didn’t murder my spirit didn’t police I’m queer, too, so she’d never police my sexuality or my gender expression, I grew up with someone that was very understanding. And so her parenting style was, I guess, like a soft parent, I guess like she was. I think she only beat my ass once. But that’s it. But other than that, it was very free. And very loving. I just remember her making a lot of sacrifices and just working.


SuChin Pak  05:20

And what did she do for work? Like, what was your day to day? What did it look like for you as a child with her?


Yosimar Reyes  05:27

You know what, it’s interesting. She was an entrepreneur. And I know that it sounds weird to call my grandmother in particular, because her hustles were like under the table, or they were like different. They were not like your ordinary things. My grandmother recycled bottles and cans. So she discovered that there’s a recycling center that they pay you money for recycling. And I think this is very common in immigrant communities, people collect soda cans, but mostly people use it as like an extra $20 that you might do. But my grandma built a whole enterprise like she connected with the restaurants in our area. And it’s very interesting because I feel Mexicans have this reverence for old people. We love old people. And because they you just think of your grandma. So the waitresses at these Mexican restaurants met her and they had an affinity for her. So they’re like, we’ll save the recyclables from our restaurant and just give them to you just come every Tuesday. So she developed a network of all these restaurants. And so she would come with her shopping cart, sometimes eight shopping carts, filled with recyclables, and then she just had a routine she did that. She babysat kids, there was a bunch of random immigrant kids in my house all the time.


SuChin Pak  06:38

Yosimar says his grandmother also sold phone cards to call Mexico cooked and served dinner to migrant men, and even sold Mary Kay. She was the ultimate immigrant businesswoman. But what he pictures most is his grandmother recycling bottles and cans.


Yosimar Reyes  06:56

I have this very vivid memory. Me and my grandma would push these huge shopping carts filled with bottles, and they would rattle all over the street. And when you’re, you hear the glass bottles rattling, and on top of that, my home girl was like, Oh, we’re not going to make two trips. So she would tie in big plastic bags on top. So it’s me like eight years old, pulling from the front and my grandma who’s really old, pushing, you know, so it’s like a lot of weight that we’re pushing this huge cart with bottles. And on top of that my grandfather has another cart. So it’s two old people, this little kid. And obviously, it’s recyclable, so people already have an assumption of like, oh, they’re poor. This is what they have to do because they’re poor. And then I remember we always pass through this restaurant. And this man comes out. And he’s like, Oh, my God, can I take a picture of you? And we’re like, what picture of us and I have to translate. Oh, when he thought he said, send your [..] photo. And she’s like, why does he want to take a picture of us? And he saw like, oh, I want to take a picture. Because I want to send it to our politicians. So they see what poverty looks like in our country. And then she’s like, yeah, they look at […] photo. Yeah, tell him to take the picture. And so we pose and he takes a picture. And then the man takes $5 and wants to hand it to my grandma for the picture, right? Like what might give you $5. And then my grandma looks at me and she’s like, tell them that we don’t need to $5, tell them that. It’s okay for him to take the picture to showcase what how poor people look like. But tell them to also remember to say that we’re poor, but everything we have we work for. And so me translating that was a moment of like, oh, like, wow, like that felt good to me.


SuChin Pak  08:37



Yosimar Reyes  08:37

Yeah, I was like, damn, this lady is powerful, intense. Then I learned that, yes, I’m poor. But I’m not worthless. So I think that’s my grandma’s big thing of like, yes, you’re poor but never if you’re poor, but a seat or like, never let people pity you. That’s the worst thing. And so I feel like, I’ve been in this quest all my life to never feel like people should feel sorry for me. Like, I always carry that with me.


SuChin Pak  09:03

I mean, oh, my gosh. I didn’t. And I’m just even thinking like, even at eight if my mother grandmother had said that to me to translate. I don’t even know if I would understand that. But it would like it would have sunk so deep that later on, right, like as you develop your your intelligence and your awareness, you’re like, oh, that’s there. That’s the foundation from which I move forward in this life.


