Ray Payton: Growing up meant becoming a caregiver

Ray Payton isn't quite a baby boomer, yet she's already taking care of two aging grandparents who still live in their own home. Her grandmother, Vidalia, 90, has Alzheimer's and her grandfather, Dowell, 93, has glaucoma.

At 35, Payton has spent about $20,000 of her own money to "de-mold" and repair damaged walls in their home in Arlington, Va. She's paid to re-carpet it, too, and put handicap-accessible hand bars in the bathrooms.

To pay the bills out of her grandmother's bank accounts, she had to go to court to be named her legal guardian. Payton, whose parents are deceased, also is paying for a cleaning woman and half the cost of 24-hour in-home care. (She's splitting it with her grandparents.)

"It's cheaper than a nursing home," she says. "But they fought it. They felt I was taking their independence away."

Payton has been taking care of her grandparents in some fashion for 15 years, since graduating from college. She has a stepsister and half-siblings, but none of them are close to their grandparents. "I'm the one it fell to," she says.

She's received lots of encouragement and help, though, from some of her grandparents' friends. "They have lifelong friends who helped me out. A lot of my friends and people who didn't even know me have helped me."

They're not getting 2 a.m. phone calls, though, or making emergency trips to the hospital, as Payton is.

Even though she's a newlywed — she married in August — Payton and her husband are considering moving into the basement of her grandparents' home to make it easier to care for them.

Her marriage was "very emotional" for her grandparents, Payton says, because they fear she'll move away from them. She married a man from Bolivia, and she might like to leave the United States with him some day.

To help pay her grandparents' expenses, Payton has gotten her real estate license so she can have a second job. (Her primary job is with the federal government, as an information technology specialist.)

She's also considering selling some stocks she owns to help pay their expenses.

"My goal is to keep them at home, no matter what," Payton says. "I know I don't have to, but I want to. I'm so glad I can do it; I realize I'm being an adult and a full-grown woman.

"Then, I cry."

Watch Ray Payton's story tonight on ABC's 'Nightline'

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