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‘Wonderwoman’ Tells What It’s Like To Care for an Elder

by D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
posted Mar. 4, 1998

When Aundré “The Wonderwoman” Herron talks, people laugh – even when they’re Berkeley faculty and staff gathering to discuss the often painful issue of elder care.

As a professional stand-up comedian, Herron is used to amusing audiences at comedy clubs around the country.

But her comedy isn’t just an act, it’s a way to share the joy of caring for an elderly, dependent parent.

Herron cared for her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, for 10 years until she died last July.

“I’m so glad I did this for her. To be able to give back what she gave to me was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” said Herron, who calls herself Wonderwoman because she always wondered how she would juggle her career and care giving duties.

Herron was on campus Thursday, Feb. 27, to encourage those in similar situations to use humor to cope with care-giving stress. Her visit was sponsored by the elder care unit of CARE Services.

During her presentation, Herron recalled many of the funny moments she shared with her mother during their 10 years together.

“Once, when she saw a newspaper story on boxer Mike Tyson with the headline ‘Unknown Beats Tyson,’ she exclaimed ‘Tyson doesn’t even know who beat him?’”

When Herron arranged for her mother to attend an adult day care center, she walked out on the first day and was lost.

Panicked, Herron phoned the police, who said her mother was at the station, safe and sound.

Herron rushed to the station expecting to find a lonely, frightened old lady, but instead found her mother engaged in a casual conversation with one of the officers. When her mother turned and saw her anxious daughter standing in the doorway, she shook her head and told the officer, “This is what I have to put up with.”

Herron realized this was her mother’s attempt to hide her embarrassment. Even though Alzheimer patients lose their functionality, they don’t lose their pride and dignity, cautioned Herron.

During her presentation, Herron also emphasized the importance of taking breaks from care-giving duties to rejuvenate.

Delores Salas, a staffer with the vice chancellor for business and administrative services, said she admired Herron’s ability to speak out about her experiences.

“Listening to Herron reaffirms my own experiences of taking care of my mother. I’ve always kept these stories to myself and it’s such a release to hear her tell everyone,” said Salas.

Ave Tolentino, who works for Environment, Health and Safety, agreed, adding that although she and Salas have known each other for years, they only recently divulged to each other that they are both caregivers.

“Humor helps people open up and see the funny side of what can be a very trying situation,” said Tolentino.

For more information on elder care services for faculty and staff, call 643-7754.

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