Yosimar Reyes  09:34



SuChin Pak  09:35

I’m wondering, do you see caregiving for your grandmother and taking care of her as part of your cultural identity?


Yosimar Reyes  09:45

Everything to me, was always a matter of fact, it things just happened. And so for a long time, it was just how things were supposed to go. This lady took care of me. It’s my duty to continue on that and so I’ve recently I’ve discovered the word caregiver. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know, the signifier that it was just like, hey, just me and my grandma were chillin, like, I do a lot of things for her. But now I’m learning that it’s actually like an identity. There’s a community, there’s people that use this word, there’s people that identify as this, there’s people that have the same issues that I faced. And I think in terms of a cultural identity, what I find very interesting is that in immigrant cultures that I come from, it’s a matter of fact, how, what do you mean, you’re not going to take care of your old person? Like, what do you mean? And it’s always like this moral obligation, right? It’s like, oh, I took care of my grandma, everywhere, the restaurants, random people walk up to me, hey, I want to thank you for what you’re doing. And I’m like, why you don’t know this lady? And they’re like, no, I want to thank you. And I want to let you know that God is gonna bless you, I get a lot of blessings from random people, everywhere I go, people stop us. And maybe it’s the response that you get from watching a young person carrying this old lady out the car, or helping her cut her food at a restaurant or making sure that her hair is done, that I get a lot of that in a lot of Spanish speakers, right? The metaphor that I find in a lot of these people that come thank me for taking care of my grandma, they say if I still had my mother, I would be doing the same thing. And I think about a lot of them who come to this country who didn’t have the privilege because of borders to go bury their mothers. And so by me seeing that and acknowledging that somehow that makes them feel closer or better. And so, yeah, it’s been an interesting journey, because I feel like now culturally, I see a lot of that.


SuChin Pak  11:45

She must be such a powerful symbol to see not only an elder person, but someone who is loved. Someone who was so well taken care of. I mean, just even in the photos, you can see just her hair and the way she dresses and I mean, I’ve never met her and I know that like this woman is loved by her family.


Yosimar Reyes  12:07

Yeah, I feel like for me, success is making sure that my undocumented 90 year old grandmother has time to rest. And that when she transitions, she leaves knowing it was a beautiful journey. And I was so loved. I was so loved, somebody loves me unconditionally. My grandma was never somebody that took care of herself. She was always working. She’s never really done her nails. She’s never really she was a worker. She’s an immigrant woman, she always had a braid on. And so one of the biggest things is, we started doing manicures and pedicures for her because she just likes sparkling nails. And then her outfits, her hair going to the salon was a big thing, cutting her hair. So things like that. Those are the things that I think build her self esteem and make her feel excited about her just stepping out into the world. And so those are the things that are very mindful of that I think will help her to feel happy. And so that’s been the mission that I’ve been on because, you know, as an undocumented immigrant, it’s been so difficult. It’s difficult for us every day. And so if I can create that bubble for her, I think I’m good. And so I think maybe that is the response. I want my grandma to know that her journey into this country was worth it.


SuChin Pak  13:28

Yes, the everyday things that preserve their dignity and give your loved ones a sense of value are just as important as keeping track of medications and appointments. My mom was super stylish. Growing up, she came to this country with a small suitcase filled with custom clothing that she wore in Korea. On Sundays, she used to dress so beautifully for church. I want to hold on to some of that for her, even though now she just wants to put on the same sweat suit because it’s easy. I still like to go through her closet and pull out, you know, simple, beautiful things that she could put on when she goes out. And when she sees the outfits I’ve picked she laughs I think because it feels good to have someone care about her like that. After this short break, you’ll see more talks about moving back home with his grandmother during COVID And what caregiving looks like on a day to day basis.


SuChin Pak  14:39

We’re back. Yosimar’s journey to becoming his grandmother’s caregiver meant leaving the life he built for himself in LA, which was pretty great.


