Meet the 78-year-old bringing authentic Filipino care to Sacramento-area seniors – Capital Public Radio News | Salisbury Pipes

By Geloy Conception

Angelita Perez, 78, is a working senior who genuinely cares about the men and women of her generation as they go through the sunset of their lives. She owns Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility that she founded in 2014 in El Dorado Hills, California, and still chooses to be an active caregiver.

What looks like a middle-class residence in the elevated suburbs of El Dorado Hills — which is 30 miles east of the California capital of Sacramento — is actually a retreat for six senior males, five aged 85 to 97 and one 52-year-old. year-long Navy veteran in hospice care. Since most assisted living and nursing home facilities service at least 20 wards, Hillcrest Care is a much smaller operation.

But what it lacks in size it makes up for in better care and a cozier ambience — Perez says seniors’ needs are more easily monitored and attended to in such an intimate setting. Helping frail seniors complete even the most basic tasks might be easier said than done, but Perez — who goes from “Lita” to friends and family and “Angel” to a grateful patient’s family — mastered the job with a natural Ease.

A resident manages his plate with a little help from Angelita Perez, the owner of Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California on July 14, 2022.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

What has made her so loved by her patients and their families is the dedication and family warmth that comes into every aspect of caring for residents, most of whom are in their late 80s and 90s.

“I make them feel so fresh and happy throughout the day,” she emphasized, “from the moment they wake up until bedtime.”

She and her staff perform the work generously—with a human touch that elevates their patients’ self-esteem—a gentle, circular pat on the back, a loving caress on the cheek, soothing pressure on the palm, and even a gentle kiss on the die Stirn makes seniors feel like they never left home.

Perez takes pride in making sure each of her patients experiences a human connection at Hillcrest Care, the small assisted living facility she owns in El Dorado Hills, California.Geloy Concepcion for NPR
Perez prepares food for residents of Hillcrest Care, the small assisted living facility she owns in El Dorado Hills, California, on July 14, 2022. When Filipino dishes are on the menu of the day, Perez says she often cooks herself.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

All are freshly made and dressed in comfortable casual clothes before eating meals, often as a group, giving them a chance to engage in some lively banter each day. Asian dishes are also occasionally served to please palates numbed by continental tastes.

An important rule of the house is never to engage in a verbal battle with the patients, some of whom suffer from dementia or sheer memory loss. Perez emphasizes the importance of keeping the mood sunny, even to the point of flattery. She finds the trick of dealing with patients’ mental and emotional fluctuations and quirks essential to improving their overall well-being.

She proudly recounts an incident where a patient who was urgently taken to the hospital felt overlooked during observation and complained loudly, “Take me back (to the nursing home); I am treated like royalty there! “

Perez sings first thing in the morning for one of the residents at Hillcrest Care, the small assisted living facility she owns in El Dorado Hills, California. According to Perez, the gesture keeps the mood bright and the residents’ spirits up.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

At the two assisted living facilities she has founded since 2012, Perez has mentored dozens of seniors. More than a few times after the death of a resident, bereaved relatives have expressed their gratitude to Perez for her help in ensuring that their loved ones passed their old age with grace and dignity.

Perez is well cut for appeal. Arriving in California in 1987 as a Filipino immigrant with only a high school diploma, she found a job as a housekeeper at an Alameda hospital. While doing her chores, she also observed the care of the patients and sometimes reached out an extra hand when needed.

Eventually, she felt she had more to offer others than making their beds and doing their laundry, so she negotiated with her manager to have time to take a course to become a certified nursing assistant. Her manager responded with a firm work-or-study option. Luckily, a prospective manager was more sympathetic to her plan for a career change.

Perez, the owner of Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California, made her mark on her community as she made the transition from housekeeping in hospitals to opening an assisted living facility for seniors.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

After earning her CNA certification, she worked in that capacity for the hospital for the next 19 years, learning about the many different aspects of patient care.

By 2012, she had saved enough to start her own business and founded an assisted living facility in Folsom, about 10 miles east of El Dorado Hills, where Hillcrest Care began operations two years later.

She decided to relocate to El Dorado Hills but eventually closed the Folsom location.

Perez’s concern for those in her care is emblematic of a serious challenge facing America’s healthcare industry: serving the country’s rapidly aging population.

Health care statisticians project that the United States’ baby boomers will have 75 million seniors in the next 20 years. Currently, 40 million Americans are over the age of 65, including 5.6 million over the age of 85; The country’s population aged 85 and over is expected to double by 2036.

Currently, only 3% of seniors live in approximately 78,000 units between assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the US. It is estimated that one million housing units will be needed by 2040 and need 127,000 over the next 20 years.

In addition to the physical structures, an equally urgent challenge is the number of trained nursing staff, whose ranks have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angelita Perez, the owner of Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California, stands outside the facility ready to greet visitors on July 14, 2022.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

All of this raises two pertinent questions: How many like Angelita Perez will the nation’s nursing schools be able to train in the years to come to meet the massive elder care needs? And will the US reopen its doors to Filipino-trained nurses?

There are anecdotal stories in hospitals around the world that Filipino nurses are the preferred “Marines” employed for convalescent care in wards for the elderly as well as those with special needs, largely due to their exceptional patience and natural social skills with such to handle patients. even under strenuous conditions. As with Perez’s life experience, Filipino nurses’ views are often shaped by a culture that honors their elders and the ability to survive on minimal resources.

Such qualities, Perez believes, set them apart in the field of gerontological care. And at her age she might be a patient herself, but she defies expectations – petite, barely under 1.50m tall, she may look fragile; However, for a woman her age, she is agile and robust. She could help bulkier patients perform strenuous maneuvers all on their own.

Perez, the owner of a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California, puts the finishing touches on preparations for a party for one of Hillcrest Care’s residents on July 14, 2022, before celebrating his 97th birthday.Geloy Concepcion for NPR
Perez, the owner of Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California, chats with a resident (left) and puts another to bed (right) on July 14, 2022.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

Where does this power come from?

Perez has the genes for longevity. Her father died at the age of 93, well beyond the life expectancy of the average Filipino, and her paternal grandfather lived to be 104. Her oldest sister in Virginia, at 93, still regularly mows the lawn and drives long distances unaided; An aunt with fairly good cognitive function just celebrated her 101st birthday.

Perez and her nine brothers and sisters also grew up in rural Philippines where they were imbued with the virtue of contentment.

“We grew up happily together with everything we had and never pined for the extra stuff that our peers enjoyed,” she mused after reminiscing about the times when she and her four sisters were together under a mosquito net on the bamboo floor of their house in the living room area while her brothers also slept in a room in the kitchen.

Sifting through old photos on July 14, 2022, Perez, the owner of Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California, enjoys vignettes of family life in the Philippines.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

Her father was a carpenter who only made ends meet by completing a piece of furniture ordered according to customer specifications. Her mother took care of her family and home full-time. And according to a cherished Filipino tradition, at the end of each day, the whole family would gather in front of their expecting father and mother to do the “mano” — the gesture of young Filipinos to hold their elder’s hand and squeeze it gently her forehead. Every day, when the church bells rang at dusk, the duty was tirelessly performed.

Perez believes that type of childhood may have empowered her with the kind of physical and mental constitution needed to handle the rigors and routines of caregiving where younger caregivers could easily give up.

When asked how long she’ll be able to do the tedious chores that come with the job, she snapped, “As long as I can!”

Perez, the owner of Hillcrest Care, a small assisted living facility in El Dorado Hills, California, stretches after a long day at work on July 14, 2022.Geloy Concepcion for NPR

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