Dear Frances – Trust in Our Keiki

Dear Frances – Trust in Our Keiki

Photo of Frances Kakugawa
Drawing of an elderly lady with text that reads, "Why Can't Grandma Remember My Name?"

Kent L. Karosen, Chana Stiefel

Frances H. Kakugawa
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

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

This column on parenting skills was written by someone who has never been a parent: me. But I learned a lot about children during my years as a teacher.

On Oct. 20, Kent Karosen, president and CEO of the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, and I will give the keynote addresses to open the 2017 Brookdale National Respite and RAPP Training Conference in Denver, Colo. Why keynote addresses by the two of us? Because both of us wrote children’s books dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

Karosen’s book, “Why Can’t Grandma Remember My Name?” is presented with a child’s question on one page and an adult’s answer on the opposite page. The children’s pages are illustrated by artists who are ages 4-12. The adult pages are illustrated by artists age 65 and over from the Scripps Gerontology Center.

What impressed me most about Karosen’s book is the instant relationship that is established between child and adult on the first two pages. Each question is answered in a straightforward manner with facts and assurance. The child is thus treated with respect and dignity.

How often have we brushed off children’s concerns about Grandma’s new behavior of not remembering our names by simply saying, “Nothing to worry about. She’s just getting old.”

When a child asks a question, he or she is worried, puzzled and even afraid. To discount both the child and the question can be the beginning of a relationship in which a child feels helpless. It is this kind of relationship that may lead to our children’s reluctance to communicate with us in the future regarding bullying, sexual awareness and/or abuse and other issues — all because of what they have learned from us. It is no wonder they don’t talk to us.

The significance of the adult as a positive role model begins on the first two pages of Karosen’s book:

Child’s question: “. . . Grandma couldn’t find her keys. I found them in the freezer. Yesterday, Grandma could not remember my name. That made me very sad. Grandma doesn’t seem like Grandma anymore. Is she okay?”

Adult’s responses: “Many older people forget things from time to time. That is a normal part of aging. But, sometimes, memory loss can be more serious. Grandma visited her doctor and had tests done. The doctor found out that Grandma has an illness called Alzheimer’s disease . . .”

The book follows this format.

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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 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.

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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