LETTERS: Former Cypress House Resident’s Daughter ‘Open Dialogue’

Note: This letter was sent in response to Betty Kurihara Ozawa’s “No Protection for Ayako Ozawa,’ Former Cypress House Resident” letter to the editor printed March 18, 2010.

My mother, Misao Murakawa, has had progressively worse dementia for the past five years since the age of 90. At first, she had simple memory lapses but later could not function in her own home, forgetting how to operate appliances such as her kitchen range and oven, washer and dryer, and even forgetting how to differentiate between the hot and cold water taps. She had lived alone as a widow in Berkeley for 20 years with frequent visits from family members who drove her to do grocery shopping, banking, etc. Now she was lost in her own home. Family members alternated staying overnight with her. She often woke up at night with hallucinations, opening the front door for unseen visitors or caring for an imaginary infant.

When her condition, which included spinal stenosis, which caused her considerable back pain, reached the point that family members and occasional Japanese household help could not handle her unpredictable behavior, we applied to JASEB for a bed at Cypress House. She became a resident in August of 2006, two years after the Ozawa incident and without any foreknowledge of that incident.

The transition was difficult and confusing for her… Because we knew Cypress House was not a clinical facility, but one that gave custodial care to the Japanese speaking, we visited her four to seven times a week between my brother, sister and brother-in-law, and me and my husband…

For the past 10 months (our mother) has been under hospice care, and the caregivers at Cypress are now performing at a skilled nursing level in spite of their lack of formal medical training. Daily records of food consumed, medications given, urine and bowel movements, and physical position changes are visible in her room…

Our … (mother’s) experiences at Cypress House have been good — better than normal when comparing notes with friends who have parents in nursing homes, skilled nursing, etc.

Our difficulty has been with JASEB and the constant “saber rattling” of the last two years. The threat of closure has hung over us during a most trying time in the life of our mother. Now eviction and closure have become reality, and, as we sit in vigil with our dying mother, we are dreading moving her. The “death rattle” has begun, and she needs oxygen to help her breathe. She has a DNR (do not resuscitate) request, so this facility is still the best choice for her. The experience at the Cypress has been largely positive; the experience with JASEB, once a dependable community source for food and companionship, has become more and more negative over time. Any changes at Cypress since 2006, including the renewal of its exempt status in 2007 by the same Mr. Langford referred to in the Ozawa letter, have been ignored by the board of directors. Needless to say, we are extremely distressed.

The condition of our mother, who has always been a quiet and reserved person, is being exposed. I hope she forgives this gross intrusion on her privacy, especially at this most personal and private time at the close of her life, as it is in the interest of an informed and open dialogue.

Yasuko Nakamura,
Daughter of Misao Murakawa
San Francisco

Misao Murakawa passed away on March 27. Services will be private. Any remembrances may be sent to Kotobuki Services, Inc., at P.O. Box 3315, Hayward, CA 94540.

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