When Bryan Robles talks about his beloved grandmother, Yancha, it’s as though she’s still dancing on this Earth. “She was larger than life and always down for anything: she’d play baseball with us, come to punk rock shows with me, go out for late-night sushi, and invite me and my friends over for happy hour,” he said. “She just loved having fun, and she never lost her flavor.”
Growing up, Bryan was close with all of his grandparents, but he had a special relationship with Yancha. “I called her a lot just to talk, and even if it was 2:00 am, she’d pick up on the first ring,” he said. Their relationship grew even deeper after Bryan was diagnosed with a blood disorder in his late 20s. “I spent the better part of four years in the hospital, and Yancha would sit with me for hours and feed me donuts,” he said. “She became a huge part of my life.”
After Yancha’s husband, Ricardo (“Tito”), died in 2013, the family was concerned about her living in her large house by herself. “But that home was her connection to Tito and their shared memories, and she didn’t want to lose them,” Bryan said.
Signs of distress
Over the next seven years, Yancha’s health declined. She began having problems with balance and managing the stairs, eventually confining herself to the top floor of her house. She relied on her daughter, as well as Bryan and other family members, to help out, but it wasn’t enough.
Eventually, the family convinced her that the best way forward was to sell the house, but at the last minute, she backed out. “We knew that full-time, live-in care wasn’t cheap, but Yancha was hanging on by a thread and it’s what she needed to live a better life,” Bryan said.
The family reached out to Lifespark Community Home Care, and for the next 18 months, live-in caregivers helped Yancha with activities of daily living, while Bryan tended to other needs, like stopping by to visit, fixing her TV, and continuing their late-night chats.
In December 2022, Yancha had a small stroke and fell. That’s when the family was referred to Lifespark Hospice. “Even though we’d been expecting this for a while, it was a very emotional time for me,” Bryan said. He moved in two days later to help Martha Chibuye, RN, Lifespark Hospice, take care of his grandmother.
“I felt blessed and honored to see how she cared for my grandmother,” Bryan said, adding that whatever Yancha was going through, whatever she needed, Martha’s love and compassion never wavered. When Yancha refused the hospital bed that had been ordered, Martha turned her recliner into a comfortable place to sleep. When she insisted on using her own bathroom rather than the bedside commode, Martha would sit with her in the bathroom, sometimes for hours.
“It’s painful to watch this happening to someone you love, so when a person like Martha comes into your life, it creates a rare and wonderful bond,” he said. “I was losing my best friend, and she helped me through it. It was a life-changing experience.”
To learn more about Lifespark Hospice, visit lifespark.com/hospice.