Yosimar Reyes  16:07

I was living my best life. I was like, oh my god, I have my own apartment. I have my old friends, I have my own schedule. Like I think those five years were like, a taste of me building my own identity. Me not worrying about anything. And I was touring. I was doing a bunch of talks all over the country, like it was great. I was like, dude, this is what it like to be a young professional. You know what you’re at your peak, you’re like, yes, I’m killing it. I’m in my boss girl era, you know, like, this isn’t me. But I was still paying my grandma’s rent in San Jose. And at the time, she was living in the same apartment we grew up in. So it was hard, because here I am in my big apartment in LA. And then I will come at the end of the month, and I had to sleep on the floor. So it was like this The Tale of Two Cities, you know, these two identities of like, and, and of course, the guilt, the guilt of like, how is it possible that I will that I’m living this and I’m letting my grandma live in this conditions.


SuChin Pak  17:07

When COVID hit Yosimar, knew he had to move back and take care of his grandmother, he was only 31 at the time, which feels so young. But it turns out that’s not entirely uncommon. According to AARP, Latino caregivers are the youngest group caring for an adult in the US. And they account for about 17% of all family caregivers. As Yosimar stepped into this role. His priority was to move his grandmother to a better place.


Yosimar Reyes  17:36

Somebody was giving artists grants to COVID relief for artists. And they gave me a $10,000 a $10,000 artists grant. And I can assure you that money is what helped me get my whole family out of there. I was able to do a down payment paid the first month, I invested that money and use it. And we moved out of that. But the biggest challenge was not moving physically. It was not moving physically. We moved five minutes from where we used to live. It was moving my grandmother out of that apartment mentally. She was stuck there. That was her home, that’s all she knew. She was scared every day. She didn’t she didn’t want to move. I don’t want to leave. It didn’t matter. That was roaches everywhere. It didn’t matter, that was this apartment was like she she got stuck. The reason we never elevated as a family is because we were stuck in our own mentality that this is all we deserved. And so now it’s interesting because now we live away better. And now she has a little garden. She can go outside our neighborhood, it’s safe to walk through. So she’s adjusting now, but it’s very difficult.


SuChin Pak  18:42

Yeah, and today, how is your grandmother? How is her health? You know, what kinds of things is she able to do on kinds of things is she not able to do anymore?


Yosimar Reyes  18:55

My grandma has severe glaucoma, so she’s partially she’s lost vision and what are left eye. She probably sees about 30%. So she probably sees me blurry. She recognizes voices. But other than that, like, she’s agile, she wakes up every morning, she cooks three meals a day. She sweeps she mobs she’s up here climbing things. I’m like, girl don’t do that. Like she has osteoporosis too. So her little bones are like, you know, they’re really fragile. So I’m always scared that she’s gonna fall or break something because I’d like to do it. If you break something. It’s going to cost me more money, so don’t do it. But sometimes she gets frustrated with herself. Because her mind is very agile. She’s very alert. I tell people that I do not need a ring alarm camera because she sees everything like she is. She’ll see it she notices everything. But what she’s battling is that her mind wants to do all these things. But then her body is so slow. I noticed these little things that she gets depressed. She wants to cook rice And she can’t see the white grains. So sometimes she spills it everywhere in the kitchen, right? And that it’s not the rice. That thing is a reminder to her of like, something’s happening in my body. And so she gets sad. Or we don’t have class cups in her house, because she cuts when she’s washing dishes, she can’t see the glass. So sometimes it breaks. And that will remind her of her condition. And she’ll say sentences like, […] or I don’t I don’t work for anything anymore. Like these little sentences that if you’re not in tune, maybe because I’m a poet, I’m in tune to the significance of words like that. But if it was somebody that wasn’t intuitive, they’re probably just dismiss it of like her just saying that no, she actually internalizes that. She actually feels that she, she’s not worth she can’t help me. And so those are the things that I’m more aware of now that more than anything, I think I remind people that caregiving is not her medications, so I can put the alarm and give it to her. It’s emotional, because she gets really sad. Some days, she’s sad, because she’s lonely, but I’m tutoring her. Okay, what do you feel? And she’s like, oh, I feel like this. Are you depressed? You know? And she’s like, what’s depressed? And I tell her, and then she’s like, oh, yeah, I think I’m depressed. Because we don’t have language. So I think those are the beautiful things that she’s learning of how to vocalize feelings.


