Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa
With each new year comes another birthday that moves us closer to the setting sun.
I recently read a novel that defies all of our concerns about aging and dying. It’s a funny, comical novel about a 100-year-old man who escapes from a nursing home. The book is titled “The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson. The story takes him back through his own history and his encounters with the memorable figures of those times — people like Joseph Stalin, President Harry Truman and other leaders. Each encounter will give you a good belly laugh and make you ask yourself what the big deal is about getting old or about dying. A movie was made based on the book, but it really didn’t do any justice to the book.
A new resident moved to my mom’s care home about a month ago. We urged my mom to make conversation with this woman since she, too, has a sharp mind. My mom found out that this woman is 94, was a librarian and enjoys doing the crossword puzzle every day. My mom said she loaned the “Kapoho” (my memoir, “Kapoho: Memoir of a Modern Pompeii”) book to this woman, who is enjoying reading your stories, as she, too, can relate to them having grown up in Kohala on the Big Island.
I’m glad my mom has someone she can have conversations with (finally!).
This sort of ties in with your January column about making new friends. Hopefully, my mom has made a new friend. I enjoyed reading that column. It also ties in with the article on Rose Nakamura (Project Dana). I didn’t know that dana meant “selfless service.” I used to go to this yoga center, where we learned that there are four practices in yoga: chanting, repetition of a mantra, meditation and selfless service. That’s what I think of caregiving — as selfless service.
So, there are two women in their 90s reading my book — what a gratifying image!
It may be the result of my sharing your stories with my publisher that “Kapoho” is going into its second printing, in a larger font.
It takes a very special person to rephrase caregiving to “selfless service.” Thank you for your valuable emails, Rowena. I know readers find them as gratifying as I do. I’m looking forward to meeting your inspiring mother on my next trip to Hawai‘i.
Have any of you read the book, “The End of Alzheimer’s,” by Dr. Dale Bredesen? I highly recommend it for anyone and want to share how it has impacted my life.
I have been dealing with significant memory loss recently and this new awareness has been disheartening, of course. I ran across the book at Costco and decided to read it. Well, needless to say, my eyes were opened to different possibilities for my future. It gave me much-needed hope and set me on a search. Dr. Bredesen has reversed memory loss in patients and is training other functional medicine doctors in his protocol. WOW! I know that is a very foreign concept for us, kinda like, I’ll believe it when I see it. Patients’ stories are documented in the book and he has been on Dr. Oz with his patients and other interviews.
What I want to make sure everyone knows is that there is a clinic here in Sacramento that has trained doctors in the “Bredesen Protocol.” And, I’m happy to say that I am now a patient. http://www.truehealthcfm.com/memory-protection-program
This is such important info I’m sharing with everyone who I think could benefit. I know for me, that the stresses of caregiving played a role in my cognitive decline and other health factors.
I’m sorry to hear of your memory loss. I wish I could find a better word than “sorry.”
You were such a loving caregiver for your mother and it was a pleasure to have had you in my support group.
Yes, I have read this book and am a bit overwhelmed by his “cure.” I will check out your progress later, and perhaps we can explore his book more. Thank you for being so generous with your information about yourself and this book.
The following are eloquent reflections borrowed from Jason Kimura’s journal. I have seen his journal entries, elegantly scribed with fountain pens, each word carefully selected to fill a special space on each page. Jason and his father were caregivers for his mother. Later, Jason became his father’s caregiver. Jason is also the artist who did the covers for my recently published book, “Dangerous Woman.” I asked Jason to share his final months with his father with us.
My dad is doing pretty well at 93. Sending him to daycare five days a week has really helped to keep his vascular dementia at bay . . . that may not be the best choice of words . . . the march of time is inexorable and I do understand that this type of dementia tends to worsen in steps. But, for now, we are at a plateau.
Caregiving is like climbing a steep cliff, where, sometimes, there is a ledge you can rest on. But you really can’t stay. The journey must continue to the top, where the spirit can be released heavenward. Rather, I should say, the activities and people at daycare stimulate his mind and it helps him to not be as confused.
My father is very compliant and is so easygoing, for which I am thankful. Nor does he appear to be embarrassed about the incontinence underwear he wears, even calling them diapers, or that I must help him with his bath. He sometimes calls daycare “school” or “kindergarten,” which is accurate (his house now sports many crafts he has created), but without judgment as to whether it’s a good or bad thing, or that it reflects one way or another on him. This amazes me. He was always a humble man, but he was also an artist and sign painter and now braves coloring books for adults. His only complaints: colored pencils that don’t get dark enough, and certain colors that always seem to be missing.
In kind, I treat all of these artifacts of aging as if they are just a normal part of life when we discuss them and relish in his new artwork, like they were his creations of old. He can tell me all about his daycare experiences when we talk at the end of each day, and we have wonderful conversations, just about stuff. Last Friday while driving along King Street after a dentist appointment, he told me that when he was a boy, the lots behind the buildings used to be farmland they called the Pake patch, and how the Chinese farmer would chase after he and his friends when they plucked radishes from his fields. Most of our conversations are mundane, but are to be savored, nonetheless. Still, it is an emotional journey that sometimes fills me with overwhelming sadness.
Postscript: I had thought we had a way to go before we reached the cliff top, so apparent was his zest for life and so relatively strong did he seem. But, unexpectedly, we were there. We stood together at the top in the darkness of night, taken aback, and with sadness, but with gratitude for the journey, for our time together; then his spirit slipped away from me. I am left looking, looking, as if he will suddenly reappear . . . realizing by degrees he will not. For me, a new journey awaits.
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. 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.