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Kupuna Transitions

October 4, 2017 - 5:08pm

I recently overheard the relatives of someone I know throwing out all sorts of “should” and “ought-to’s” regarding the family member who provides around-the-clock care for their parent. I had not seen these individuals involved in their parent’s care in any way for the past year, yet they felt entitled to judge the sibling who’s been struggling physically, emotionally and financially to do right by their loved one. It took every bit of restraint to hold my tongue, as their endless judgment and condescension toward their sibling did nothing to help the situation.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the primary family caregiver getting instructions and criticism from their “armchair quarterback” relatives who have done minimal to no hands-on care. It’s much easier to make calls from a distance. If you are in this position, I urge you to choose your words wisely when presenting insights in order make a positive impact on the situation, which is hopefully your intention in the first place.

My husband met a man a few weeks ago whose wife is caring for her parents who are both in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. He spoke of her with the highest regard, and that always fills me with joy and compassion for their situation. Loved ones working together and honoring each other serves everybody involved. I have such a high regard for people like this woman who is giving so much of herself to her parents. I always want to jump in and make sure they know that professional help is critical in order to come out of the caregiving situation with their own health intact.

My advice to these unsung heroes is to choose their professional caregivers very wisely, and then honor them as well by stepping back and allowing them to do their good work while the caregiver takes some much needed and deserved personal time. Physical exercise, support groups and personal development books regarding the care they are providing are all quality ways to build themselves up in their downtime.

The Kona Walk to End Alzheimer’s is being held this Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Old Kona Airport Maka’eo Walking Path. There are a variety of volunteers, from girl scouts to retired seniors, who will be there by 7 a.m. to register and support those who have loved or lost someone with Alzheimer’s, along with those who have the illness or would simply like to support this important cause. If any of this rings true to you, I hope you’ll come down and join us for a very meaningful walk along the beautifully landscaped path.

I am proud to be supporting Team Sir John Kitchen of Waimea on that day, as his wife Malia would like to honor John and his recent battle with Alzheimer’s that took him from us this past May. Malia, along with many other wonderful team leaders, are collecting donations to the Alzheimer’s Association which can still be made once the walk is over. On the path to find a cure, let’s continue to build each other up and make the best of that which we do have to be grateful for — each other.

Karyn Clay is a gerontological specialist who began caring for older adults 23 years ago and earned her B.A. in Gerontology from SDSU in 1998. She founded Ho’oNani Day Center in 2002 and Ho’oNani Care Home in 2015, which make up Ho’oNani Adult Care Services, Inc. and are located on the same property in Kamuela. She hosts Caregiver Conversations gatherings at Tutu’s House the first Wednesday of every month.

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