Sacrifice is not a word that Vince Zangaro uses to describe his life as his father’s round-the-clock caregiver. The guitar player/song writer from Canton does use words like “fortunate” and “fun” in talking about the past decade with his 73-year-old father, Albert, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Zangaro certainly recognizes the toll, physical and emotional, that comes with caring for someone with dementia. And there is the financial burden that families shoulder.
To help made a dent in this, Zangaro has started Alzheimer’s Music Fest, which features musicians who perform to help raise money to support caregivers. The next event is Aug. 23 at Duluth’s Red Clay Music Foundry.
Q: How old were you when your dad was diagnosed?
A: I was 29 and dad was 62. I met my wife Amy about five years ago but before that, it was just me and Dad.
Q: Can you believe you have been a caring for him for so long?
A: It is kind of a blur, to tell you the truth. At first, I was still trying to be like the popular kid in high school. It took me about five years to stop being depressed and negative about my choice to take care of dad.
Q: Why did you make that choice?
A: My parents were always very supportive of me. They were hardworking and gave me love and caring. My mom died when she was 55. After that, my dad and I were just there for each other.
Q: How would you describe your dad?
A: He is a good, friendly, easygoing family guy. After my mom got sick, he was her caregiver for seven years. He was a mechanic for Eastern airlines and served in the military reserve until he had to retire because he was forgetting things.
Q: Is he considered at a certain stage in the disease’s progression?
A: I think everyone is different when it comes to Alzheimer’s. Dad can still walk but he has to be assisted. He has been more verbal lately. He is a smart aleck and a lot of fun.
Q: What is the hardest part of caregiving?
A: The isolation is hard. You lose friends who don’t understand what you are going through. You have to figure out the financial piece. Maybe the hardest thing is to get over yourself. Once you stop trying to make that person live in your world, and you live in their world, that is when you find happiness.
Q: Why did you start Alzheimer’s Music Fest?
A: I got frustrated that there were so few respite programs for caregivers. Dad has great insurance but it doesn’t cover that. I just felt like I had to do something to help families who needed to go out to dinner, or on a date, or to a child’s wedding. Last year, we raised over $13,500. The money goes to Caring Together in Hope, a nonprofit in Roswell, and they identify the caregivers who need a break.
Q: Do you still play with your band?
A: All of that is a little bit more on the backburner because of where dad is right now.
Q: So you are in this for the long haul?
A: I made a promise to dad when he got diagnosed that I would take care of him. His father also had Alzheimer’s. I am a good candidate to get the disease.
Q: Does that frighten you?
A: No. If it get it, I will put the camera on myself to try to help others.
Q: So you really don’t feel cheated?
A: I feel very fortunate. I figured out what really matters. Most people never do. That is really a gift.
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