Their ‘Mother Teresa’

Their names are Janet, Pat and Betty.

At Emma’s Board & Care in Saugus, where these three senior women reside, however, they are all “Grandma.”

“I really enjoy working with the elderly and consider them family,” explained owner and operator Indira “Emma” Mulalic. “When people walk in here, I want them to have the feeling that they want to stay, that they are home.”

This morning, Grandma Pat, a former teacher, sits on a plush recliner in the living room. With trembling hands she pets the house dog, a fluffy Pomeranian named Peanut who rests on her lap.

“I have Parkinson’s disease. When I blank out, Emma helps me,” she said.

Grandma Janet, who suffers from dementia, flips through a magazine while enjoying a cup of coffee at the dining room table.

Big-band-era music plays in the large master bedroom where Grandma Betty spends most of her time. When Mulalic enters to greet to Grandma Betty, who has Alzheimer’s disease, the distant blue eyes turn serene. She grabs Emma’s hand and holds it close to her cheek, something approximating a grin spreading across the pale, lined face. Mulalic returns the smile right back.

“The elderly have a special place in my heart,” Mulalic said. “When I was younger, I was the only child who took care of my grandmother, the only one who could cut her nails. I did it with love.”

Now she runs her business with the same amount of compassion.

Mulalic, originally from Bosnia-Herzegovina, opened the licensed facility in the home she shares with husband, Taric, almost two years ago. The couple immigrated approximately 16 years ago with its two children, a plastic bag of possessions, $1,200 and a dream.

“We wanted to establish our life in the land of opportunity,” Mulalic said.

After originally settling in Los Angeles, Mulalic became a babysitter and housekeeper while her husband pursued maintenance work. They moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 2001, buying their first home in Saugus, while continuing to commute to Los Angeles.

“We didn’t mind. It was a good place for the kids,” Mulalic said.

Eventually, Mulalic went to work in an optometrist’s office, where she was quickly charmed by the many senior patients. “That’s when I found out about the possibility of taking care of the elderly like they were family,” she said.

She visited many board and care facilities, making notes of what she liked, bringing her new one-story Saugus home up to fire department code, and earning a community-care residential elderly administration license by the California Department of Social Services in 2009.

Mulalic also decided that her home would be for women only and allow for no more than three residents at a time.
“It’s different when you have a mixed facility. The grandmas feel more comfortable because they can understand each other as ladies,” Mulalic said. “This is such a small facility, I can spend a lot of time with each grandma.”

Emma’s Board & Care provides assisted living and care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, staffed by Mulalic and her sister-in-law Maggie. While coverage is not provided under Medicare or MediCal, Emma’s Board & Care is covered by some long-term care insurance policies.

“We do an appraisal before a client moves in. We want to make sure we are able to provide for their needs and that everyone is 100 percent happy,” Mulalic said.

Services include assistance with personal care, such as bathing and dressing; using the restroom or changing incontinence protection items; housekeeping and laundry; transportation to medical and dental appointments; medication management; indoor and outdoor activities; and nutritionally balanced meals.

With her Eastern European heritage, Mulalic is skilled at such specialties as spinach and cheese pie, schnitzel and chicken or beef paprikash, all made from scratch.

“I like the way she cooks salmon,” Grandma Pat said.

“Pat likes seafood: mussels, shrimp, fish,” Mulalic said with a laugh. “I know what they all like. I try to keep it healthy.”
Most of all, she tries to keep it personal.

Grandma Janet, like most dementia patients, sometimes gets confused and scared. Mulalic tries to reassure the elderly woman every night, tucking her in and giving her a kiss on the forehead.

One night, Grandma Janet looked up at Mulalic and asked, “Do you know who Mother Theresa is?”
Mulalic responded, yes, of course she did.

Grandma Janet continued, “You are my Mother Teresa.”

Tears clouded Mulalic’s eyes as she recounted the tale.

“What else do I need?” she said. “I feel my heart and soul is full. Every day is good. My grandmas make me happy.”
For more information on Emma’s Board & Care, visit or call (661) 297-7969.

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