Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa

Dear Frances,
This is for the caregiver who asked for advice about giving his mother a bath. I’m caring for my wife, Fran. I hired a CNA (certified nursing assistant) to help me and to teach me about caring for Fran. The CNA suggested that I use a small heater to warm Fran as soon after I turn off the water and she steps out of the shower. She also suggested a body wash, body sponge, baby powder and a shower spray with a pause control. She (the CNA) helped me for almost two years, but had to leave to take care of one of her own family members. I tried other CNAs, but Fran would not allow them to bathe her. So, right now, I am the only one Fran will accept. I try very hard to make sure that the bathing experience for Fran is quick, thorough and comfortable.
Along the way, I learned a few things on my own, like finding a sponge that has a fine mesh and is soft. It was hard to find a shower wand with a pause control that could be easily used with one hand.
I hope this helps. This is the heater that I use: Digital Ceramic Heater with Warm Air Motion Technology Model CC13652.
Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Bob,
Thank you for your valuable information.
I know readers and caregivers, both men and women, will appreciate your suggestions.
Take care,

Dear Frances,
Aging isn’t for wimps — that’s for sure. I just made 75 and I keep thinking of what’s in the future for me — broken body parts, memory loss . . . sort of depressing when I suddenly realize I’m not young anymore. Just want some sympathy here. Thank you for inspiring us.
Portland, Ore.

Dear David,
In the popular children’s story, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” all the animals are worried about their picnic.
“What if it rains? What if it rains?” They spend the day worrying and fretting about tomorrow.
Finally, Pooh says, “What if it doesn’t rain?”
So, what if you don’t lose your body parts? What if you don’t lose your memory?
It’s easier said than done, I know, to live in the present without worrying about the “what ifs.”
What gives me inspiration is to be in the company of people who defy aging. Here, let me introduce you to a few special people for whom age is just a number.
I have an aunt, who, at age 92, has wall-to-wall bookshelves and reads daily. She has read these books more than once. She is unable to see in one eye, but this doesn’t stop her from enjoying one of her passions. Now and then, I send her books from my shelves.
Friend Kiyo Sato, who is in her 90s, is writing her second book. You may know her prize-winning book, “Kiyo’s Story,” a memoir of her years in an internment camp. She continues to visit schools to share her stories. “Kiyo’s Story” was originally published as “Dandelions in the Cracks.”
Here’s another person. Roy is a man in his late 90s who comes to the same coffee shop I do after my hour at the gym. He walks in with a book in one hand and a cane in his other. Roy plays in a band at a local club once a week. He has a very bad back, but still drives and lives with his two passions — reading and music. He’s also a big flirt and I let him practice his art on me because it’s food for my ego to be called “beautiful and young!”
So David, you’re still a youngster, and if you’d like to feel even younger, build relationships with the elderly and the youngsters around you.
I wish my mother were still here so you could meet her. One of her favorite lines was: “I must be getting old.” She never saw herself as old, even in her late 80s. She used her black and brown dresses only for church services and funerals. Other than that, her closet was a rainbow of light pastels because, as she said when faced with any clothing in dark colors, “That’s for old people.”
There’s also, as mentioned in one of my previous columns, a need to face aging realistically, beyond “Winnie-the-Pooh.” Taking care of the legal aspects — as in long-term care insurance, end-of-life and health directives, living trusts, and conversations with family on funeral services and other issues — will help eliminate some of the unknowns. Having done all of this, you can sit back and enjoy each day, knowing everything else has been taken care of, legally and personally.
Take care,

Dear Readers,
As we age, our eyesight begins to change, especially for people with Alzheimer’s.
When I took my mother walking, she would gingerly put her foot down with each step, because to her, the floor appeared to be a black, bottomless pit. Oftentimes, we think they are hallucinating, but it could be caused by real distortions in their eyesight. The website below gives a very detailed description of the changes our eyesight goes through. You may even want to share this with your physicians.

Dear Frances,
When I need to take my wife to the women’s restroom in a public place, I sometimes encounter outright hostility. Family restrooms are not always available and my wife does not like to go into the men’s restroom. I always try to find a staff person, or ask a woman headed into the restroom for help. I have never been turned down when I ask a stranger for help. The problem occurs in a big restroom, when I’m standing outside her stall. Oftentimes, a woman entering the restroom will yell, “This the women’s restroom!” In a large restroom, it is not always possible to let everyone know that a man is looking after his wife. Any suggestions?
Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Robert,
My first reaction was, so what is the big deal with having a man in the ladies’ restroom, since we are always clothed when we exit a stall. Then, out of curiosity, I posed your question to a number of women and was surprised at how adamant some women were about seeing a man in the ladies’ room.
I then posed the question to former men caregivers — and this is their answer to you:
When you walk into the ladies room with your wife, take a professional stance. Enter with confidence and, when questioned, look at them with that same confidence and state, “I’m a caregiver taking care of someone here.” Relay that message in a tone of voice that says your presence is a professional one.
Another suggestion is to use a restroom in a restaurant rather than going into a public restroom and having to explain that you are a caregiver and need to use their bathroom. I’m banking that they will respond with kindness and understanding.
Family bathrooms are now beginning to appear in certain malls and airports.
Here’s a funny story. Years ago, by mistake, I walked into the men’s room at Barnes and Noble at Kahala Mall. I stood there, waiting for a stall to open. A man at the urinal stood frozen — and remained frozen — when he saw me. The man who exited the stall jerked his head to look at me and quietly washed his hands and left, giving me another look. Only then did I realize that I was in the men’s restroom. The man at the urinal remained frozen.
“Oops,” I announced. “Wrong bathroom.” And I walked out. I’m thinking now of how kind they were, compared to the women you’ve encountered, unless they were in a state of shock.

Dear Readers,
I will be in Hawai‘i in May and June, and in West Covina, Calif., in July. I hope you’ll drop by to say “Hello.” I’ll also be introducing my new book, “I Am Somebody: Bringing Dignity and Compassion to Alzheimer’s Caregiving.”
Here is my schedule:

• Tuesday, May 19, 5-6 p.m., lecture on Caregiving. Location: Hawai‘i County Office of Aging (1055 Kino‘ole St.) in Hilo. Contact: Chris Ridley, (808) 443-7360.
• Saturday, May 30, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Book signing at Basically Books (160 Kamehameha Ave.) in Hilo.

• Saturday, May 23, 9-11 a.m. Lecture on Caregiving. Located to be announced. Contact: Lynsey Capone, (808) 242-8636.

• Saturday, July 18, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Lecture on caregiving at the Keiro Health Conference. Location: East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center (1203 W. Puente Ave.) in West Covina. Contact: Kanako Fukuyama, (213) 873-5709.

Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on Hawai‘i island, she now lives in Sacramento, Calif. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and educator and her personal caregiving experiences to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses. She is a sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with the stresses of caregiving.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here