Karleen C. Chinen
One of my favorite programs on Hawaii Public Radio is the “TED Radio Hour.” TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and was the basis for a series of conferences on “ideas worth spreading.” The program covers topics such as happiness, transformation, making mistakes, lifelong learning, perceptions and more. I like the program because of its out-of-the-box thinking.
So what does this have to do with Alzheimer’s disease? Everything. It has everything to do with our perception of Alzheimer’s and other memory-related conditions and how we care for those afflicted with these diseases. Most of us are not medical professionals. We can try to learn as much as possible about the disease, but we have no real control over its progression. What we can control is the kind of life our loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia will live day-to-day and hour-to-hour through our care for them.
Caring for a parent or a family member suffering from a terminal illness, be it Alzheimer’s or cancer, or any other disease, is exhausting and draining. I know from personal experience. It’s the only time I lost weight without even trying.
One person who is teaching us to view caregiving the TED way is Frances Kakugawa. I wish every caregiver could implant the voice of Frances in their brain to help them through those moments of despair. This is what she would say: “This could be the last day of her (or his) life. And if this is so, how can I not help to make this the best day of her (or his) life?”
If you can start every day with those words in your heart, you will, as poet-caregiver Eugenia Mitchell wrote, “live love.” And then, even through the sadness when the time comes, you can let go with a free heart.
Special thanks to writers Kevin Kawamoto, Frances Kakugawa and Alan Suemori, all of whom wrote from the perspective of having cared for a parent at home. Their insight was priceless. Thank you also to Dawn Sakamoto at Watermark Publishing; Jody Mishan with the state’s Executive Office on Aging; Phyllis Scott of the Alzheimer’s Association, Aloha Chapter; and, finally, to our advertisers for supporting this issue.