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Senior program helps three generations of family.

Meet the Carranza Family

Lower Nazareth Township, Pa.

Maria Laurenza, an 87-year-old grandmother with dementia, had taken too much of her medication. She knew something was wrong and called for help. When one of her daughters arrived at her mother’s apartment building, Maria was confused and tried to use the television remote instead of the phone to unlock the building’s entrance door.

That frightening episode prompted her daughter, Marilena Carranza, and her husband, Mario, to move Maria into the Bethlehem Township home they share with their two children. “Old-school Italian parents believe that children should take care of them,” says Marilena. But the adjustment wasn’t easy. The Carranzas quickly discovered that Maria wasn’t eating while they were at work, and they worried about her ability to use stairs safely. Maria’s medical case manager contacted the Northampton County Area Agency on Aging and helped the family secure an aging waiver, which pays for services that help seniors remain at home.

The Agency found an adult day program at Third Street Alliance with an opening, and Maria now participates in a range of activities, including, much to her family’s delight, having her fingernails painted. “She drew the line at the henna tattoo, though,” Marilena says, smiling.

The family paid for the program out of pocket and drove her there each morning until she received the waiver, which now covers both a home health aide and transportation to the program. “I feel so much better knowing someone will be here in case something happens,” Marilena says. “Having dementia, she needs consistent care.”

Marilena’s children, aged 20 and 23, see their parents’ sacrifices to care for their grandmother. “They see that all spontaneity is gone,” she says. Respite services allow the family to take a break to enjoy a movie, a neighborhood gathering or a vacation. Marilena, a high school teacher, and Mario, a physical therapist, don’t know how much longer Maria will be able to stay in their home, but with state-provided human services, they’re able to make the best of it. “I’ve learned to take the bull by the horns,” she says. “We’re not promised tomorrow.”

Thank your legislators for making Human Services funding a priority in the 2017-18 Pennsylvania budget.

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