Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

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.

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

Dear Frances,

Thank you for the two book titles in your March column. I truly enjoyed reading about those books. I learned a lot even without reading the book. Thank you.


Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Dear Sue,

Thank you. Your feedback helps me with my column. I’ll be reviewing another book next month, so stay tuned.


Dear Frances,

I tried out your suggestion of getting a medical student as a live-in caregiver. This is what happened.

He liked my room and he was OK with the exchange of free room for about 30 hours [of work] per month. He did not have a car, but he could easily walk about 1 3/4 miles to light rail to get to Sacramento. There was one glitch, so I had to turn him down. He was willing to do everything that I asked, except he did not want to clean Fran if she pooped, even though he did it as a caregiver before. Except for this one issue, he would have been a good fit.

I spoke to the two people on his reference list and they gave him very high marks for being a very compassionate person and congenial. One nurse I talked to said doctors do not like to touch patients — they are trained to analyze and diagnose.

I felt he would be a better fit for Mary (another caregiver in our support group), so I gave her his contact information. I hope those two can find common ground.

In the meantime, I have interviewed another person. She is a young woman who works for Home Health and previously worked in a senior living home, so she has caregiving experience with seniors. She is definitely interested in my room and I feel very comfortable with her, plus she would be a better match than the med student. I just got through talking to three of her references and I am satisfied that she would work out. She is also interested in becoming an RN (registered nurse), but has yet to start formal training.


Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Bob,

I hope that medical student is planning on becoming an optometrist! Sarcasm aside, since Mary’s husband is not incontinent, he might work out. I’m glad your story is having a happy ending.

Bob, I’m reading an excellent book by surgeon and public health journalist Atul Gawande titled “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” — I will discuss it in next month’s column. Please recommend this book to that young medical student. In fact, when you find a caregiver for Fran, Gawande’s book would be a must-read for that person, as well. If this book doesn’t humanize them, I don’t know what will.

I’m mortified by what the nurse told you about doctors not wanting to touch patients. I experienced that recently in a new doctor’s exam room. He sat in another chair and didn’t examine my very painful arm at all. All he said was that I needed to go to a sports medicine specialist, who did not have any openings for an appointment until two months later. The pain is now, I said, albeit to deaf ears.


Dear Frances,

I’m very grateful for our support group. Recently, my husband looked confused, didn’t respond and was unable to walk. I quickly thought “UTI,” (urinary tract infection) so I gave him water and later called the doctor, gave him the symptoms and asked for a prescription for antibiotics. We had discussed UTI symptoms so often in our support group that instead of panicking, I sort of self-diagnosed with the doctor, and I was right. Husband was back to his previous self in a few hours.


Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Sally,

Thank you for your good words regarding support groups.

Here’s a suggestion: I always kept a supply of those urine specimen containers at home for my mother so I could easily send a urine specimen to the lab for analysis if the doctor needed one. It saved a lot of time.


Readers: The rest of this column is devoted to caregivers whose stories demonstrate so much wisdom and common sense.

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