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A Well-Deserved Break for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

A Kaiser Permanente employee and her sister aim to provide family caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease time off to rest. Pictured, Stacey Graggs-Johnson (left) and Tuseda Graggs-Borden (right) with photos of their mother.

For 12 years Tuseda Graggs-Borden and Stacey Graggs-Johnson took care of their mother, Willie Mae Johnson, at her Berkeley home as Alzheimer’s disease slowly claimed her independent spirit.

After their mother died in November 2019, the pair, conditioned to more than a decade of unrelenting hard work, tight schedules, and the chaos of raising families of their own, suddenly had some time to think about what to do next.

Born out of a New Year’s Eve brainstorming session to honor their mother and to acknowledge the hard work of family caregivers, the pair started Willie Mae’s Legacy Foundation. When fully funded it will provide a respite for people taking care of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Part of our grieving process was creating the nonprofit, but it was really a moment to reflect on everything our mom had poured into us as her daughters.”

“When we were taking care of our mother, we wished we could have found something like this,” said Graggs-Borden, a national proposal consultant with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.  “So, we would like to bless other people with what we did not have.”

After launching the foundation, the sisters began volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and recently completed their training to serve as Community Educators about Alzheimer’s disease — targeting the African American community.

Loving Care Grants

Graggs-Borden and Graggs-Johnson plan to give “Loving Care Grants” in the form of licensed and bonded caregivers available for half- and all-day shifts to come in and take the load off. The grants will typically be $500 to $1,000 and available to applicants located in Northern California who meet the foundation’s criteria.

“As a single mom my mother raised us as independent women,” said Stacey Graggs-Johnson, a financial analyst in the University of California Office of the President and a former Kaiser Permanente employee.  “She provided a great foundation for us to go forth and do good in the world. Part of our grieving process was creating the nonprofit, but it was really a moment to reflect on everything our mom had poured into us as her daughters.”

Added Graggs-Borden, “When she passed, suddenly all that grief came forward. We were trying to find a constructive way to deal with all that pent-up grief, and we came up with the idea.”


The sisters are currently fundraising for the foundation.

“Family, friends, and children tend to provide care after work, or they work at home, and they get tired,” said Graggs-Johnson. “They may just need time away to reboot or watch a movie and not have to think about the 101 things they have to do to take care of their loved one with Alzheimer’s.”

Willie Mae’s mother also had Alzheimer’s, and Willie Mae and her sisters took care of their mother, which was a “long, grueling, challenging experience for them with little information available and no funding to help,” according to the foundation website.

Tuseda Graggs-Borden and Stacey Graggs-Johnson hope to make that journey a little easier for others.

Learn more about the foundation, including donations.



This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Another great support for caregiving at home is the PACE program, locally in the East Bay, Center for Elder’s Independence. They provide integrated health care, home care, social support, and caregiver support.

  2. This is one of the most selfless acts of kindness. Alzheimer’s is a very challenging disease to care for. I wish this would have been around when my mom was caring for my grandmother. Thank you. Good luck, going forward. The article doesn’t mention anything about how you are fundraising and if there is a way for others to get involved.

    1. Hi, Pam, just scroll down to the end of the story and you will find a link for fundraising.
      Doug Oakley

  3. Look at what love can do! It would be hard to find a family that this disease has not touched in some way. Hats off to you beautiful ladies for being the CHANGE that you wanted to see for others! God’s blessings to you both and on all of your hard work.

  4. This is such a wonderful idea. I too went through being a caregiver for my mom so I know exactly how difficult this can be.

  5. God Bless these beautiful sisters for the love of taking care of their mom for so long. It gives me the courage to not give up on my mom who also has Alzheimer’s and has been a challenge for me and my siblings to care for her. But after reading this it gives me hope. Thank you

  6. What a beautiful story. My mom had Alzheimer’s, also. For about 15 years my 4 sisters and I took care of her, so that she could be home with us, her entire family of about 60-plus close-knit family members. We rallied around her, around the clock, so there was always somebody to relieve somebody. At the time I didn’t think about families who didn’t have that support system. What a beautiful way to honor your mom. My mom passed away 10 years ago this December, and you ladies have given me an idea as to how to honor her memory and legacy going forward and spread this type of information to my family members. Thank you, ladies, and May God Richly Bless You.

  7. Truly a great story. Bless your heart ladies. I want to know more about the program. When the time comes, we know what to do. I have one member of the family who was diagnosed with early dementia. Thank you.

  8. Thank you so much for your story and now I can follow your inspiration for what I can tell my husband to do for his mother who is battling with this disease. My mother passed from colon cancer and we honor her every year on her birthday. Our memories will forever be in our hearts for our mothers, so again “THANK YOU” for sharing your mother’s story and keeping the foundation alive will be the greatest memory. God blessings always.

  9. What a tremendous story about two very special people. Unfortunately, my family has experience with this terrible disease and the hardship it creates for caregivers. The work you are doing is incredibly important and will make a huge impact to those helping loved ones. Well done!

  10. Bless you both, what a beautiful idea to help others going through the trauma of caregiving for a family member afflicted with this disease. I, too, looked after my mother-in-law, back in the early 80’s, and attended the first-ever support group of the Alzheimer’s Association in Hartford, CT. I was in my early 30’s with two very young children to care for, but we were willing to do all we could to make her life bearable. She lived 17 years with it, so we had a long, drawn out good-bye! Thank you for your wonderful foundation in honor of your beautiful mother.

  11. Reading this story brought tears to my eyes. My sister and I took care of our mom so she could be at home when she passed. Your foundation is so needed! Taking care of a loved one is very rewarding and also emotionally draining at the same time! I wish you the best of luck, I am sure your momma is so very proud of both of you!

  12. Love this heartwarming story! Tuseda and Stacey, I’m sure your mom is proudly watching over you and the amazing work you’re doing to help others. Caring for loved ones with dementia can be overwhelming, and your Willie Mae’s Legacy Foundation will give so many caregivers a much needed break. Bless your hearts.

  13. I would like to commend the two ladies who have started this nonprofit organization to help caregivers whose loved ones have been afflicted with the Alzheimer’s disease. Having a mother who has this terrible disease, I understand how trying it can be to take care of a loved one with this disease. God Bless the both of you.

  14. Alzheimer disease runs in my family too. Ladies, you are doing an awesome job in support of the caregivers. Stay Blessed.

  15. Wonderful! I have been searching for places to send my patients’ caregivers for a long time. The grants sound like such a great path where there previously was none. Blessings to you both for this!

  16. This a well-needed service you are providing, and such good work you are doing. I would like to learn more about your program, and see if there are any services I may provide to these families.

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