Bobbe Akalonu, 82, moves slowly and carries a cane. Elegantly dressed with her wide-brimmed black hat, she has places to go. The LA native has spent the last six years traveling every couple of weeks to USC to learn how to best support caregivers and their loved ones.
Akalonu doesn’t have a medical background, but many depend on her for guidance. She learned caregiving out of necessity, by watching after her own mom, who suffered from dementia before dying a few years ago. This experience gave her the desire to form a support group for caregivers like herself.
Each week, she facilitates a group of women caring for their own families who live in the vicinity of her South LA church. The program is a partnership between the USC Davis School of Gerontology and First A.M.E. Church.
Akalonu recognizes that as the population ages, works longer and has fewer children, the role of the family caregiver will change. “For me, it was just a matter of returning home, making up my mind about going to live with my mother so I could help her,” she said. However, when asked who will care for her, Akalonu wasn’t sure whether her family members would provide the needed help.
We sat down with Akalonu at the USC Family Caregiver Center to find out more about what it was like to care for her mom and why she wanted to help others.