Posts Tagged ‘Poet caregivers’


Yes, please make a line twice around the block.

from: a shameless dreamer


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To my L.A. friends, please join me at the following conference. Will be giving a keynote address:

Genki Conference: noon-4:30 p.m.

April 27, 2014.

Venice Japanese Community Center
12448 Braddock Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90066

The Genki Conference is designed to help you live life to the fullest by addressing the eight dimensions of wellness: physical, occupational, financial, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental.
Caring for a loved one can be physically and emotionally challenging. But knowing what to do, what to expect, and who to depend on may help lighten the load on your shoulders. This conference offers tools and practical resources with compassion for current and future caregivers.
Keynote Presentations:

Family Dynamics in Caregiving
Christina Irving, Family Consultant, Family Caregiver Alliance
Are you caregiving from a long distance, thinking about having your parent move in with
you, or having to make decisions for your loved one? These are common issues many
caregivers go through which may create tension among other family members. Learn
how caregiving affects family dynamics and how you can communicate with family
members effectively.
Please note that the event will be filmed and /or photographed. By registering,
you agree that we may use your likeness to promote Keiro and its events and services.


I Am Somebody: Dignity in Caregiving
Frances Kakugawa, poet and author of eleven books, three on caregiving
Come for a poignant, inspirational session which will remind you that you are not alone. Glean wisdom from a seasoned caregiver who has dealt with some of the same experiences, feelings, and struggles that you do–and triumphed.
Noon–1:30 p.m. Registration
Lunch and Resource Fair
1:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m. Program
 Mr.  Ms.  Mrs. Name:____________________________
E-mail address:_________________________________
Phone: _______________________________________
Registration Form
Please cut off and return
Genki Conference: Car egiver’s Ed ition
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Space is limited and reservations are required.
Please register by one of the following methods:
• Register online at http://www.keiro.org/genki-conference-registration
• Email kkusano@keiro.org with the subject “Conference
Registration”’ and include name, phone number, mailing address,
your first and second choices of breakout session, and indicate if
you would like consultations from an attorney or a pharmacist.
• Call (323) 980-2353
• Mail the form to:
Genki Conference: Caregiver’s Edition
325 Boyle Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90033
I would like a free consultation with a(n):
 Attorney  Pharmacist

Breakout Session (choose one):
1st Choice:  A  B  C  D 2nd Choice:  A  B  C  D
Breakout Session Topics Speakers Description:
A: Hands-On Caregiving
Barbara Fukuji, P.T. , Whittier Hospital Medical Center
Cheryl Nakagiri, P.T., DG Therapy Group
Myra Chang, O.T., Centinela Hospital Medical Center
Ali Kamada, P.T., Centinela Hospital Medical Center
Janis Ozaki, P.T., Centinela Hospital Medical Center
Learn how to assist your loved one safely
and comfortably.

B: Age in Place Kathleen Cole, OTR/L, CAPS, ECHM &
Shirley Nakaki, P.T., CAPS, ECHM
Home Accessibility Specialists & Partners in
Adapt=Ability, Solutions for Accessible Living
Learn how to make your home work for
you with a focus on safety, comfort and
convenience while embracing the concepts
of healthy aging.

C Options and Resources for
Long-Term Caregiving
Claudia Ellano-Ota, LCSW, Executive Director,
Caregiver Resource Center – Orange County
Learn what options are available for
long-term care and how much they cost.

D Health Care Reform
and You
Shawn Miyake, CEO, Keiro Senior HealthCare Learn how the Affordable Care Act impacts
you and our community.
FREE for All Attendees:

• Bento Lunch sponsored by an
anonymous donor
• Program
• Resource Fair
• Health Screenings by
• Free consultations with
estate planning attorneys and
pharmacists (available by
appointment only)

Win the all-new
2010 Honda
Civic Hybrid

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The Uncaring Caregiver


I am that uncaring caregiver:

I don’t care if I’m late for her appointment

Or totally miss a calendar date.

I don’t care if she doesn’t eat breakfast,

Or refuses a snack or two.

I don’t care if we miss a bath time

Two days in a row.

She’s not meeting the President

And if she is, I’m sure President Obama

Wouldn’t know.


I don’t care if she lets out a yell

In a restaurant filled with diners,

Chews her food without etiquette rules

And spills her water all over me.

I don’t care.


I don’t care if the flowers have died,

I don’t care if the dust leaves finger prints

On table tops and furniture and yesterday’s

Dishes are in tomorrow’s sink.

I don’t care if the telephone’s been cut off

And my paper pile grows by day and night

When we’re both sound asleep.

I don’t care.


I don’t care if my jeans are on backward,

Or my shoes are of two different styles

 On each swollen foot. And my grey roots

Are an inch long, my bangs over half my sight.

