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caregiver has their own journey. Caregivers in Our Community share their
stories and advice.
From a young
age Kathy knew how to take good care of things. She suspects that it was this
quality that inspired her career as a nurse, and later helped her when it came
time to care for her father and aunt.
Kathy does not necessarily identify herself as a “caregiver” because it is such a familiar role to her. However, no matter how familiar this responsibility may feel to her, being a caregiver still has its challenges.
“With my dad
– and the dementia – that’s what’s so challenging,” she explains. “I work part
time but I had to cut back because of caregiving. It was getting hard and I
couldn’t leave them home all day.”
As a nurse, Kathy says her schedule is flexible but coordinating day-to-day plans requires balance. Luckily, she has help – thanks to her sister, niece, and other family members of her extended family.
Kathy does acknowledge that her experience as a caregiver does come with special and personal joys.
very appreciative and say thank you,” she laughs.
seem stressful, like her father placing her keys on a different counter or moving
her passport, are moments she laughs about. Even language can have its funny
On a recent trip to Japan, Kathy remembered her father speaking English to the cab driver who did not understand English as much. Her father can speak Japanese but chose not to during the ride, which she thought made for an interesting experience.
sometimes here in the states, her father will break out in Japanese. The
flip-flop can seem like a hiccup, but she smiles at the memory.
Most importantly Kathy advises not stressing out about everything. Especially for caregivers stepping into this role for the first time – unexpectedly or not – “you have to let things go. Don’t keep it bottled up.”
In July of
2012, Cory received a call in the middle of night. His parents’ home was on fire. Thankfully, the
neighbors smelled smoke and quickly called for help. Fire crews were able to
rescue his parents.
was totally gone,” Cory says. “But the neighbors saved my parents’ lives.”
was the moment he knew his parents needed extra help. “It got to a point where
we had to do something. They needed an additional layer of care.”
his parents were still borderline independent at the time, as they were able to
prepare meals for themselves and were somewhat mobile. But slowly, the signs of
dementia began to show in both his parents.
displaced from the fire, Cory moved his parents to an apartment and eventually
to Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center.
It was at
that facility, he says he saw the Keiro flyers on the wall for seminars on
topics ranging from caregiving to dementia.
“I feel very grateful for what’s available to me,” he says. And as a message to other caregivers, Cory can’t stress the importance of reaching out to find help. “The sooner you recognize your loved ones require care – start figuring out a plan instead of waiting. Because it can get overwhelming, but know that there are resources out there.”
years ago, Clifford’s wife Sayo shattered several bones after falling. It was a
devastating moment for everyone in the family. Sayo endured several corrective
surgeries and developed osteoarthritis. Her recovery was long but she was never
alone. Clifford and the family all rallied beside her and credit each other for
making the most out of life’s sudden changes.
son Mark says it was an uncharted territory for everyone. “I really want to
follow my dad’s example of willingness and openness for this new role.”
years that followed, Clifford and his children, Mark and Lauri, gathered as
much information as they could on how to care for his wife. They attended Keiro
Caregiver Conferences and health events in the community. Together they tried
to talk to numerous caregivers, asking for insight on what to expect during their
always learning something,” Mark explains. He says that while caregiving can
come with its tough times, the rewards can be incredible and powerful.
summer, Clifford and Sayo were able to watch their grandson get married in
was their eleventh since Sayo’s fall. They say after each vacation that it’ll
be their last, but Clifford and Sayo prove that it doesn’t have to be the case.
Today, Clifford says he encourages people “to stay healthy.” He makes it a point to exercise and do whatever you need to “keep your body in check.”
“My dad was
a smoker for 50 years…and one day after a doctor visit, my dad quit cold turkey,”
Mark says. It’s a decision he is proud of his father for making.
said I would have to take all of these pills, but no more!” Clifford now walks
every day instead of smoking. He visits Sayo, who recently moved to an assisted
living facility. And on occasion he sings at a Hawaiian restaurant for karaoke
night – he says that this is what keeps his spirit healthy.
if she is a caregiver, Lynne is quick to say yes. She even adds that she is
part of the sandwich generation of caregivers, meaning Lynne cares for her own
family as well as her mother.
mother has dementia. Her father passed in November 2018 and her brother lives
in Seattle, leaving her as the primary caregiver. And that role for Lynne can
sometimes feel incredibly stressful.
working full time and caregiving, Lynne says “it’s a learning process and
there’s a learning curve.” In the beginning, caring for her dad who suffered
from a stroke was overwhelming for her and her mother. But over time with the
help of different community organizations like Keiro, she says she was able to
connect with meaningful resources.
“Yes, it can
still be overwhelming experience but resources are available. And not just for
those receiving care but also for caregivers themselves.”
think caregiver support is important and I hope I can find more because I work
full time,” Lynne explains.
taking the time to give herself a break is a method of self-care she hopes to
exercise moving forward.
“Oh, one really big piece of advice I give to new caregivers is to try to think of something positive about yourself and the person you’re caring for.” Lynne explains that when her mother becomes upset about a situation, she sometimes opens a photo album and talks to her mom about happy memories. “It seems like a distraction but we’re talking about good memories and she’s okay.”
And as the
springtime months continue, Lynne says her mother is really happy watching the
flowers bloom outside their house. Lynne believes she will definitely find time
to care for herself while continuing to learn about how to better help both her
mother and herself.
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