SuChin Pak  21:35

Yeah, I mean, this is the caregiving work that’s hardly ever talked about. I know, for me, it’s really complicated to not only be in charge of my parents, physical well being, but their emotional one as well. Of course, you want to give them that support. But it’s hard to be that tuned in when there’s a million other things on your to do list. What are some of the day to day things that you yourself, take on as a caregiver for your grandmother,


Yosimar Reyes  22:06

You know, my day usually starts at six, and so at six, my grandma’s very particular about her breakfast. Some days, she likes one thing one day, she likes another, so I have to negotiate food all the time, because she needs to eat. But she doesn’t like to eat breakfast super early, because she has to take her medication. So my grandma’s very particular, if the doctor told her to take the medication at nine, she needs to take it at nine, it can be nine or two, it can be 905, it cannot be 9:10. The world has to stop because she has her little phone and he needs to be at this exact time, so we have to do that. Probably have her clothes set out for her what she’s gonna wear, I feed the dog and then I’m like, I’m going to work, go to work till 12 call her, do you need anything? Do you want something to eat? What do you need, then come check in on her. And then I usually get out at work at five and I come home. Make sure that she has everything if she’s gonna shower, we don’t have those compliant showers. I’m always scared. So she has a little stool that she uses and she just bathed with a bucket like super immigrant style. Then put her other medication, make sure that she has a dinner that she likes. And then yeah, that’s kind of been like our roundabout getting ready for bed. But in between that there’s emotions. One day is bad. One thing is good. One day she wants to go to exercise, I go walking my dog, so we’ll do a mile if I can get a mile out of her walking. Awesome, sometimes she will go so it’s things like that. But now I discovered the senior center shout out to the senior centers out here I am in love with the senior center. Those are my best friends. Now she’s so eager, we go from 10 to 12. And it’s the best thing because I can drop her off before work and pick her up at lunch and she’s already tired by noon. So by the time I bring her home, she’s exhausted so she just go to the bed till two and then it’s chilly. And so like oh my god. That has been a I don’t know, it’s been a lifesaver, I think and she’s so excited. She’s like a little kid going to school. She’s like I would have been at school it you know, they just, it’s just a bunch of seniors hanging out talking and like playing looked at ER or like dancing or doing little mobile exercise. She’s been enjoying that a lot. And it’s it just so happens that it’s five minutes from my job. So it’s just so easy. So I’m very grateful for that. That place.


SuChin Pak  24:35

I wanted to talk about even just the the nitty gritty details of like, finances, how do you pay for your grandmother’s health care? Has it been a challenge?


Yosimar Reyes  24:48

Yeah, so initially, obviously when we were like we were not having that much money it was very difficult so we didn’t necessarily really go to the doctor. Bobby say my grandma stuff is more chronic now so I see she needs care routine checks all the time. We live in California and California is a little bit memoria has a little bit more resources for undocumented immigrants. So my grandmother has medical, and she has full school benefits. Now, thankfully to all that activism that folks have done to do like a health for all kind of plan. And so my grandma, kids vision, dental, mental, and her primary doctors and so we’re trying to use all of that towards full benefits.


SuChin Pak  25:29

Just some quick context here, because what you’re hearing from Yosimar is not the norm. 50% of undocumented adults are uninsured, which is more than five times the uninsured rate of US citizens. A small but growing number of states have taken steps to make health care coverage more affordable to immigrants, including those who are undocumented. But there are still a lot of gaps. Yosimar is able to get his grandmother care in California, which is great. Figuring out how the system works, though, is still a challenge.


Yosimar Reyes  26:04

The hardest thing is finding out researching all this stuff, it’s so much information, I didn’t know you know, navigating so many numbers and agencies, there are resources out there, but it’s just like digging and having the time to do that I have my own life, I have my own dreams, I have things that I want to build, I have a career that sometimes I feel stagnant because I have to do all this paperwork. And so sometimes that’s the most difficult part of like, dude, like, I want to go do something and I can’t, because I have this person that I have to fill out a form for, and it’s a lot.


