Dear Frances – Caregivers are Rich Source of Ideas and Insights

Dear Frances – Caregivers are Rich Source of Ideas and Insights

Photo of Frances Kakugawa

Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

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

Dear Frances,

I would like to inform your readers that I love BM, and this is not BS. My wife is incontinent and bedridden; for years I’ve been cleaning my wife daily — sometimes more than twice a day. Yes, at one time this was a task I wished I could avoid. I now recognize that her BM is a measure of her well-being and comfort. I have come to accept these daily chores as a moment of intimacy to be enjoyed.

Over the six years that I have been caring for my wife I’ve dealt with sundowners, chronic pain, constipation, non-conversations and the constant vigilance of protecting her from herself. Today, the physical act of caring for her is reduced to turning her side-to- side in bed, feeding and bathing. I see my wife unmindful of her surroundings and her countenance serenely accepting the unyielding devastation of Alzheimer’s. If she is accepting her plight, then I can fully accept mine. When it becomes time to clean her, I do so knowing full well this is the last activity we can share and I do it slowly, carefully, with baby wipes, cleansing foam and wiping gently until she is clean.

Bob Oyafuso

Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Bob,

You have shared another act of intimacy between two people. We often think of sexual intimacy, which slowly becomes non-existent between caregivers and their partners or spouses, as that act of intimacy. You have taken us to another level, Bob. We often joke about BM always being on the agenda when caregivers get together and here you have turned this into an act of love. You are an amazing man.

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Frances Kakugawa was her mother’s primary caregiver during her five-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. A native of Kapoho on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, she now lives in Sacramento, Calif. Frances has melded her professional training as a writer and teacher and her personal experiences as her mother’s caregiver to write several books on caring for people with memory-related illnesses, including one for children. Frances is a highly sought-after speaker, both in Hawai‘i and on the Mainland, sharing strategies for caregiving, as well as coping with caregiving.

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