Mimi Ventresca was enjoying life in San Diego. She’d retired after working more than 30 years for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, so she spent time in the sunshine, hanging out with friends, walking her dog, going to the gym and taking it easy. That all changed in December 2009 when her mother suffered a stroke. Mimi came back home to Indianapolis to help. She planned to stay for just a little while, but that changed, too.
She calls it all a blessing. She was present when her mother died in 2013. Now Mimi tends to her 95-year-old father, who needs 24-hour care. She gave up California sunshine, privacy and freedom, but she’d have it no other way.
The oldest of 11 children, Mimi is a natural caregiver. Plus, she has developed a community to help out. Her brother James also lives at home. Her sister Karen, who lives next door, cooks for them twice a week. Often they all share a family meal together. Sister Betty from Lady of Grace provides therapy. Mike from a home health agency comes twice a week and takes her father on walks. Kevin from St. Vincent Life Journey takes her dad’s vitals and has become eyes and ears for his doctor. Good friends who own a cleaning business come once a month to clean the house thoroughly. CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions delivers a noon meal, and a neighbor brings a casserole every Thursday.
Mimi’s brother Brian is in charge of medication management, and brother Dante, who lives only a few blocks away, takes care of their dad’s hygiene.
The team came together through grace and providence, Mimi said. And she did a little pleading and begging last Christmas when the whole family was together. Since everyone has his or her own role, it’s been a real life changer for her — and it’s been good for her father, too. The collaboration allows Mimi’s dad to stay home, and it’s how she manages his round-the-clock care.
“It kind of just fell into place,” she said. “You get a plan going, and then it’s always evolving, and you accommodate, and it gets better and better.”
She didn’t have a support system when she was caring for her mother, and it was a struggle. She recalls going to a counselor in 2011 who told her she had to take a break and get out of the house. Mimi heeded the advice and now walks all three of the family’s dogs every day. She has learned “the art of the pause” and makes it a point to get away by herself, even if it’s just a few minutes of quiet time in another room.
“I wouldn’t change a minute of the time I got to spend with Mother or the time I have with Daddy,” Mimi said. “The fulfilling thing to me is giving back to them, like they gave to us.”