Frances Kakugawa spoke to nearly 300 people at Keiro’s Genki Conference: Caregiver’s Edition, held at Gardena Valley Baptist Church on June 8.

GARDENA — Caregiving exemplifies a traditional Japanese cultural value of caring for elders. On June 8, Keiro Senior HealthCare supported nearly 300 caregivers and potential caregivers with compassion and resources at the Genki Conference: Caregiver’s Edition, presented by The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro.

“The programs given by Keiro have been educationally and emotionally helpful to me,” said Arlene Kinugasa, who attended the event, held at Gardena Valley Baptist Church.

Keynote speaker Frances Kakugawa was the primary caregiver for five years for her mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease. In the midst of “squeezing out urine from carpets and bedding, scrubbing bathroom tiles at 3 a.m., staying up nights, answering constant calls,” her only solace was writing in her journal. She went on to establish the poetry and journaling support group for the Alzheimer’s Association-Aloha Chapter and is the published author of 11 books.

“When I first started to care for my mother, I used my mother’s voice in a poem called ‘Emily Dickinson, I’m Somebody,’” said Kakugawa, who weaved her personal experience with caregiving into her keynote presentation as well as her poetry-writing breakout session at the conference.

“Later, a line from the poem, ‘I would if I could,’ spoken in my mother’s voice, came to haunt me and it even turned into a mantra whenever I wanted to shout in exasperation, ‘Why did you?’ or ‘Why didn’t you?’ My own writing came to remind me that her behavior was a result of this disease, beyond her control and mine.”

Following the moving keynote presentation, attendees gained practical advice and guidance during an hour-long breakout session. Attendees in the hands-on caregiving demonstration session, led by representatives from Millennia Personal Care Services, learned how to assist their loved ones safely and comfortably.

Other attendees learned about estate planning and legal tools and tips for caregivers from Steve Awakuni, Esq. and Kaz Uemura, Esq.. Attendees in a third session learned about the role of chaplains in providing emotional and spiritual care at the end of life from Chaplain Brian Lo, M.Div. Attendees in the final session gained encouragement and poetry-writing tips from Kakugawa.

The sessions were followed by a Resource Fair sponsored by Union Bank, featuring over 20 agencies and vendors, free health screenings provided by HealthCare Partners and SCAN Health Plan, free obento lunch sponsored by Aetna, pro bono legal consultations by Awakuni and Uemura, pharmacy consultations by Kevin Doi, PharmD. and Jeanne Tagawa, Pharm.D., and a doctor of physical therapy consultation by Joon Park, DPT, NCS, of Carelife Inc.

The Genki Conference was made possible by Kaiser Permanente and the Keiro Senior HealthCare Endowment Fund with partial funding from the Takayama Foundation. Many of the conference presentations are available on Keiro’s website at

For over 50 years, Keiro Senior HealthCare has been committed to enhancing the quality of senior life in the community. The founders established Keiro to meet the specific needs of the Issei pioneers, and since that time Keiro has been developing and offering new programs and services in response to the changing needs in the community. For over a decade, this has included a variety of community-based education programs caregiver’s conferences and the establishment of The Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro to support people to age in place at home, while preventing and managing chronic health conditions.

Attendees had the opportunity to learn valuable caregiving tips during the hands-on care demonstration by Millennia Personal Care Services.

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