Minerva Perez-Vargas starts her day by blasting salsa music to help get her younger brother, Elvin, up in the mornings. Getting Elvin up in the mornings can be a big process. He requires full, hands-on care after being permanently developmentally disabled from the age of two and half years old. That includes help with getting dressed, showering, toileting, feeding, and moving.
“We take our time,” she says. “We have a routine that I follow.”
For the most part, Elvin relies on his wheelchair, but the 63-year-old is also very active thanks to Minerva. With each transfer and at each step in their routine she tries to keep him moving as much as possible and weaves in exercise movements throughout everything they do.
She has also made many adjustments to their beautiful, historic home in Ohio City to accommodate Elvin’s needs. They have grab bars in the bathroom, ramps installed in the back, and a swing set that he can swing in in the backyard. Everything is open and spacious to accommodate Elvin’s wheelchair.
After their mother died, Minerva took over the role of permanent caregiver for Elvin since 1995. In 2008, she became an employee of Blossom Hill called the Homemaker Personal Care Program, also known as Supported Living. The program allows her to be able to care for her brother in their own home and at the same time, she is supported by an agency.
“As a caregiver, I am proud of the fact that I have kept him so much part of our family,” she said. “My daughters and our relatives come over often and we see each other a lot. It’s helpful to have him home and being part of everything, instead of him living in another environment.”
The siblings come from a very close-knit family. “Our family celebrates lots of little things and we get together as often as possible,” Minerva said. Their parents emigrated from Puerto Rico and they both speak Spanish and English, having grown up in a bilingual home.
Elvin’s greatest joys are car rides, fast food, loud music, and people watching. “Before COVID, we used to love going to the mall and walk around a little bit but mostly people watch,” Minerva explained. “Now we go for lots of car rides where he can still people watch, but it’s different.”
As for taking time for herself to pursue hobbies and activities, she says she is the “queen of salsa” and loves singing and dancing. She incorporates music as much as possible into their daily lives and routine.
As a caregiver, Minerva says her main goal is to make a good life for Elvin and advocate on his behalf as much as possible.
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