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A daughter turns to UC Irvine Health for help

Cy Kuckenbaker
Mary Leigh Blek chats with her father outside UC Irvine Medical Center before taking him to a doctor appointment.

Caregivers receive expert, compassionate advice at the SeniorHealth Center

Mary Leigh Blek is an articulate, thoughtful woman facing a stressful situation head-on.

When her 92-year-old father became a widower, he asked to move in with her and her husband Charlie.  They said yes.  “You try to honor your parents’ wishes as long as you can,” she said.

The couple set about making physical adjustments to their home to make it easier for her dad to live with them safely. 

But she knew she needed outside assistance.  “I felt it was important to get a geriatrician involved.  I knew I was going to need all the help I could get.”

So Blek, a nurse herself, turned to UC Irvine Health, where the Program in Geriatrics is known worldwide for its groundbreaking research, treatment and prevention programs.

Blek and her dad had an uncomfortable history with other doctors they had visited together.  Even though her father is a retired physician, many healthcare workers ignored him and spoke only to her.  She said it made both of them feel like he didn’t exist.

That didn’t happen at UC Irvine Health SeniorHealth Center, where their new physician, Dr. Laura Mosqueda, director of the Program in Geriatrics, gave both of them the support and attention they needed. 

“She was so tuned into making my father feel he was important.”

In addition, Mosqueda helped Blek plan for her dad’s future, giving her guidance on what to expect with his health problems and growing memory loss, providing her with resources, including websites, that would help her understand his dementia and referring her to a social worker for advice about day care facilities. 

Blek’s father lived with her for two years. She describes some of their time together as “full of delights.”

But there were also difficult times.  “It was a journey that had its rewards. And I’m so happy that I had the emotional backing Dr. Mosqueda gave me.” Her father now lives at a board-and-care home.           

“Dad’s memory issues were becoming more profound and I knew things would get worse.” Mosqueda helped guide Blek through the difficult decision and assisted both father and daughter with the challenges of the new care arrangements.

“I was feeling very guilty, but Dr. Mosqueda came to the rescue. She was supportive and accepting.

“She wanted the best for me, as well as for my father.”