Aloha! When we hear the words “kūpuna care,” it can bring forth many thoughts, perhaps of taking care of a parent, grandparent, neighbor or friend. For me, “kūpuna care” has also meant a career of three decades working in senior care communities in California and Hawai‘i. As a licensed administrator, I’ve been there in the continuum of care: independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. I strived, with other staff members, to provide the highest quality of care and services.
Like many baby boomers, I have also been a family caregiver. From Mom to an uncle, it has been a journey of applying working knowledge of quality of care, regulations, psycho-social needs, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia types, finding caregivers for home care and end-of-life care, and discovering the true grit of a team of first-time family caregivers.
As I age, and kūpuna in my family age, we share with each other our inter-generational experiences of growing up in Hawai‘i nei, working for a living and raising a family. And, as we retire into the sunset, we reflect on the contributions our ancestors made so we could, hopefully, have a better life.
In the year 1987, at the first skilled nursing facility I worked at in Sacramento, CA, I met two sisters who drove from the Bay Area to Sacramento to see their issei mother every weekend. Their mother was in advanced dementia, but just their presence showed undeniable love for their mom. I observed them talking to her with reminiscences of childhood days, raising families, work, then retirement.
In Hawai‘i we simply “talk story.” Talking story is such a relaxing way of communicating. Talking story reflects the “hanabata days” of being a “runny-nosed” kid. Remember when…? What neighborhood…? What high school…? You know so-and-so…? All these are ways of sharing. Even though a senior may repeat these stories, it is aloha to listen and share with them, bringing love and comfort. This is just one aspect of senior care and, for me, my most treasured memory as a caregiver of Mom and Uncle.