Challenges and solutions of family caregiving


Family Caregiving Alliance speaker Jo McCord speaks at last Saturday’s J-Sei morning seminar. photo by Jessica Lum/Nichi Bei Weekly

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Two years ago, Kay Yatabe saw signs that her aging father needed help around his home. He fell often and seemed confused. Yatabe realized that he required round-the-clock care that she could not provide by herself. Yet she also did not have the heart to move him to a care facility.

“I couldn’t bear to take him out of his home,” Yatabe said.

He had lived there for more than 50 years. And he is particularly fond of his pet cat.

So Yatabe made the decision to pay $8,000 a month for in-home caregivers to provide assistance to her father, now 93 years old.

As aging parents fall ill or become less independent, their children often take on the responsibility of caring for them — or like Yatabe, of finding outside support.

On. Jan. 29, 35 people attended a seminar at Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda, Calif. to discuss the challenges and solutions for family caregiving. The event, part of an ongoing morning seminar series, was hosted by J-Sei, an East Bay organization that provides Nikkei with an array of services and programs.

“Most all of us will find ourselves caregiving, whether it’s a parent or a child,” said J-Sei Executive Director Diane Wong.

Plus, respect and care for elders is central to most Asian cultures.

“ We take care of our parents,” said Jo Takata, a J-Sei board member, referencing the Japanese tradition of loyalty to aging parents.

Guest speaker Jo McCord, a family consultant with Family Caregiver Alliance, an organization that networks families with support and resources, shared several tips for the caregiving generation.

McCord said that children should keep an eye out for their aging parents especially if they notice changes in their daily pattern. If they’ve lost weight, it could be a sign of difficulty getting around the house, loss of appetite from medications, or disease. If they appear disheveled, it could mean that they are depressed or are showing early signs of dementia.

J-Sei executive director Diane Wong speaks at Saturday’s morning seminar on family caregiving. photo by Jessica Lum/Nichi Bei Weekly

The transition into care can be difficult and emotional for both caregiver and the aging patient, McCord said, noting that caregivers often face resistance.

“Decide what’s more important: the fall or the fallout. It’s [the caregiver’s] decision because the idea is to keep someone safe,” she added.

McCord asked how many attendees are current caregivers. A third of the crowd raised their hands.

Then she asked what kinds of obstacles their family members faced.

“Dementia,” two voices offered. “Depression,” said another. “Kidney disease.” And for others, simply: “stairs.”

“As caregivers, you need a lot of support,” McCord said. “The caregiver must thrive.”

J-Sei attendee Lili Yoshi, 89, of El Cerrito, looks over a program as the morning seminar begins. photo by Jessica Lum/Nichi Bei Weekly

“Live life the way you do as if the person was well,” McCord added, emphasizing the need for caregivers to maintain their own well-being, both physically and mentally.

Some attendees said they were in the “sandwich generation” — faced with the challenge of caring for both their children and their parents.

Meri Nidea Lane, 52, has two sons, ages 17 and 20, who have autism spectrum disorders, making it difficult for them to transition into independent adult lifestyles. Plus, she moved her aging mother into her family home.

For now, Lane feels that her mother’s move has made caregiving much easier, as she does not need to travel to check on her.

“I don’t have to worry now. She’s safe,” Lane said. “She enjoys family life. But this is not something she would have asked for on her own because she doesn’t want to be a burden.”

Still, Lane feels the pressure of maintaining that delicate balance: “I have to be there for everyone and myself.”


For more information about J-Sei, call (510) 848-3560.

The Nichi Bei Weekly misspelled the name of one of the attendees of this J-Sei seminar. It is Kay Yatabe, not Yabata.

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