SuChin Pak  26:44

It is a lot filling out forms, navigating the system by yourself can be overwhelming and soul draining. Medical and other Medicaid programs around the country may offer care coordinators or care management. They can help assess medical needs, schedule appointments and connect you and your loved one to community resources or social workers. Tapping into resources like this might ease some of the stress, especially for those of us like Yosimar, who are doing this alone.


Yosimar Reyes  27:15

I don’t have any in home support. I don’t have anybody that comes to my house or helps me with her. So I that’s the one that I where I’m out right now that I’ve been investigating and figuring out if I can get someone that can help me because I feel guilty. I worked like 10 minutes from my house. But on my lunch break, I’m driving back. And like checking in on her did you eat? Did you do this? Did you do that? The I eat really fast. And then I go back. And then like just give me four more hours. And then I’m constantly calling her to make sure that she’s good. I’m scared that she might open the door. Or you know, little things that happen. I got her a dog. So the dog alarm served, there’s someone around and they help say she’s like scary little immigrant, so she doesn’t open doors for anybody. But things like that, that just it’s just things. One thing I’m thinking of like it’s putting a little camera in my house so I can track what she’s doing outside of the house. But I don’t want to be so paranoid like that. It’s interesting, because I’m in two places at once all the time. And so I’m learning that I you know, my brain is so function like that.


SuChin Pak  28:19

Yeah, so funny because I’m looking at a camera that I bought on Amazon last week, right there. And I was like, okay, it’s time I gotta put a camera and if they fall, blah, blah, blah. And then I like open the box. I’m like, this isn’t the right one. I gotta return that, even that takes research. And like, so much time.


Yosimar Reyes  28:40

You know, it’s funny, like, I’m thinking about it, remember? I don’t know. I mean, when I was younger, I would stay home from school, they would always have those life alarm commercials like my father and I can’t get up depressed. And I always thought and what that time I would find it funny. I was like, oh, that’s funny. Like, why would I […] that was a joke. Now I’m like, girl, I don’t know, give me one of those for my grandma’s […] But my Grandma’s gonna be pressing that button all the time, because she likes attention.


Yosimar Reyes  29:07

I remember those commercials. I mean, it’s funny. A medical alert button might seem far fetched to some. But as a caregiver, you really do worry about every single moment you’re away. When we come back, Yosimar talks about boundaries, and the two of us trauma bond.


Yosimar Reyes  30:03

A word trauma bonding, this is beautiful as trauma bonding.


SuChin Pak  31:30

Looking back at your decision, when you decided to take care of your grandmother and come home, knowing now all that you know about what it really means to take care of to take care of a loved one, how consuming it is. What do you think about it sitting here at now?


Yosimar Reyes  31:56

Um, I have moments that are joyful. There’s moments are like, oh, this is fun. There’s moments where I’m very frustrated. There’s moments where I’m like, girl, I need a break. Don’t talk to me for a whole day. Like, I need to go away like I sometimes, you know, I cry in my car, because I’m just like, why is this my life? I don’t want this to be my life, you know, but ultimately, I think, you know, I started reading all these self help books. I’m that girl. I’m that girl with self help books of the girl. There’s like boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. But ultimately, I think I look at her, she does things that she does little small gestures, because she always wants to help. My grandma just wants to help. I appreciate that. And I know that she means that. And even now, you know, we’re talking about her. She wants to go back to Mexico. And I told her Do you want, why do you want to go back Mexico? Do you not like it here. You don’t like how I take care of you. And she’s like, I want to go back to Mexico. Because I know that I interrupted your life. And if I leave, you’ll be happy. I won’t. You won’t have to deal with me and see I’m tearing up. I’m tearing up because knowing that she wants to be with me in her making that sacrifice. She’s making know that she wants to just help me. And so those are the things that make me feel like, No, you don’t have to go girl just yeah, just go somewhere else for today.


