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Kupuna Transitions

July 14, 2017 - 12:30am

When I made the choice to move to Waimea in 2001, I was full of enthusiasm about the dream of opening an adult day care center. I was single, in my late 20s, and focused on this new chapter that revolved completely around my career. I accepted that living in a small town on an island way out in the Pacific was likely eliminating my chances of having friends in close proximity who truly understood me, let alone a husband, in order to pursue my dream.

Luckily I was very wrong about personal relationships and within a few months had three very close single girlfriends to evolve with. Our paths ended up syncing in the best possible ways and our friendships have flourished through marriage and motherhood. Our bonds are tighter than ever due to these convergences of our paths.

I feel very blessed, especially as I’ve come to realize that friendships are funny things. They evolve through time and can grow stronger or loosen their grip, based on the milestones you end up facing together. I spoke with an acquaintance the other day about the concept of how some friends fall off while others can develop based on common experiences. In the middle of that conversation, a thought hit me. If life throws you a curveball and you become a family caregiver, there may be no one in your immediate social circle who relates to you.

Most senior programs offer respite for the caregiver and socialization for the older adult, but what about socialization for the caregiver? Caring for somebody around the clock can leave someone feeling isolated and lonely. It’s simply human nature to interact and share our experiences with a social support of some sort. Having someone to relate to is therapeutic, so it’s important to connect to a larger population of individuals sharing similar experiences.

Some of you caregivers have purchased a one-way ticket from the mainland with the singular intention of caring for an older relative. Being in a beautiful place around friendly people is a perk, but without a larger circle of friendships it can become very isolating. In order to give the best of yourself, you need social “fuel” to keep up the good work and come up with fresh ways to approach your caregiving role.

Caregiving support groups, like the one I hold monthly at Tutu’s House, are great places to meet other caregivers. Attending conferences and presentations aimed at caregivers is also incredibly helpful. On August 10 and 11, Ku’ikahi Mediation Center has collaborated with the Hawaii County Office of Aging to present a communication workshop for caregivers in Hilo and Kona.

I will post caregiving events and links to organizations offering support on my website at to help you on your journey. May you find a friend who really gets you. It truly makes all the difference.

Karyn Clay began caring for older adults 23 years ago and earned her BA in gerontology from SDSU in 1998. She founded Ho’oNani Day Center in 2002 and Ho’oNani Care Home in 2015, which are located on the same property in Kamuela. She invites you to join her Caregiver Conversations gatherings at Tutu’s House the first Wednesday of every month.

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