The Next Generation of Caregivers
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
During World War II, ground troops called paratroopers “sky blossoms.” When they saw the parachutes, the troops knew help was arriving.
That’s why filmmaker Richard Lui named his documentary about millennial and Generation Z military-caregiving families “Sky Blossom.”
“This generation of caregivers is coming to help,” Lui said. “It’s symbolic because they are blossoming as people. They are blossoming as caregivers, and that’s why I say they are the next greatest generation.”
The Kapanui family of Kaua‘i is one of the five families profiled in the film. Kaleo Kapanui, who was 18 when the documentary was filmed, and his sister Kamaile, care for their grandfather, Bobby Nawai, a veteran who has dementia. Kamaile put off college, and Kaleo cut back on school and on hanging out with friends, so that they could watch and care for their grandfather.
“School will always be here. Grandpa won’t,” Kamaile Kapanui said in the film. She said she has a kuleana, responsibility, to take care of him.
“I value family,” Kaleo Kapanui said to explain his sacrifices to take care of his grandfather.
Lui said he was inspired by the Kapanui siblings.
“I found them to be a fantastic family,” he said. “They both left school to take care of their grandfather and didn’t think twice about it.” His documentary features the Hawai‘i siblings alongside three other sets of young people caring for their elderly relatives.
Lui, an MSNBC weekend news anchor and AARP Caregiving Champion, can relate to their struggle. His own father has dementia, so the documentarian made career sacrifices to care for him. Fortunately, his bosses at MSNBC allowed Lui to perform his work on weekends in New York for the network. He flies back to San Francisco during the week to spend time with his father and to work with AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to raise awareness about caregiving.
“Sky Blossom” came about because of his work with all three organizations.
“I had no idea that I would be doing this. It started with me caring for my father and wanting to talk about it,” Lui said. When he first started caregiving, Lui realized that he had to learn how to do it on his own, and that most people do not think about caregiving, until they need it or have to care for others.
“Sky Blossom” premiered on Veterans Day at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The film is not yet available on Netflix or other streaming services. But you should be able to see it online at Laemmle Virtual Cinema (laemmle.com/film/sky-blossom), which should qualify the film for consideration for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards. Variety Magazine named ‘Sky Blossom” as a possible Oscar contender.
An Academy Award would be amazing. But Lui says his goal for the film is just as important – to help caregivers learn that they are not alone and that help is available. The film’s website skyblossom.com has links to resources and tips from AARP and other sponsors.
“I’m hoping that as soon as you watch this film, you want to learn more,” Lui said. “You’ll ask questions and you’ll find answers.”
Craig Gima is a communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.