Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Moon Yun Pellerin was living on the mainland when her mother began showing symptoms of dementia – forgetting to pay utility bills and getting confused during phone calls. When her mom was diagnosed, Pellerin, an only child, came home.
In between moving and finding a new job, Pellerin struggled to learn how to be a caregiver.
“There wasn’t anything I had done in my life to prepare myself or to have the skills to be a caregiver,” she said. “I had to learn about dementia and that her brain was dying. What do I do if she behaves erratically or becomes violent?”
After attending an AARP Hawai‘i caregiver workshop where she met other caregivers, Pellerin learned she didn’t have to do it alone. She joined caregiver support groups and learned about resources that could help her and her mother.
“I developed a support system with other people who were taking care of their parents. I was able to ask them questions and get tips and advice about caring for my mom and for myself. It was important to have a support group to talk to people and even just to vent,” Pellerin said. “A caregiving workshop is so important because it helps you to be prepared and to do as much as you can to care for your parent.”
During National Family Caregivers Month in November, AARP Hawai‘i is offering free caregiver to caregiver workshops across the state. The workshops include breakfast for those who register. Go to aarp.event.com/hi_care or call 877-926-8300 to learn more and register. You can also go to aarp.org/hi or the AARP Hawai‘i Facebook page and click on “Upcoming Events” to see and register for all of the events AARP offers.
The first workshop will be held on Kaua‘i at the Sheraton Kaua‘i Coconut Beach Resort at 9:30 a.m. On Nov. 5, Hilo caregivers and family members can go to Hawai‘i Island Adult Care at 9:45 a.m. Kona’s workshop is on Nov. 9 at 9:30 a.m. at the Royal Kona Resort. A workshop on O‘ahu on Nov. 12 will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Ala Moana Hotel and Maui caregivers can attend a workshop at 9 a.m. on Nov. 17 at the Maui Beach Hotel.
The events are cosponsored by the Hawai‘i Community Caregiver Network, Hawai‘i Island Adult Care, Maui County Office on Aging and the Aloha Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
To learn more about AARP’s online family caregiving resources, including AARP’s Prepare to Care booklet, go to aarp.org/caregiving.
Pellerin’s mother is now in a community care home and Pellerin says she’s grateful that she was able to learn how to do her best to take care of her.
“There has to be love in the caregiving process,” Pellerin said. “You do it out of love. Love propels you and helps you to get through the difficult times. Someone took care of you their whole life. Now you have a chance to take care of them so it goes full circle.”
Craig Gima is 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.