Founded by Melinda French Gates, Pivotal Ventures accelerates social progress by removing barriers that hold people back.

Caring for Each Other: The Vallejos Family

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Ramona Peña is in her mid-nineties and has Alzheimer’s. As her condition continues to worsen, she needs more and more assistance. Her daughter Johana stepped up to become her mother’s primary caregiver, after searching in vain for a qualified and affordable live-in professional. Johana is now responsible for all decisions—big and small—regarding her mother’s care.  

A 64-year-old woman leans over to apply moisturizer to her 97-year-old mother's forehead, with a mirror in the background.

Photo by Mikaela Martin for Pivotal Ventures  

Johana Vallejos, 64, applies moisturizer to her mother Ramona Peña’s face as they prepare to head out to a doctor’s appointment — one of the many medical visits that fill their schedules. Ramona, who is 97, has Alzheimer’s, and hasn’t walked in many years. 

A 64-year-old woman's hand intertwines with that of a 97-year-old woman, whose other hand rests on her lap. The nails on both women's hands are painted.

Photo by Mikaela Martin for Pivotal Ventures 

Johana massages Ramona’s hands during their weekly trip to a local park. They do a light form of physical therapy together every day, usually while telling each other stories. 

A 64-year-old woman pushes her 97-year-old mother's wheelchair on a paved path through a bright green park filled with trees.

Photo by Mikaela Martin for Pivotal Ventures 

Johana pushes Ramona’s wheelchair during their weekly trip to a local park. Doctors don’t have a medical explanation for Ramona’s inability to walk; one day, she just stopped, and has been using a wheelchair ever since. 

A tired 64-year-old woman sits on the edge of a bed covered in a floral bedspread.

Photo by Mikaela Martin for Pivotal Ventures  

Johana sits on Ramona’s bed after finding a headband for her to wear that day. As her mother’s primary caregiver, Johana is usually very upbeat, and tries to stay positive, but today, her fatigue has caught up with her. 

A 64-year-old woman pours water from an orange pitcher over the lowered head of her 97-year-old mother.

Photo by Mikaela Martin for Pivotal Ventures  

Johana washes her mother's hair, a task that Ramona often resists. Johana does her best to keep things light and positive.

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