This month marks my five-year anniversary of writing this Kupuna Transitions column. I am grateful for the opportunity every month that I get to sit down and share ideas with our Hawaii community about caring for ourselves and the older adults in our lives. Your positive response and comments in the community have encouraged me to continue to create messages that hopefully inspire and support you. I wish I could give each reader a big high five! In reviewing my contributions since March 2014, I noted a few common topics that I’d like to highlight over the next few months.
Communication is the first subject that has come up many times over the past five years. The words we use, and think, can have a powerful effect on those around us. I found that many people use infantizing words around older people like cutie and sweetie. This usually comes out of care and concern, almost a nurturing instinct, yet it may feel condescending or childish to the full-fledged adult they are speaking to.
A great way to utilize communication for good is the ask about the life stories of those older adults in our lives. It helps to validate the whole individual rather than the present tense problems they may be facing, and also opens the door for great advice that can be passed down to the generations following us.
Communication also goes far beyond the actual words that are coming out of our mouths. Irritated tones often break down relationships, and they often come out of burn-out from being responsible for someone else’s well-being 24/7. This leads to the importance of self care in order for the care giver to find resilience amidst the challenges they may face on a daily basis.
There are many tools available to assist us all in finding peace amidst the storms of life. Stepping out and silently appreciating nature is the quickest way to get a shot of perspective. There are also a variety of meditation apps that can bring peaceful sounds or guided meditations to our fingertips and help us breathe through the present moment until we find our emotional balance.
Appreciating what we do have keeps our attention on growth and opportunity and helps limit the amount of time we stay in the dark cloud of misfortune. It is human nature to focus on our shortcomings over our strengths, so we need to be intentional about building ourselves and our situations up. Emphasizing on what we are good at and bringing others into the situation who excel in other areas will likely help create the best case scenario when providing care.
Ultimately, the way we communicate with ourselves and others create our life experience. We make so many small choices every day that we seem to forget that we are in control of the direction of our lives. Believe in your ability to adapt and grow through these experiences and life will be a beautiful mosaic to look back upon.
I personally would like to thank my husband and my father, the two most important men in my life, for supporting me the past five years. My dad sends kind words of appreciation after each article, and my husband helps me to find the exact wording that speaks to my heart when I’m too caught up in the passion to see the light. My 10-year-old daughter has also been an ongoing inspiration, as she is my sunshine, and she says that I am her sky. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Karyn Clay is a gerontological specialist who earned her degree in gerontology from SDSU in 1998. She founded HooNani Day Center in 2002 and HooNani Care Home in 2015, which make up HooNani Adult Care Services Inc. and are located on the same property in Kamuela. She invites you to join her Caregiver Conversations gatherings at Tutu’s House and Dementia Support Group at HooNani, each held once a month. You may send column topic requests to Karyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.