SuChin Pak  33:22

A lot, it is so much. And for me with my parents, I’m sort of more like, like my brother gets to because he lives farther away. He gets he comes in, he’s like, fun guy. You know, he’s gonna cook, he’s gonna put on music and I’m just looking at him like, you. I have to come here and clean toilets. You know what I mean? Every three days, like, because I can’t hire even someone to do that. Because they won’t let a stranger in the house like, you know what I mean? Like so it’s interesting. Like you go through all the things you just get through the checklist. And then there’s like no room left for feeling the sacred the joy. Like that’s where I get stuck. You know, where it just feels like such a grind. And then I wake up at three in the morning with like, dude, that’s my, that’s my busiest time […]


Yosimar Reyes  34:23

Word trauma bonding. This is beautiful as trauma bonding, because that’s exactly it. Like I’ve always I feel like the bad parent like the disciplinary because I also hold her accountable people who are my grandma and they might give her leeway because she’s old or like, Oh, don’t talk to her like that or don’t know, she needs boundaries. Hey, I haven’t eaten breakfast. Let’s not don’t bring problems to me right now, like I had let me I started doing that.


SuChin Pak  34:51

Yeah, what’s the hardest thing about setting boundaries?


Yosimar Reyes  34:54

Yeah, one of the biggest things with my grandma would have been the within boundaries that I’m trying to set for her is making her realize that I also have things that I have to do. I can’t be, everything can’t be a crisis, crisis crisis, because I tell her all the time, like, if you, I’m not going to start believing you when there’s really an emergency, because you’re always having an emergency. So I need to make sure that you only ring the alarm when it’s really, really bad. And so that and also, again, her, respecting my time, making sure that she’s not calling me all the time. Hey, I’m in a meeting, hey, I’m going to dinner from eight to 10. I might go out to the club after do not call me call somebody else. I’m not on duty, I’m off so those are the biggest things. She breaks them all the time. But I have to like, remind her hey, I need my own time, so yeah.


SuChin Pak  35:49

Yeah, then like, and that’s really interesting. I love that because we don’t have to be everything all the time.


Yosimar Reyes  35:55



SuChin Pak  35:55

You know, when they need it. I mean, that is really hard. That that is so hard. Because saying no to like someone you love that feels like they need you. You feel like such a terrible person.


Yosimar Reyes  36:08

No, I felt like I grew up like that. I felt everything was urgent. Everything’s urgent, urgency, urgency, everything’s a sense of urgency. And now, okay, it’s urgent at a five. But now it’s a three. So this three can be handled by somebody else. So you need to learn how to delegate. So I’m not you’re not blowing up my IG on the phone. She loves to tell that little phone. So like, delegate delegate, so she’s learning how to delegate, but it’s very difficult, but also, I’ve learned that that I need to make a list with actual task that other people can do. I think that’s difficult thing about caregiving is that we don’t know how to ask for help, because we assume that people have common sense to know that if you have a 90 year old grandmother that you have not visited in two weeks are called the maybe you should I always rarely people call your grandma call your grandma because they’re gonna need somebody to talk to other than the birds you bought her, you know.


SuChin Pak  37:05

Can you call your grandmother? You wrote on a on an Instagram post, part of the journey of being a caregiver means that you are also starting the process of grieving. What do you mean by that?


Yosimar Reyes  37:21

Um, I just sometimes I might grow up, I get sad, and I get sad. I started seeing her and then I realized, dude, what am I gonna do? She’s part of my life like, she’s been the fabric of everything that I do. It’s so integral. One time I spoke at a conference, and after the conference, I got an anxiety attack. I was panicking, palpitations, like, and I didn’t bring my anxiety meds, right. I was like, oh, I’m so dumb. And I’m like, freaking out. I’m freaking out. And I’m crying because I’m having this thing. I’m alone in this big hotel room, like I just just freaking out. And not that instant, you know, I call my grandma. I’m having this thing. And then my grandma’s like, okay, don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry, I got you my grandma’s solution for everything. She has this giant print Bible with big letters, because she can’t see. So she opens this big Bible with her little broken magnifying glass. And she starts reading a verse, or starts, you know, channeling whatever thing and she’s like, I got you, I got you, I’m gonna pray for you, and it’s gonna go away, you just watch. And just me, I know, that’s not gonna solve it, but medication is going to make it go away. But just me needing to hear that, that at least I have someone like, that’s caring for me or praying for me, I think those are the things that that helped me. And so that’s the grieving part that eventually, I’m not going to go have someone on the phone bugging me all the time, and I’m not gonna have someone that I can just pray for me. And so yeah, that’s the scary part. And so I’m grappling with that I make try to make, you know, make peace with that.


