Parents Struggle to Seek Help Caring for Adult Children

A mattress retailer was allegedly killed by her mentally ill, 38-year-old son.

ByABC News
May 14, 2009, 5:35 PM

May 15, 2009 — -- The alleged murder of New York's "mattress queen" by her mentally ill adult son serves as a stark reminder of the struggles and even dangers for parents who care for their older, disabled children.

Kay Barragan, 65, was found dead by the family driver early Wednesday morning at the bottom of the stairs at her Long Island, N.Y., home that she shared with her son, Eduardo "Eddie" Barragan, 38.

While parents may feel guilty about placing their adult children in assisted-living homes, health professionals warn that it's important to recognize when a child's disability could pose a threat to one's safety.

"Parents have to stop and ask, 'Can I take care of this child while ensuring my safety and their safety?'" said Roya Ostovar, a clinical psychiatrist in Boston.

Nassau County police, who said the cause of Barragan's death was blunt-force trauma, charged her son with second-degree murder in connection with his mother's death. Authorities did not know Thursday whether the son had a lawyer.

Stan Steinreich, the spokesman for, the national bedding retailer best known for its catchy slogan "leave off the last s for savings," called Barragan's death and the arrest of her son a "double tragedy."

"[She] was very, very dedicated to both the company and her family, which in later years became the center of her life," Steinreich said.

As for her son, who doesn't have an official job at the company, Steinreich said, "He was very upbeat and effervescent. He'd pop into a meeting and in his own unique way say, 'How's the business going, how are we doing today.' I think he very much felt a part of the business and the broader 1800mattress family."

Barragan, credited for giving $2,000 of her earnings from the beauty company Avon to her husband Napolean Barragan in 1976 to start Dial-A-Mattress, had lived with her son for his entire life, according to Steinreich. Dial-A-Mattress was renamed in 1996. Amid falling sales, the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

Kay Barragan and Napolean Barragan had been separated for a few years, so he no longer lived with his wife and son.