 I don’t care.


I’m a caregiver and I don’t care

Of stuff that means nothing

When my mother’s smiling and asking,

Are you Hideko?

That’s when I care.

Written on 2-4-14

Anniversary of my mother’s 101 date of birth.




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caregivers capture

the ah-ness of a deep breath

a haiku moment


There is a magical process occurring among the caregivers in our poetry support group as I write this.

Who would have thought a few minutes devoted to haiku writing would have turned into a haiku marathon. Within hours, emails  arrived with haiku poems  written by my caregivers. I am possessive here since they belong to my poetry support group.

Their  haiku poems which appear below, show what happens when a simple form of poetry is put into the hands of caregivers, post and present, whose minds have no locks. Just as they have taken every aspect of  caregiving with diligence, bravery and  love, they  have taken their pens to still another level of being artfully human. Caregiver Julia Couzens  insightfully called this  new adventure,  “the art of distilling the now.” Ah Basho, Shiki, Buson, are you smiling as you see how this art form has added still another dimension to caregiving: A haiku pause that takes only 17 syllables; a very affordable pause, time-wise,  in their busy lives, a pause that often takes them to other places.Here are a few from their incredible spirit…

          Caring for Papa

          Also working remotely

          It must be Friday


The door squeaks softly

 A sound “anybody there?”

 Morning has started.



 On lap, poodle sleeps

 Head pillowed on typing arm

 Small “woof.” Email sent.


At the computer

Haiku written and erased

Now, this one is done.



         sealed she in glass

         decisions print inked  black

         spring “spectations damped



Oh great banyan tree

With arms outstretched far and wide

In warm aloha.




Find the yellow piece.

A gnarled hand responds slowly

And finds the right spot.



The lone turkey hen

Limps slowly, trying to follow

Her feathered family.



 staring at computer

 groping for words of haiku

birds frolic in trees.



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Conversations with Caregivers

Please join these conversations on the power of poetry for caregivers. The first site begins with:

“I told myself, I don’t care how ugly and hard caregiving can be. It’s okay because I’m writing these poems. It’s the process of giving life to something versus the process of dying.” ~ Frances H. Kakugawa 




This second site presents  a  radio interview by Fannie Cohen of  NY on how caregiving takes us to a higher level when we become poet/caregivers…..Go to Looks Like You Made It


I am surrounded by individuals who know what it means to  be human and work at preserving that humanity.

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November: Alzheimer’s Awareness Month:

Linda Donahue, caregiver for her mother in Sacramento, shares three of her poems:



Shouldering duty

like a dusty mule

bearing mother-lode

down the mountain,

now resigned,

now balking and braying,



I arrive at the door

to the Forbidden City

where the world hides

its demented elderly.


I don’t want to be here.

I want to stay home,

play with words all day,

finish a few refractory poems,

but, once again, postponement:

duty, guilt and mother-love

demand it.


Hesitating on the threshold,

wondering who she’ll be today

and who I’ll be to her,

half hoping she won’t know me,

I open the door and

walk down the corridor

to her room.


Mom sits in her rocker,


gaze unfocused.

Anxiety grips her

at the sound of my voice,

gradually giving way

to the shy hopeful smile

of a lonely child.

Are you here to see me?

she asks as I take her hand.

I nod yes, let’s go for a walk, Mom.


Comprehension blossoms in her eyes:

someone is here for her,

someone wants to walk with her.

I read the poem

of comfort and delight

on her face

and know nothing I write

could mean as much

as this moment of grace.


My poems can wait.

                       ©Linda Donahue

                         October 2012



My mother was never demonstrative.

I don’t think she ever said she loved me.

Yet she was the vital pulse in my veins,

doing what she did on the periphery of my vision

so quietly and steadily that I rarely noticed.

Her domain was the routine, the mundane,

the boring, repetitive stuff.

She did what had to be done without complaint.

My eccentric, domineering dad eclipsed my mom

until she became almost invisible.

Even today I don’t know everything she did for me,

unseen and unacknowledged.

What I do remember is her patient, unobtrusive presence,

offstage but always there.

I took so much for granted:

ironed tablecloths and matching china,

clean folded laundry smelling of sunshine,

banana bread and buttermilk cookies baking,

applesauce simmering on the stove, never store-bought,

home-sewn Halloween costumes,

vases filled with iris and peonies,

all murmuring the words of love her mouth couldn’t form

and I couldn’t hear.

Now Mom tells me every day that she loves me,

that she couldn’t manage without me,

that I’m a good girl.

I’ve waited a lifetime to hear those words.

I could have heard them so much sooner had I listened.

I hear you now, Mom.  I hear you.

