Dear Frances – Rethinking Our Mortality

Dear Frances – Rethinking Our Mortality

Photo of Frances Kakugawa

Photo of book cover, Atul Gawande Being Mortal

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,

I think everyone should read your April column. That was very good.

Joan

Hilo, Hawai‘i

Dear Joan,

Please walk the streets of Hilo and tell everyone to subscribe to The Hawai‘i Herald. Thank you for your kind feedback.

Frances

Dear Frances,

I have a question. Things are going as well as can be expected with my dad. We have great little conversations and time together, and tasks are slowly being taken care of with the recognition that things are in an almost constant state of change.

There is a lot to be grateful for. But, lately, I’ve been struggling with an almost overwhelming sadness. Sometimes I worry that it may compromise the strength I need to do the tasks to care of him, like dealing with house repair people, the yard, doctors and other medial people, appointments, medications, health issues, insurance, lawyers, caregivers, day care, taxes, bills, food, laundry, groceries, daily phone calls, emergencies, etc. Did you ever experience that deep sadness when you took care of your mother?

Jason

Honolulu, Hawai‘i

Dear Jason,

The sadness that you speak of never went away. Even when she was away from me at adult care or at the nursing facility, that sadness was deep within me. What did I do? I wrote, because writing gave me meaning. I went out into nature to find joy and life and sought out that feeling of awe at the beauty of nature, even in a blade of grass growing between a crack in the sidewalk. I accepted the fact that this was part of caring for someone.

Have you read the nouvella, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery? He writes about taming a flower, and once you tame that flower, it will bring you pain and responsibility. This is part of being human, so rejoice that because you are a loving son, you feel this sadness. There are others who do not know this sadness.

Frances

Dear Readers,

Here’s a look at that book I mentioned in last month’s column — “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” by surgeon and public health journalist Atul Gawande. My primary care physician, Dr. Lisa Ho, of the University of California-Davis Medical Center recommended it to me. At my last appointment, we discussed what dignity and quality of life means to our elders. To some, it might mean being free of pain; to others, it could mean being in bed without being soiled.

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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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