62, Los Angeles, CA

My name is Maria Tirado, I’m 62 years old, and I’m a proud African-Puerto Rican native of Los Angeles, California. I was a full-time caregiver to my parents. During this time, I witnessed the disparities and challenges in providing care, and the economic and social impacts of caregiving. I cared for both my mother and father together for over twenty five years, and my father passed in 2012. When my mother’s care needs increased, I was let go from my job due to poor performance.

The fear of lost wages, possibly facing homelessness, and concern about how this would affect my mother’s health and care weighed on us. However, we prevailed until my mother became an ancestor last year.

Growing up watching my mother advocate for the underserved, I became an advocate for seniors amongst our Black and immigrant communities. As I did for my parents, I have also become a personal care advocate for my neighbor and have gotten her own family more involved as well.

Now that I am aging, there are so many thoughts and questions. How am I going to remain self-sufficient? I’m concentrating on my health, especially if I may inherit my parents’ illnesses. Looking for employment is challenging and I’ve been experiencing ageism, but it is just an obstacle to overcome.

It must be mentioned that the State program In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) made it possible to become a full-time caregiver, but it wasn’t easy. There are many improvements that are needed with the program, like increased wages, simplified hours, worker benefits and training, and protections for caregivers and recipients. We need a Caregivers Bill of Rights. Plus, corporations and businesses could implement much better policies for caregivers as well.

My dream is to find a passion that’s lucrative so I can remain self-sufficient and in optimum health. I also want to continue supporting social and political causes and organizations in my mother’s honor. Now that I have the freedom, it’s time to explore the world and reinvent myself, to meet genuine people, travel to faraway lands, and enjoy exquisite cuisine while being a fashionista!