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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is led by reporter Syeda Hasan and is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Family Members Share The Joys And Challenges Of Caregiving

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Photo by Allison V. Smith
/
For KERA News

In the KERA series On Our Minds: The Caregivers we met North Texans navigating the legal and personal challenges of caregiving. 

Whether they are looking after a family member or helping children in need, these caregivers and their families all shared intimate moments with us — both joyous and challenging. Here are some of those moments that didn't make it into the initial stories in the series.

Tech Guerrero
Tech Guerrero, his husband Michael Street and Guerrero's mother, Maria Luisa Castillo Rocha.
Credit Allison V. Smith / For KERA News
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For KERA News
Tech Guerrero (top) and his husband Michael Street have optimized their Dallas home for the comfort of Guerrero's mother, Maria Luisa Castillo Rocha.

After she was diagnosed with dementia, Tech Guerrero and his husband convinced Tech’s mother, Maria Luisa Castillo Rocha, to leave her home in Mexico City and move in with them in Dallas. But she still has insurance in Mexico City, and Tech has traveled across the border multiple times, to take Maria Luisa to specialists and restock her medication. The family took a trip to Mexico City earlier this year.

Family Members Share The Joys And Challenges Of Caregiving
Tech Gurrero

 “It was about mental health, connecting with her diverse group of friends, and it was about feeling some TLC, you know? Talking about memories and talking about her new life cycle here in the States with her two sons.” - Tech Guerrero

Debbie Spruell
Debbie Spruell singing with the church choir
Credit Allison V. Smith / For KERA News
/
For KERA News
Debbie Spruell (front) sings with other members of the choir at Straightway Church in Burleson, Texas. She says singing in the choir brings her comfort from the struggles of her life at home

Fort Worth mother Debbie Spruell is a caregiver to her 30-year-old son, Jermaine Hayley. She says she didn’t know a lot about schizophrenia when Hayley was diagnosed with the mental illness about 10 years ago.

Family Members Share The Joys And Challenges Of Caregiving
Debbie Spruell

 “He started having issues probably when he was about 17-and-a-half, 18. He was just like paranoid about a lot of things. ‘Someone’s bugging my phone.’ Or if he bought certain foods, he would look at it and say, ‘well, this is not my food.’” - Debbie Spruell

Justin Hayley
Debbie Spruell and another of her sons, Justin Hayley
Credit Allison V. Smith / For KERA News
/
For KERA News
Debbie Spruell and another of her sons, Justin Hayley, outside the Straightway Church in Burleson, Texas.

Another one of Spruell's sons, Justin Hayley, says it's been tough to see his brother Jermaine struggle. Jermaine lives with Debbie, while the rest of his siblings have moved out. Justin says the family is constantly thinking about his brother's mental health.

Family Members Share The Joys And Challenges Of Caregiving
Justin Hayley

 “Sometimes it’s kind of hard to get through to him, so it just depends on the state that he’s in at the time, but when he’s doing good, he remembers things, and we can have conversations about past experiences and memories and stuff ... We have to kind of incorporate how he is now into everything that we do, so it’s just like, if we make a plan, we have to…we have to make sure he’s OK, so it’s just kind of hard.” - Justin Hayley

MORE: Explore the series On Our Minds: The Caregivers