©Linda Donahue

March 2012



As usual at visit’s end, we walk together to the front door.

Mom’s headlong shuffling gait and flat affect

            announce Alzheimer’s, stage five.


As usual I give Mom a big hug and kiss,

            expecting her to turn around and march off to lunch

                        before I’m out the door, no memory I was there.

But today she holds me and doesn’t let go.

Tears etch briny channels down her cheek.

I ask what’s troubling her, why she’s crying.

She responds in a whisper,

            This is the last time I’ll see you, isn’t it.

            I wish you could stay.

Her quiet certainty sounds an alarm in my heart.

Startled, I promise her it’s not the last time,

            I’ll be back tomorrow.

But Mom doesn’t hear my assurances.

She focuses her gaze on my face, intent, penetrating,

            as if to fix my image in the darkroom of her heart.


As usual my brain rummages and fumbles for understanding.

Does she suspect she’s entering Alzheimer’s land of no return,

            leaving behind every loved one and familiar landscape?

Can she sense it’s the last time she’ll recognize me?

Is she the one who wants to stay?

Or has anxiety written another terrifying script

            and tricked her into believing it?

I’ll never know, she’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

Her earlier disturbing emotions are already forgotten.

As usual when I drive away, I wave with feigned cheer,

            knowing there will be a last time soon, if not today.

Soon, if not tomorrow, I won’t be Mom’s daughter.

My arm around her shoulders drawing her close,

            my warm hand thawing her bony blue fist,

                        will offer the solace of a stranger, nothing more.


As always I’ll grieve silently behind the smiling strength

            I conjure for her.

And love her still, even though she doesn’t know me.

                                      ©Linda Donahue

                                      July  2012





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Alzheimer’s Awareness Month:November

Once a month, a group of caregivers and I meet at the Sacramento Alz office as poet/caregivers.

We sit around a wooden rectangular table  to share our intimate lives through our pens. Often, we share the seasons from our garden: figs, strawberries, blueberries, plums,  apples,peaches, zucchini, zucchini, zucchini during the Summer and Autumn months.

Sometimes there is complete silence in the room, as though there is nobody there, sometimes belly laughs so loud, I close the door to keep our laughter in. There are poems that bring the Kleenix out, poems that receive nods, “yes, I know what you’re saying.” We become poets, admiring images, metaphors and the beauty of language. But most of all, we are caregivers, using poetry to pause, reflect and to make sense of our lives as caregivers,  and to discover the abundant gifts of humanity hidden beneath the everyday-ness of caregiving. We also create new words if need be. And we learn from each other, how to be the most compassionate and knowledgeable care givers, without being afraid of truth. And there is complete trust as we open the doors to find meaning in this relationship between caregiver and the ones being  cared for. We are no longer suffering caregivers but poet/caregivers, creating art from among the “ruins.”

Mary Swisher, caregiver for her husband shares two of her poems:


A Daughter’s Lament

(the labor of becoming our own mother)


It’s as if the overcast day has

Blown this unknown Niobe of tears

Into our midst.


Silently she rains down her

Salty drops until it puddles at her youthful feet.


The first daughter tells her sorrow … “I left my mother

In “that” home, my sister hates me, it breaks my heart.”


Our Niobe gives an audible sob and we can feel her

Tears lap at our ankles.


The second daughter speaks “My husband can no longer drive

He could get lost … and he knows it.”


More tears, enough to put a monsoon to shame, and yet …


Another daughter has gone to work, left her mother-child

At day-care.


The deluge continue, tissues mound into a white mountain now

We are sitting in a sacred lake


Another daughter: “my brilliant husband can’t walk…on the floor

I can’t … too heavy and my mom needs more and there’s no money…”

She reads a poem, crying, out of breath.


By now we have become a Greek chorus

Buoyed on salty swells of tears


Our new daughter speaks

Amid gasping sobs, she cries, a desperate howl

For the mother she has lost, but still holds,

And will not let go.


     ©Mary Swisher Feb. 201

These are the days

I write bitter poems

These are the days

I scream

don’t cry, just


hate the person I have become

wonder who I ever was

ever compassionate, understanding

full of joyous kisses

pranks and laughing fits

over some shared escapade

the person who wrote

love notes to tuck under his pillow

or his lunch sack.

Now I write angry words

That I hide, even from myself

I have become a liar, a plotter

mapping his days and mine to avoid

conflict…I agree when I don’t really,

I say “never mind” or “it’s not important.”

Explaining is like

my speaking Greek to a Greek,

I know so little Greek.

Everything becomes confusing

to the point where

I scream


and he says


      ©Mary Swisher

      October 2012

voices of other caregivers will be posted throughout November.

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