Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Omoiyari . . . Think of others first and good karma will return to you. — Frances H. Kakugawa
This column is devoted to Mary and to Linda and her two daughters. Their inspiring, yet worrisome stories address compassion, creativity and family. They also highlight the loopholes in our legal, financial and medical professions when a patient or client is seen only as a name on a paper and when personal involvements are not part of the professional practice.
Mary continues to help her neighbors, as she did while caring for her husband, who passed away more than four months ago.
One of Mary’s neighbors, Barb, is now bedridden after suffering a stroke. Barb needs her oxygen supply at her bedside at all times. Her husband and sons decided to move her downstairs. Mary hoped that they would move Barb’s bed so that she would have a clear view of the trees and garden from the window so she could see the squirrels, coyotes and other natural life. Instead, her bed was situated so that her only view is of two toolsheds! Even at that, Barb doesn’t have a clear view of the sheds because the windows are covered with grime.
Mary volunteered to be her regular window cleaner instead of bringing her soups and casseroles. (Mary cooks without salt, so this may be a better deal. As her friend, I feel free to say this.) Mary covered the wall of one shed with a large map of Africa so that Barb can look out at the map and reminisce about her numerous travels before her stroke. That delighted Barb.
“When you are done with Africa,” Mary promised her, “I’ll bring you the United States, or Europe.” Knowing Mary’s creativity, I suspect there will be other wall coverings after the maps.
Mary also sits with Barb and together they watch movies between many bathroom breaks.
Albert Einstein was certainly thinking of Mary when he said imagination is more important than knowledge.
These emails came from Linda:
Life is very busy here, as my two daughters and I have taken over [care of] my brother-in-law Sam and his wife Kei. They are in their 80s. My daughters found bills unpaid, pills mixed up and not taken in many cases. They both have lost a lot of weight and Sam does not have the strength to go up and down the stairs of their townhouse. They have no children of their own.
The girls have taken them to view assisted living facilities, changed the mailing address so we get the mail to make sure all bills are paid, taken them to medical appointments, etc. I am so proud of them for stepping up to the plate when they found out what was happening.
I have spent hours sorting boxes of junk mail and documents to get their things in some kind of order. They were a real mess — everything just thrown into boxes helter-skelter with no organization at all. Pages of documents separated and not even together. A talk with the accountants told me even more about the mess. They had no idea there were any relatives at all.
Sam thinks he knows what he is doing. He takes pills out of the locked pillbox, puts them on the table, then doesn’t take them or only takes some of them. There are several bills unpaid like LTC (long-term care), homeowners insurance and various credit card bills. He insists they are scams. This is a man who gives money to every nonprofit and scam that sends him a request. We even found a couple of letters from the attorney, warning him that playing the foreign lotteries was a federal offense. Really, multiple boxes of scam mail and the amounts of money written on the envelope showing what he had sent.
We are now in the process of getting the LTC reinstated (it was almost too late to take care of that), and next is the homeowners [insurance]. The girls have to call these places from Sam’s home so he could give permission to the agent to talk to them. We can’t rush him and change everything all at once.
I don’t know why he refuses to acknowledge that he has a brother and nieces. He doesn’t want any help from family and even has some friend’s kid designated as his advanced health care directive representative.
I feel [like] I’m cleaning up a mess so someone else can step in and have the final say about everything.
Getting the mailing address changed was a win! The girls also got Sam and Kei (she is a good Japanese wife and does just what Sam tells her to do) to sign so the girls can be the reps with HMSA, Social Security and Medicare. OMG, there is just so much to do! You know even better than I do how overwhelming this can be.
Yes, the good thing is that they seem to be financially sound. We just want to keep them that way. Kei needs to have her name put on all the accounts, as there are only a couple with her name [on them].
No scam mail going from this house out to their place! It’s a good thing I have heard from others (and did for ourselves) the rep papers for various organizations, also a great emergency sheet for each of us on the fridge with pictures of each of us and medical cards so that they could just be handed to an EMT if the need arose.
Oh, the nurse has told them that she can’t keep going out there, and that they need to let my daughters help or hire a nurse to come do the pills and other things. The girls have been taking food to them every week, also. I can’t blame Kei for not cooking. It’s not my favorite task, especially when the other person is critical or doesn’t want to eat. My daughter, [a] certified nurse’s aide, set up the pillboxes now, but Sam is still messing with them.
Last week, Sam told his psychiatrist that he wants to die. Sam has apparently been going for a dozen years and the doctor basically just tells him at every visit that he needs to go to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). He isn’t drinking now, but he certainly has “wet brain,” as the alcoholics call it. The doctor never gets to the office on time for visits and strolls in at least an hour late EVERY time.
A lot needs to be done to help people without family support.
A second email from Linda:
It has been one of those days that deserves your hand in any article you write. I was with Sam and Kei the entire day! Doctor visit, bank, lunch, etc. I have been reviewing the bank statements for Sam’s trust. Found two businesses that were tapping [into] the account monthly and withdrawing money. Sam had no idea (not paying attention, dementia???). Anyway, I asked him what those companies were for. He had no idea. Off to the bank after the doctor’s visit. Two and a half hours later, the account was closed and a new one opened. Fraud, of course. Bank will try to recover the funds, but I really don’t care about that, as long as it is stopped. This had actually been going on since 2016!
Older people really need someone younger to check on these things, at least periodically, to prevent them from losing their money.
Now I need to notify the pension plan that does direct deposit of the new account number. They will send me the forms to be filled out and they need the bank to fill out something, too. The bank also wants the long trust form to show that an “agent” can be appointed to sign on checks, etc., and the attorney will need to update or amend the trust to allow the appointment of an agent.
This is becoming a full-time job. Will I ever see the swimming pool again? Am I doomed to just morning walks in the dark and no swimming? Is there life on Mars?
I see so many loopholes. Isn’t it a reality anymore that when a physician sees “no children” on their patient’s forms that they have conversations to find out more about their patient’s background? When help is needed, as seen by accountants, physicians, nurses and other professionals, why does it stop there? Aren’t family services or social workers part of their referral system to help these patients and/or clients who are in need of help? When one sees a client writing checks to fraudulent organizations, can’t they help to stop this? So many loopholes. How many families have kinfolks like you and your daughters?
I like your idea of posting your patient information forms on your refrigerator. Readers, these forms are available online. Google Patient Information Forms.
There are many different types of such forms, so look at as many of them as possible and select those that ask for all your medical background, contact people and their phone numbers and addresses, health insurance information and a copy of your health directives.
The following emails and calls came in regarding last month’s column. Thank you.
Thank you for your last column. It was touching, appropriate and game-changing.
Kailua, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i
Your article on pharmacies was most helpful. I did some shopping around in Hilo and found a small pharmacy who charged less than where I’ve been taking my prescriptions. What a difference. Thank you.
I always enjoy reading your column in The Hawai‘i Herald. Thank you for sharing the info (in the last issue) regarding prescriptions and contacting the Board of Pharmacy. Very helpful.
Attention “Dear Frances” readers in the Sacramento area . . . I will be giving a talk for the Alzheimer’s Association later this month. Here are the details.
Title: Caregiving: A Dignified Life
Date and time: Thursday, Sept. 27, 10:30 a.m.-noon
Location: Carmichael Library (5605 Marconi Ave.), Carmichael, Calif.
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.