SuChin Pak  39:06

Have you talked about? Do you know what the end of your grandmother’s life will be like with her and how her being undocumented affects that affects you affects this push and pull that’s going on?


Yosimar Reyes  39:23

Yeah, it’s very difficult. I say, when I’m fighting to stay in this country. I’m not necessarily fighting to stay in San Jose. I’m not necessarily fighting to stay here. It’s […] but that’s not my life you know, I’m fighting to stay surrounded by the people that I love and that love me unconditionally. I’m fighting to stay in the community that uplifted me and supported me and keep breath to me when I couldn’t breathe. And so in that instant, I think my grandmother is my country. My grandmother is the place that I want to be in and so in that same place, my grandma, she wants to go back.


SuChin Pak  40:01

Back to Mexico that is Yosimar says his grandmother has been torn about whether to make this move before she dies. Because she’s undocumented. She can’t move between her home country and the US freely. Yosimar has experience with this issue. Seven years ago, his grandfather’s self deported back to Mexico before he died.


Yosimar Reyes  40:23

We buried him over the phone, because we couldn’t be there. And so someone called us on FaceTime. And we began to watch the procession from FaceTime. That was so hard. And that was traumatizing because I was like, dude, I don’t want to bury my grandmother like that, like, I feel guilty that I couldn’t bury my grandfather, like I wasn’t there. And his last breath, he was calling out for us. We weren’t there. Yeah, he returned to me, he called to his sons, but he hadn’t seen them in 26 years, we were his family. And so I don’t want that to happen to my grandmother. And I told her, like, if you make the choice to return back, I want to be the one that brings you back. I want to be the one that’s on the plane with you. And we’re gonna sort through this, we’re gonna figure it out right now. She says she’s about to go back. But when she gets mad, when she gets mad, she’s like, buy me my ticket. Buy me my ticket tomorrow, because I’m going back, you know, like guilt tripping. Oh, that girl, let’s go we’ll buy it right now when she wants southwest which I want to fly, because we can buy it, you know. But at the end of the day, I just want her to be happy. And so I don’t know, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. It’s so up in the air, who knows. But for now, like, girl, let’s just chill out. Let’s just find peace. No more drama in our lives. Let’s just just live cute little immigrant lives, that’s it.


SuChin Pak  41:46

I love talking to Yosimar, it’s such a good feeling to laugh with someone who understands exactly what you’re going through. But Yosimar, also has his moments of crying in his car and missing his independence. As caregivers were often straddling the line between two worlds, two identities, maybe even two countries, and it’s hard. But ultimately, Yosimar reminded me that caregiving is a privilege. For a lot of reasons, it’s not something everyone is able to do. So if you’re a caregiver, take your loved one to get their hair done, or pick out a nice outfit for them. Make them feel beautiful. Celebrate them.


CREDITS  42:32

There’s more Uncared For with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like unaired interview clips from caregivers across the country. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. Uncared For is a production of Lemonada Media. I’m your host SuChin Pak, Muna Danish is our supervising producer, Lisa Phu and Hannah Boomershine our producers. Our mix is by Ivan Kuraev. Music is by Andrea Kristinsdóttir. Our associate producer is […]. Jackie Danziger is our VP of narrative content. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Whittles Wachs. This season of Uncared For is presented by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit foundation making grants to promote an equitable, high performing health care system. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. You can follow me on Instagram at @SuChinPak and Lemonada @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. Follow Uncared For wherever you get your podcasts and listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. Thanks so much for listening, see you next week.

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