Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa
These poems were shared at our recent poetry writing support group for caregivers. Our discussions follow each caregiver’s poetry.
I am sad because my sister-in-law is terminally ill
I am sad because my son has stage IV cancer
I am sad because my two brothers are gravely ill
I am sad because my wife is in a vegetated state.
I am awash in sadness because I love.
I know sadness is the price you pay for love
and it is better to feel sad than not.
— Bob Oyafuso
Sometimes, writing poetry helps to filter out the raw emotions that are all consuming and raise us to a more philosophical level, as Bob has shown us.
As of this writing, Bob is visiting his family members, all of whom are ill, after arranging 24-hour care for his wife Fran. I have reminded Bob, as I have with other caregivers who take trips away from the ones being cared for, that should anything happen, it would have happened whether the caregiver was at home or away. It is not our absence that causes things to happen, such as needing trips to the ER or even death.
* * *
I already told you that.
Don’t you remember?
You turn left here.
No, your appointment isn’t today.
I don’t know where your glasses are.
Your granddaughter’s name is Audrey.
How could you forget?!
Toxic phrases spew out of my mouth
like a volcano, the pressure building,
The heat will be hurtful,
The fallout fierce, and yet
like Mother Nature,
I have no control.
— Sally Peters
Sally reminds us of the daily stress and frustrations of caregiving, which oftentimes rises to uncontrollable levels when set against our own “normal world” as the “reality.” As Sally points out, guilt and the negative feelings often follow for not having been a more compassionate caregiver.
Once we realize that our loved ones live in their own “normal” world, where memory no long exists, we need to enter their world. In their world, when they repeat a question, they are asking it for the first time. Can we answer each question in a tone and in language supporting this notion and omit reminders that something is so wrong with them? Responding with questions such as “Don’t you remember?” or “How could you forget?” is counterproductive. If frustration mounts, take a physical break — step outside for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.
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