“Taking Care of Mama” – A Family’s Alzheimer’s Journey

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenSeptember 9, 2013

The Tanaro’s are one of America’s 5.4 million families battling Alzheimer’s disease. Andrea and Tony share the heartbreak this debilitating disease has caused their family in their soulful, honest and personal lyrics of their new up and coming hit song, “Taking Care of Mama,”  a tribute to Tony’s mom, “Mama Tanaro.”"Taking Care of Mama" A Family's Alzheimer's Journey

Tony Tanara, who cares for his mother with the help of his wife Andrea and his six siblings, shares that Mama Tanaro was once a vivacious woman who always took care of her family. “Living with mom and the disease on a daily basis and watching her gradual transformation has been excruciating for everyone.” The family’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease, and Tony’s stories of Mama Tanaro’s healthier years, were Andrea’s inspiration for the song “Taking Care of Mama,” which she wrote with Tony’s help and has become her first national single.

“When we wrote the lyrics and music, it was intended to be our family’s private, personal healing song,” shares Andrea Tanaro. “I sang it for close friends and was encouraged to share it more broadly. The feedback from our audiences has just been incredible.  After concerts, people come up to us or send emails wanting to share their personal story with Alzheimer’s.  It’s been so heartwarming we’ve decided to donate 75% of all song proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. We want to do our part to help fund a cure for this disease that plagues millions around the world.”

Alzheimer’s Disease Strikes
a ‘Personal Chord’ for Many

Andrea Tanaro Performs "Taking Care of Mama"
Andrea Tanaro Performing “Taking Care of Mama” on Great Day, photo courtesy of

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight older Americans suffers from Alzheimer’s and the tragic disease is expected to rise from 5.1 million in 2010 to 13.5 million in 2050. This translates into a projection of more than 15 percent of the 65+ senior demographic getting diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the next forty years. And since it’s the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the U.S. that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed—the nation needs to begin preparing for the Silver Tsunami. Andrea and Tony’s experience with Alzheimer’s is personified in their song, which is why so many can relate.

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Country charm and the Tanaro family’s delightful idiosyncrasies’ are apparent in the “Taking Care of Mama” lyrics. But more than that, the heartfelt words resonate with so many across the globe:

There’s not much that Mama

Can remember anymore

Now that she’s old and tired and weak

But she still smiles that same old smile

When I walk through the door

Brings back so many memories

About the way things used to be

She’d be up on Sunday

Making biscuits before dawn

And she could stop you in your tracks

When she’d put her high heels on

But these days she don’t get dressed up

Cause she barely gets out of bed

And it’s so sad to see

It hurts so bad I cannot breath

Cause now I’m taking care of Mama

The way she took care of me

I fix her meals and comb her hair

And lay her down to sleep

And I get up on Sunday

To check on her at dawn

I just can’t believe

I never thought I’d be

Taking care of Mama

The way she took care of me

Sometimes it’s hard to face tomorrow

Some days more than I can stand

But when that time comes and she goes home

I’ll be there to hold her hand

There’s not much that Mama

Can remember anymore

But that’s ok with me

Cause she still smiles that same old smile

And I can’t ask for more

Than to hear her say to me

You’ll always be my baby

Cause now I’m taking care of Mama

The way she took care of me

I fix her meals and comb her hair

And lay her down to sleep

And I get up on Sunday

To check on her at dawn

I just can’t believe

That I’m so proud to be

Taking care of Mama

The way she took care of me

Listen to “Taking Care of Mama” on iTunes. 75% of all song proceeds will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s Disease: A Personal
Battle Becomes a National Mission

Mama Tanaro started showing Alzheimer’s symptoms when the couple got married in 2007. Andrea notes how she has witnessed the struggle:

“It has been difficult on Tony and his brothers and sisters. There are seven of them and they all take turns as caregiver. Each kid takes a day so Mama can stay home. Tony and I take Wednesday and Sunday. I’ve watched how it has affected the family so much. The whole thing has been really hard. I’ve had personal experiences with Alzheimer’s, but not with someone as close as a mother. I think it adds a whole new dimension to the suffering.”

Each member of Tony and Andrea’s band has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease in some way, which really helped fuel the emotion behind the song as they all have personal connections. When they finished recording the song they sent it to several radio stations. Tony comments, “The song was quickly popular with listeners and got so many requests that it got on rotation. Before we knew it, we’re getting calls from New York and Texas—all over! We got flooded with emails and Facebook messages—so many we’re still trying to answer them all.”

The Fight to Find a Cure

"Taking Care of Mama" SingleThe song’s popularity is testament to the fact that the nation is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. People can relate to the lyrics; their souls touched by the music. Tony shares his personal experience:

“As a son, there are ways I’ve had to take care of my mom the same way she took care of me. Things a son shouldn’t expect to do. I know she loved me so much she would do anything for me in any way. That’s what we have to do. The song talks about it being hard to face tomorrow. It’s hard to take care of her as there are many bad nights. Sometimes I’ll put her in a wheelchair — get her in bed and put the rail up.  She doesn’t like it. Have to remind her she’s going to get better. At times, she thinks I’m my dad and that’s difficult. Selfishly I want her to know I’m the one helping her. It’s really hard.”

Many families are going through the Alzheimer’s disease struggle. The government’s mission to find a cure for the disease by 2025 is in full-force, which is why every dollar matters. The Tanaro family is playing their part by donating most of their proceeds to Alzheimer’s research.

“We’re a humble family in rural KY. Don’t have much but we have each other.  Hope that song can touch others as it did us.”

Learn more about how “Taking Care of Mama” benefits Alzheimer’s research by watching this video:

Learn more about Andrea on her Facebook page.

Dana Larsen

Dana Larsen

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